I’m an Instrument Rated Pilot!

When I purchased N2893Z I was given a stipulation from my wife Lori.  She said that she wanted to use the plane to go places and that if I didn’t have my instrument rating within one year that I would have to sell the plane.  She also said that she would support the training and give me the time to do what I needed to do to get it.  I feel that this was a very fair and valid request and I appreciate the kick in the butt as it has been something that I’ve been talking about for years.  I started my formal training in October.  I decided to train with Frank Dorrin who is an experienced pilot and CFII.  Frank is a great instructor who uses an Elite Simulator to supplement the flight and ground instruction.  The Elite Simulator is a great tool that can help build skills that otherwise might not be encountered during the training.  Despite being grounded most of February due to 2 major snowstorms, Frank and I got together at least once per week and I was ready for the checkride in early March.  Finally the big day came on Friday March 19th, 2010.  Here is a detailed recap of my practical exam:

I arrived in Easton around 9:30AM. I was about an hour early but the examiner was there and ready to go. He told me about himself and how he worked for the FAA at one time. He also pulled out some old reference materials like showing an old AIM and Instrument PTS from the 60’s that were only a few pages. He had lots and lots and lots and lots of stories to tell. On any normal day they would be very interesting but on a checkride day some were painful because I just wanted to get on with it.

The first 2 hours were pretty much reviewing qualifications and doing paperwork. The practical test hadn’t actually started yet but I’m sure the DE was evaluating at this time making sure that I knew the requirements. He reviewed the aircraft logs, my licenses, medical, and my SFRA course completion certificate. He told me a story about a guy the day before who hadn’t completed the course so the person had to go online there at the FBO and do it right then. He asked me to show him in my logbook my long cross country and then he added up my dual time to ensure that I had enough to meet the requirements. As previously discussed, Frank was very much by the books and spent a lot of time explaining why he was doing what he was doing. We also reviewed the recent updates to the PTS and he showed me how to look in the FAR/AIM and tell when modifications were made to certain sections. The last part was completing the IACRA information. He entered everything into the computer and then I had to sign it electronically as well.

After that we left for lunch at Applebees. I took my FAR/AIM, sectional and the information that I prepped for the flight from KESN-KCRE. On the way to lunch he started asking me questions. The first were around currency requirements. He used scenario based questions like, “If you were busy on a project with work and didn’t get to fly again until October what would you have to consider.” He was looking for “6 approaches in 6 months, holding & intercepting”. He also asked about what I would have to do if I had only been flying VFR for the next year and then wanted to take a trip next April. Of course he was looking for requirements around an IPC.

At lunch he pulled out some weather scenarios that he had prepared. It was a spreadsheet that showed conditions (temp, dewpoint, ceiling, winds, and the types of approaches available) at 3 airports around KESN and 3 airports around KCRE. He had 4 different scenarios that he only showed me one at a time. The first one was showing good weather around KESN but lower weather around KCRE. On this one he was looking for requirments around filing an alternate. I told him that it was my intention to always file an alternate but that the requirement are the “1-2-3” rule which he asked me to explain. The other two airports had ceilings/vis of 800-2 or 600-2 and we discussed which would be legal alternates. The second scenario was showing low visibility and a close temp/dewpoint spread at KESN. He asked if I could depart and I told him legally yes but that I would not depart an airport that I couldn’t fly an approach back into. The third scenario was showing a possibilty of icing with lower temperatures. We had a lengthy discussion about icing and what to do if it was encoutered. The last scenario showed a large difference in temp/dewpoint spread between the departure and destination. What he was looking for here was to identify that there was a front that would have to be crossed and that thunderstorms would be a hazzard to consider. Then he asked me which of the scenarios was most dangerous. We discussed the thunderstorms we could go around and that icing we could avoid or get out of and both agreed that they could be very dangerous situations. He actually felt that the low visibility close temp/dewpoint spread was the most dangerous because of the fog would make an approach very difficult.

