East Coast Flying

East Coast Flying


The IFR Checkride

Posted by Aaron Harrington on April 22, 2013 at 9:15 PM

I know I havent posted hardly anything lately, but that is because I have been working on passing my IFR checkride! YEAY! I wrote up a nice IFR Oral Exam and Checkride thing just like I did for my private and that will be in the Useful Information section again but I thought I would post the details of the checkride exam here so you dont have to go downloading a PDF. Enjoy!

The checkride turned out to be a looong long ordeal ofhaving to cancel the flying portion of the exam right after the oral,due to unforecasted weather, rescheduling again when the CDILocalizer/Glideslope stopped working and the plane went into theavionics shop, and then rescheduling again, I was ready to be done.As it turned out, my unlucky streak was not over as the day I wasscheduled to take my checkride, the forecast changed to strongafternoon thunderstorms. However, Bill was very generous and offeredto meet me at Chester County Airport 2 hrs earlier than I hadoriginally scheduled.


Once I got to Chester, Bill and I sat down to make surethat all the paperwork was in order to finish the flying portion ofthe exam. He got on IACRA and resumed the test. We then sat down andtalked about the approaches that I would be doing and what exactlythe expectations were for the flying portion of the exam. Basicallyhe just wanted to reiterate the Instrument Practical Test Standards.He told me the approaches that I would be doing and I asked if Icould have 5 minutes to look over each one and to tab them withsticky notes so that I wouldn't be fumbling around in the planetrying to find them in the approach plate book. He agreed. Afterthis, we went out to the airplane. Although I had pretty much justlanded, I told him that I was going to perform a very quickpre-flight/walk around just to make sure all was OK with the planebefore we took off. He said “Very good, you aren't doing anythingthat I wouldn't do, go right ahead!” We then got into the airplaneand I got my kneeboard set up with my timer on my knee and mychecklist book on my left knee. He liked the fact that I was usingthe checklists and reading off everything out loud.


He then told me that we would not be actually talking toATC, but that he would play the part of ATC and that I should pretendthat it is no different from the real thing. He was expecting me tomake all my calls as I usually would. We taxied to the run-up areawhere I completed my run up and before takeoff checklists. During theradios and avionics check, I got out my first approach plate and putin all the appropriate frequencies for COM and NAV, set up the GPSwith a flight plan from Chester to Modena, ILS rw 29 into Chester,New Garden, and then Chester again. This way I wouldn't have to doany GPS programming in the air. Bill didn't say anything, he just letme do my thing. From there I said to him “Philadelphia Clearance,Cardinal N177SM, requesting IFR clearance to Chester County” Hegave me a simulated clearance, I copied it down and I read it back tohim correctly. After that he said “Cardinal N177SM, cleared fortakeoff runway 29, climb maintain runway heading for one and one halfmile before turning on course” I repeated this back to him. I thenmade my real call to Chester traffic that I was departing runway 29and proceeded to Taxi onto the runway. Then I hear Bill yell “STOPSTOP STOP!” I stopped. He said “Always hold short of the holdshort line!” and I said to him “ummm, you just said 'cleared fortakeoff,' I checked base and final and made my call that I wasdeparting” he insisted that he still wanted to see me hold short ofthe hold short line. I said “ok, sorry” then he said that I couldgo ahead and depart. This kinda broke my concentration a little.


We then proceeded to take-off and when I had reached200ft AGL he said “my airplane, go ahead and put on your foggles”I did and then he gave me the controls back. After reaching 1.5miles, I turned left, identified the Modena VOR, turned the OBS andproceeded toward the VOR. I made sure to tell him to check left andright for me before I made my turn. He liked that and said that hewould be sure to clear me from here on out before I made any moreturns. As I was heading to the VOR, he proceeded to vector me out alittle ways before telling me to head direct to the Modena VOR. Hehad done this to see what kind of entry I was going to make into thehold. The angle that I was on was technically atan angle where a teardrop entry would be appropriate, however therewas a 20-25 knot crosswind (go figure) and so I had about a 10-15degree cross wind correction going and so to make things a littleeasier, I thought that I would just do a direct entry. Really, eitherentry would have been appropriate since I was on that odd, 30-ishdegree angle relative to the hold at the VOR. He asked me “whattype of entry are you going to use?” I said “I am doing a directentry” He then said “are you sure about that?” not wanting toshow any sign of second guessing myself or give him the idea I wasunsure of myself I said, “either a teardrop entry or a direct entryinto the hold would be appropriate, a direct entry is a little easierwith this direction of crosswind and so I am going to do a directentry” He said “the AIM recommends that on our present interceptheading, we should do a teardrop, I want to see you do a teardropentry” I said “OK” and proceeded inbound. I was very methodicalin my turn, time, tune, throttle, talk doing things very slowly,which he commended me on saying “many people like to rush rush rushand do everything real quickly, you are taking your time and beingmethodical, I like that, you don't want to be rushing when you are inthe soup for real”. My holding went perfectly. He then vectored meto final saying “Cardinal N177SM, upon crossing the Modena VOR,turn left heading 350, maintain 2500 until established on thelocalizer, switch to airport advisory on 122.7, cleared for the ILSrunway 29 into Chester County” I repeated this back to him andproceeded inbound. I tuned and identified the Localizer and when itcame in, I proceeded inbound. Those needles never even moved. It wasprobably the best ILS I'd ever done.


