Ravin's Private Checkride
As I approached the end of my private pilot training and the end of my tolerance of watching the King videos and reading from the RM textbook, I began to envision all the ways I could fail my checkride. Would the examiner be super strict on perfect answers? If he sensed I didn't know something would he hammer away on that topic? Would I forget all that I had learned about maneuvering, landing and navigating? The week before my checkride was not fun. I was either studying, flying, working, or sleeping. But as flying has always been something I wanted to do, it almost felt like the last push up and over a mountain - gotta earn it.
I was scheduled to meet with the examiner at 1330 on a Friday. Before he arrived, I prepped the plane so that everything would be set for an easy start to the flight (seat position, headset plugged in, radio frequencies set to KTOA and practice area, etc). As I entered the lobby, the examiner was starting a debrief for a checkride that had just finished - and the pilot had failed. As much as I felt bad for the other student, I was hoping that Reed (examiner) wasn't now in a failing mood and looking for mistakes. Did a second quick weather check on DUATs and some clouds were predicted over LAX by 2000, but all clear until then.
We started the oral portion at about 1430. All the questions were very straightforward and fair, and Reed was very helpful in re-phrasing questions if there was any misunderstanding. I didn't get everything right, but felt very prepared after the direction and study aids that Reza had provided. We finished up at about 1600 when he told me that we would do some pattern work first, head to the practice area, then begin on my flight plan to San Diego. I went to pre-flight the plane while he "did something" but probably watched from the terminal. I asked if he wanted a passenger briefing, to which he said "no, I don't need one."
Once airborne, noticed fog right around the coast. Did a normal takeoff and set up for a normal approach, which he aborted at about 100 ft AGL and told me to go around. Took a while for me to raise my flaps, which he did not like. Soft field landing and takeoff next lap were no problem. Fog still getting closer. All the time he trying to distract me by pointing out things on the ground, showing me cell phone pictures, etc. He asked to commence my flight plan so requested flight following from KTOA ground. After a short field takeoff we were over the harbor when he terminated the plan and asked me to head to the practice area. Demonstrated VOR tracking, stalls and steep turns no problem. As we headed back to KTOA the fog had covered the west side of the field and was starting to obscure the runway. He grabbed the controls and proceeded to get very upset that I hadn't noticed the weather, that I as PIC should have terminated the flight early, and that not doing so was a very bad judgment call. He flew the plane rather aggressively for about two minutes which seemed like an eternity, scolding me about how weather is the biggest cause of accidents and deaths in aviation. I thought I had failed.
He gave the plane back to me after asking for a straight in approach and demanded a short field landing with no option to go around. I was completely rattled. We were too fast and too high to begin with so I hit my spot but bounced once. We taxied in silence to the terminal. He insisted on getting out of the plane with the engine still on, so I had to physically prevent him from doing so by grabbing his arm. After shutdown, Reed asked me "Do I have to fail you so that you remember the importance of weather?" I gave the most humble and honest response I could, without trying to sound too desperate or helpless. More silence. He then said "Congratulations" with a smile and handshake. Later he told Reza that I did great on everything except the weather recognition, and that the PIC must give passenger briefings, whether passengers want it or not.
After debrief, Reza and I went out the plane for my victory picture at about 1800. As you can see - no fog in sight ;)