I realise this is just one person's take on a PPL check ride, and it is affected by an infinite number of variables, not the least of which are the conditions of the day and my style as a learner. I am also acutely aware that already 24 hours after the event, my memory is starting to waver on some of the finer details. Nevertheless, I offer below my acct of my PPL flight test on a Cessna 150....
So, the examiner and I spent about 45 mins on the ground. He asked me a number of questions about the paperwork (certificate of airworthiness, licenses, weight and balance report, journey log, etc.) He also asked me to explain how I had planned my cross country (from CYTZ to CNF4 and then on to CYGK), including fuel, wind calculations, runway landing distances, etc. He wanted to assure himself that I knew my POH, and he wanted to see that I had considered various aspects of a cross country flight while planning. I gave him a complete weather briefing, beginning with the GFAs. The examiner asked me various speeds (Vx, Vy, etc.) I had to know these by heart, and I did. Finally, he quizzed me a little on how various parts of the plane work.
I was lucky: My examiner, Dave George from St Catherine's, Ontario, really put me at ease. He gave me an overview of how we would spend our time together. I could see right away that he enjoyed flying and he enjoyed doing these check rides, and I felt very confident that if I knew something, he would find a way that I could show him.
If you read about the day of the test, you'll know it was blazing hot, and that the examiner got held up in traffic. Also, I was feeling a little sick (swollen glands, fever the night before...) So, by the time he arrived, I had already been stressing out in the heat for a good 5 hours +, and was already pretty cooked.
Fortunately, the weather looked like spectacular crap: thundershowers and winds gusting all over the place. So I kind of was banking on just doing the ground portion and then coming back another time for the flight part. BUT HE WAS HAPPY WITH ME AND WANTED TO FLY!!! We checked the weather, and he assured me that the systems would pass us by (and that if wx moved in, we could just turn around and come back if we weren't comfortable). So off we went, me tired as all get out, but feeling MUCH more confident than I had in a long time, due to our very successful ground brief and Mr. George's positive attitude in general.
I have played a number of hospitality and teaching roles in my time, both currently, as a workshop facilitator and an elementary school teacher, and in my "youth", when I worked in hotels in Germany and as a tour guide in Ottawa and Quebec City, and as a site host for Ontario Place when it was still government owned. So doing the walk around and pax briefing was a pleasure and a breeze. I really enjoyed showing off "my" plane to my "passenger". By now Dave and I had built a nice rapport, and although I was scared stiff that I was about to go flying, tired and in less than ideal wx conditions, I felt like he had such high expectations of me at this point, I simply couldn't let him down. I knew that somewhere inside me, I knew this stuff, I knew how to fly decently, and as for the exercises I hadn't mastered yet, well, I'd have to just do my best, and maybe it would be good enough for a pass. I prayed without ceasing as we got into the plane, and then I focused in earnest on my start up, taxi and run-up checklists, working hard on internally celebrating the things I had mastered, and trying not to show how nervous I was about the things I hadn't.
We set off on our mock cross country; I was careful to LOOK OUTSIDE to set Vy (best climb) attitude, and tried to trim out the plane so that I could begin to chat up my passenger and get started on my cross country in flight planning. As we couldn't climb to planned cruising altitude until clear of Pearson's space, I explained what I knew about our control zone and altitude restrictions surrounding the airspace near the airport to my "passenger". (Anything to sound like a confident, knowledgeable pilot!!) Since I had noted time off, I was also able to give him an ETA at our mock final destination. I did my best to remember all the steps as I got to my set heading points, and tried not to stress about the "on the fly" math coming up ahead as we set off on course.
Fortunately, we got to our checkpoint only one minute late, and I did a think aloud about how I would note that, but not revise my final destination time yet, but rather wait and see what would happen at our next checkpoint (but that if we were later to our next checkpoint, I would revise my times, and make a call as needed to flight services to advise them of the change in flight plan). This seemed to satisfy the examiner, and he took control so that I could put on the hood for our next exercise.
Instrument flying in even somewhat bumpy conditions can be challenging, but I did my best to keep the blue side up, so to speak, and seemed to manage okay. Next it was time for a steep turn, but not before I oriented myself to where we were, and made a position report. (I live in constant fear of a mid air collision with one of the MANY planes that come from many airports to our little practice area.)