Once we reached the DAhe told me to just quick look up to see how well I did and then to gostraight into the missed approach. I climbed out and turned back tothe VOR totally forgetting to hit the OBS button on the GPS so itwould auto sequence for the missed approach, but he didn't notice (ordidn't care) since I was doing VOR navigation anyway. We then enteredthe hold at Modena and proceeded to do the VOR runway 24 approachback into New Garden. I made sure to not only have a TO/FROM flip onthe VOR but also positive course guidance before making my decent. Hesaid that a lot of people start their decent right after the TO/FROMflip but don't wait for positive course guidance which he says he'sfailed some people for depending on how they tracked inbound to theVOR. I then descended and asked him if I could just descend topattern altitude rather than the MDA and he said he wanted to see mego down to the MDA. I then proceeded to level off the the nexthighest whole 100 ft above the MDA so I wouldn't bust it accidentallydue to a downdraft or something. The MDA at New Garden is 940 ft, Ileveled off at 1,000ft. He didlike that though. When my timer expired he told me to look up. I hadexpected to see New Garden right on my nose since the needle wasperfectly centered but I didn't, I had only a second or two panicattack (in my head) since I couldn't see the airport, but then Ispotted it at about my 10 o'clock and 2 miles. He said “very good!Nice VOR approach, go ahead and bring it in for a full stop landingand we will get ready to depart and do some unusual attitudes” Iwas relieved and made a nice smooth crosswind landing. As we taxiedback, I got out my next and final approach which was going to be theRNAV (GPS) rw 29 into Chester. We then departed and I once again putmy foggles on at 200 ft AGL. We climbed up to 3000 ft and he said “myairplane” and I gave him the controls. He then said “put yourhead down and brief the GPS approach out loud to me” and I did. Icould feel him maneuvering the airplane around but my briefing theapproach definitely did a good job of distracting my attention fromtrying to follow along with his climbs, descents, and turns. He thenasked me some detailed questions about the approach and asked aboutif it was a TAA GPS approach and if so, how could I tell. He asked mewhat a TAA approach does and I explained it to him. He then said “OHNO! You were flying around in the soup and spent too much time withyour head down in the approach plates! You're in an unusual attitude!Recover the airplane! Your have the controls!” I was in adescending left turn and the Cardinal being the slick bird that sheis was fast approaching the yellow arc. I throttled back, leveled thewings, and raised the nose. I then climbed back up to 3000ft. “Goodjob”. He then got out two instrument covers and covered up myartificial horizon and my directional gyro and said, “OK I want youto go ahead and do the GPS approach into Chester County partialpanel, Cardinal N177SM cleared for the GPS runway 29 approach intoChester County via the GOWZO transition, maintain 3000 until GOWZO”.I repeated it back to him and then followed the instrument approachprocedures. It was a near perfect approach. We did a full stoplanding at Chester. I had passed the checkride!


After we went inside,he had made some notes about things that I did very well and thingsthat I should be careful of when I actually start flying IFR forreal. He said that the biggest thing you don't want to do isreconfigure the airplane after the final approach fix. He said I onlydid it the very first time during the ILS, that I had forgotten topush the prop full forward while I was in the hold and waited tillthe FAF but that I did it correctly the other two times. He also saidthat during the VOR approach, I remember to start my timer and I wasdoing 90 kts indicated but that I was only doing 75 knots groundspeed and that I should have adjusted my time to better take thatinto account and that is why I arrived at the MDA early but otherthan that, he was very pleased to see me wait for positive courseguidance before descending. He also said that since I was cleared todo the VOR approach, that I didn't need to time the one minuteinbound since I would be proceeding the rest of the way inboundanyways but that was only a minor point. He just suggested that itcould be a distraction in real life IFR. Other than that, he justcautioned me that yes, although I have my IFR ticket, I can legallyfly IFR to minimums now, but that I should set my personal minimumsmuch higher for now till I acquire much more real in the soup IFRtime before I start doing full approaches in IFR conditions. I feltthat the checkride went well and it was actually a lot of fun! Cantwait to file my first real IFR flight plan!

I just want to thank everyone who was so instrumental (haha! get it?!......) in helping get my IFR rating. Shannon for putting up with me, my safety pilots, Robert Shackleford, Mike Wallin, and Justin Shumaker, my faux checkride examiner Kevin Nixon (you owe me a high performance endorsement son! :P ), and an awesome flight instructor, Mark Fischer!


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Reply David
11:23 AM on June 25, 2013 
Congratulations on the IFR ticket! It's a major milestone, and really opens up your flying world. As a big iron driver (regularly in/out of BWI) I can assure you that your checkride was WAY harder than flying a big jet down to 1800RVR at BWI. Stable jet, Autopilot, Flight Director, Yaw Damper, FMS, HUD: Easy. Hand flown, Light Aircraft, Bouncing needles, not to mentions those %#*[email protected] foggles.: Hard! Great job. Good story.
Reply Aaron Harrington
3:33 PM on June 25, 2013 
Thanks David, I have since gone out and done some single pilot IFR. Actually, it was my first time doing IFR single pilot AND my first time as PIC in the soup! It turned out perfectly because it was overcast at 2000ft and tops at 4500ft. I flew at 5000ft just above the overcast the entire way and then descended, did the first part of the approach in the soup and then broke out with about 1500 to touchdown. Other than that, the plane has been in the shop, i've moved, and the weather has been nice. Hoping to get out and do some more IFR soon. I have been safety piloting for a friend though

David says...
Congratulations on the IFR ticket! It's a major milestone, and really opens up your flying world. As a big iron driver (regularly in/out of BWI) I can assure you that your checkride was WAY harder than flying a big jet down to 1800RVR at BWI. Stable jet, Autopilot, Flight Director, Yaw Damper, FMS, HUD: Easy. Hand flown, Light Aircraft, Bouncing needles, not to mentions those %#*[email protected] foggles.: Hard! Great job. Good story.

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