After lunch we returned to the airport. He asked me to file a flightplan from KESN to KSBY. I asked him if it was okay to do on the computer and he was fine with it. I decided to file victor airways which would also take me around R-4006. I filed KESN CHOPS V308 LAFLN V29 KSBY. I think it would have also been okay if I filed direct underneath R-4006. We then sat down and discussed the flight from KESN to KCRE some more. We pulled out the sectional and started at KESN and he asked me about minimum altitudes and what they guaranteed. We discussed a lot of the symbology on the chart and he asked me about mileage markings and crossing altitudes and I was encouraged to use the legend. When we got towards KCRE it led into a discussion of the approaches. We discussed the ILS approach into KCRE and from what points a procedure turn would be required. I briefed the chart for him. We also talked about lost comms and when I could proceed in for the approach.

After all that discussion we packed up and I went outside to pre-flight the airplane. There was a lot of aircraft on the ground and Frank was rushing me a bit to try to pick up my clearance so I could beat another plane out. There were 2 jets getting ready to take off too. I taxied out, did my instrument cockpit check and then had to wait for release for a couple of minutes. When we took off I was cleared getting vectors and then Frank gave me a scenario where there was a TFR over Salisbury that didn’t lift in time and that we would have to divert. I was allowed to use the autopilot and Frank actually suggested it. We diverted to KCGE. I checked the weather and requested the GPS34 approach. Approach was a little slow today and they cleared me for the LOC34 approach and I corrected them right away. Frank then covered up my AI and DG so I turned off the autopilot. I immediately switched the 496 to the artificial 6-pack and he was okay with this. Approach was slow to give me a descent from 3000 so I asked for it. The response I got back was “roger” so they didn’t specifically clear me to descend. Frank took the radio and cancelled with them at that time. I performed the approach very well under partial panel and took it down to MDA and went missed and stayed in the holding pattern for 2 turns. After that we climbed back up to 2700 and Frank took the controls and we did 2 unusual attitudes under partial panel. They weren’t too bad to recover from. After that we contacted Easton tower and negotiated for the ILS04 approach. I was cleared to RIKME and was told to fly straight in without doing the procedure turn. I did well with this approach and when I was just about DA Frank told me he saw the lighting but not the runway. I then descended to 100 feet above TDZE and then he told me he had the runway. I had to quickly drop in the flaps and configure the plane for landing which caused me to land a little bit long but I still made the turnoff at Delta. Not to mention that winds had shifted and I had a slight tailwind. We taxied to RW22 and departed. Frank gave me vectors and we did an abbreviated LOC04 approach from WEGRO with a circle to land. I did well with the approach and was directed to circle to the left. I maintained MDA well but then started to descend when I was turning base and had a good landing. I felt that the maneuver was safe but Frank recommended not descending below MDA until aligned with the runway.

So, that’s about it for the checkride. We went in and signed my logbook and he printed out my certificate. We didn’t finish until about 5 pm so it was a full day. Frank was very thorough and experienced. Even though the checkride was long I feel that it was very fair and wasn’t “hard”. He was very clear about the expectations and followed the PTS explicitly. If you aren’t well prepared for a checkride I believe that you will not pass Frank’s checkride. He told me many stories throughout the day of where people made certain mistakes that he had to stop the checkride. All the discussions actually made me nervous a bit and I was wondering if he ever passed anyone. Also, there was an FAA examiner in the FBO and on the ramp throughout the day with someone else which added to the tension a bit.

I’m now an instrument rated pilot! I’m looking forward to getting more actual time. I received an email from my instructor who said that he had a conversation with the DE and the feedback was that he was impressed that I was well prepared, professional and organized. I still have a lot of experience to gain and I’m looking forward to taking my family on longer trips.

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Great write up, thanks for sharing the details. I hope to follow along shortly with a similar post. Now go get that ticket wet!

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