06 December skill test
All the training has come to this. The PPL exam. The school only has 1 UK examiner for the JAA PPL. Martin Lloyd is his name. The first part of the exam is navigation which is followed by aerial maneuvers. After that it is time for emergency procedures. The last part are the landings. It takes about 2 hours and the examiner takes the radio after the navigation part. He gives you the route for the navigation part 1 day before together with his weight and baggage.
I was nervous for the exam but after the forth cancelation I just wanted to do it! I prepared everything and knew everything I had to know.
On the day of the exam you have to assess the weather and give him a briefing about it. My exam was postponed 5 or 6 times. 4 times were because of the weather. On the day of the exam the weather was to bad in the morning so we postponed it until noon. I looked at the weather and the forecast and decided it was good enough for the exam. In addition to the weather you also need to have the weight and balance, NOTAMS and TFR’s. You start with a short analyses of the weather and the weight and balance. He asked some questions and then continued asking questions about the stall and spin recoveries.
Then it was time to head to the aircraft. You have to do the preflight check together with him. This means that you do the preflight and he watches your every move and asks questions about the aircraft. For example he asked me what the fuel color was for different kinds and what all the antennas are for. After the preflight we got into the aircraft and I got ready. I forgot to get the can (tin can with AC documents) from the office so I got out and got the can. When I came back I noticed that 2 instruments were indication crazy values. I bet he messed around with them while I was gone. Anyways I do the checks and take off and start my navigation plan. I wrote down the times very accurately and calculated the ETA’s. This helped me a lot. On the picture you can see the route that I had to take. The second turning point was an airport called Pauma Valley. I couldn’t find it initially and overflew it. My time said I had to be there by now so I started circling. I made about 3 – 360 turns when I finally found the airport! I flew towards it and calculated a new ETA. After a minute or so the examiner told me to put the hood on for some basic instrument flying. 3 180 turns on the instruments. Not hard at all. After that it was time for 2 unusual attitude recoveries. I didn’t expect those in the exam but they make sense. They went fine. Then it was time for the diversion. I had to pinpoint my location using the VOR/DME. Then I had to divert to Flying T. A little private strip. The route is shown in orange. I have been to that airport once before but it’s really hard to see. I calculated the heading, distance and ETA. After a short flight I was there according to the time. Again I didn’t see the airport. A little frustrated I began circling to look for it. I was sure it had to be here. All the features that were on the map I could also see outside, except the strip. Eventually I found it and the examiner was satisfied. Not finding an airstrip/field the first time is okay as long as you rely on your navigation plan and map reading skills. Anyways then it was time to do some maneuvers. First the three stalls. An Academic stall: power to idle, maintaining the altitude, and recover at the first sign of the stall with pitching down and adding full power. Then an base to final turn. This stall happens when you try to turn from base to final and you make the corner too tight by pulling the control column back. So you simulate being on the base leg first, 1700 RPM, flaps 10 > 20 degrees and then make the turn and pulling up at the same time. Then recover by pitching the nose down, full power and roll straight and level again. Lastly there was a final stall, this is the stall that could happen when you are landing and you try to stretch the glide. It happens in the landing configuration and the recovery is easy, pitch nose down, full power and flaps 20 degrees. They all went fine. Then it was time for the dreaded steep turn. I start and I see that I dropped 300 feet when I finished it. Not good because the maximum height loss is 100 feet. Ok another try the other side. And yes that one went way better, only a 50 feet drop!
On to the emergencies. First an engine failure in flight, I did what the checklist said I had to do, find a landing spot and everything. On the recovery I messed up big-time. The examiner took over the controls and after a little debrief I had to do it again. The second time went fine but I thought the flight was over after that screw up! We headed back to Gillespie to finish with the landings. We approached the airfield and I had to come in on a 6 mile final. That’s pretty long! I had to make a flapless landing on 27R. The landing was okay but I touched down a little late down the runway. I took off again and I had to do a short approach. This is to see if you can land without power. There’s a big mountain in the way so it’s hard to do a short approach on this runway. I only did it once with my instructor. So I came in to high and went for a go-around. The second attempt was much better and I put it down using a sideslip to lose altitude quickly. The last landing was a short field landing. The landing was spot on but the touchdown was a little hard. During the circuits I had a lot of “where’s the ball” remarks and after we landed that was exactly the problem. I had a partial pass, which means that I failed one of the 7 areas you get judged on. My rudder control and landings were not good enough. I was a little surprised because usually those things go well. But during the flight they didn’t go well, even I saw that. At least I was happy that it was that problem because I knew it was quite easily solved. I park the aircraft back and go in for the debrief. Basically what I had to do was to take a few lessons with Elodie, my instructor to work on the rudder control and landings. The problem was that the examiner went on holiday for a week so I had to wait at least a week before I could retake the test. So yes not a pass yet but I was pretty sure the next time I’d get the landings good. To change the partial pass into a full pass I only had to do the part I failed again, not the whole test. Next and last entry is about the retest, final notes about the school and my final days in the US and the 1 night in the UK.