My steep turns--when I stay focused--are damned good, I must say. And even though we had limited horizon this day, I performed like a star (as Dave later said, "her steep turn was like on a rail"). Okay, enough bragging.
Next it was slow flight. LOOK OUTSIDE. I did, rather than focus on the instruments. I picked a cloud, and kept the nose pointed at it. And it was good. Stalls were also reasonable. Spiral recovery was not stellar. I didn't really level the wings quickly enough, and my separation of the three recovery steps was not great. In part, I was still a bit stunned that I was actually doing okay with everything, hehe. But I didn't crash the plane into the ground, so we kept going.
Unusual attitude instrument recovery was reasonable; Dave put the plane into an attitude which I soon recognized as nose up (due to slow airspeed), so I pitched down, added power and used aileron and rudder to get us back into cruise.
Now it was time for forced approach. I have the steps down cold, and I can make the field... from about 3000 ft ASL in the Claremont area. Alas, Dave had me climb to nearly 4000 ft indicated before he called simulated engine failure, and that's when my ADD kicked in. With so many fields to choose from, and so much time to get there, saliency control became a real issue for me!!! I was used to being closer to the ground, picking any damned field, and just getting there, lol! This resulted in me making the field, but not until the final third, which meant a 2 on that exercise (each exercise is rated out of 4; PPL candidates are expected to get 3s for mostly everything; some 2s are allowed, as long as the overall score reaches a minimum). He did assure himself of my ability to make the field, too... we didn't overshoot until about 150 ft AGL -- I'd never been that low before, lol!
But overshoot we did, and as we climbed back up to altitude, Dave oriented himself on the VTA, which helped me as well, and then requested I divert back to CYTZ, where we'd do our precautionary as well as a specialty landing and take-off and our final, normal, landing.
The diversion procedure prompted a whole conversation, which I am actually in the midst of working on a blog post with my flight instructor on for www.OnlineFTM.weebly.com but I managed that okay, along with the precautionary, though both were complicated by the fact that we were once again entering the zone of the busy control tower at City Centre.
Did I mention, btw, that the weather turned out to be really nice? I thanked Dave enroute back from the practice area, for taking me out today. I would not have gone on my own, and against all odds, regardless of the outcome of the test, I felt it had been, actually, a lovely flight. I was truly grateful for having gone.
Ahhh, but the crazy winds seemed to have found a home at CYTZ: we had a cross wind with some gusting at ground level, but variable winds at altitude, and some very strange stuff happening over the water on approach to 26. It's not uncommon to get wind shear down there over the water, and that's exactly what happened as I made my way to the rwy for my "soft field landing" : With 40 degrees of flap (as per POH specs for soft field), and already committed to a soft field take off (I had decided on a touch and go, since it was a "grass field" and I wanted to show that I knew enough to keep the wheels rolling), I was not in an ideal position for a strong gross wind or gust, but I got both, and just before the flare, our plane suddenly tipped rather forcefully to one side. My correction was prompt, however, and I managed a relatively smooth landing somehow, though not without some explicatives over the radio from tower, who I guess had seen the whole affair, hehe. But the miraculous recovery served as a nice distraction from my less than perfect climb out, and then it was back to business for downwind and setting up for my final full stop, a normal landing, which also garnered me a 2, since -- really tired by now -- I was up to my old tricks, and not lined up with the centreline!!!
Overall throughout the test I held heading and altitude decently but not perfectly, but I did LOTS of talking, noticing things out loud, and correcting them as needed. I was also a star on the radio -- that's one skill I have developed, and I enjoy it!
We taxied to the hangar, and Dave shook my hand and said, "congratulations, you passed!" He also told me that he would take about 10 minutes to prepare my debrief and paperwork, and would meet with me and my instructor(s) to debrief the flight. But I was a bit stunned, to be honest. No partial -- a complete PASS!!! (and, as I later found out, a very good one at that.)
I could not believe it!!! I was so, well, speechless, actually.
The rest of the evening was a bit of a fog. My girlfriend and I went home to take a cold shower (we had both been cooking at the flight school since about 9 a.m. that morning!), and then went out for pizza and gelato, and some Porter plane watching from the city, down near the music garden. Then it was early to bed for me.
And that's the story of my PPL flight test, as I remember it 24 hours later.
I am grateful for the opportunity to have come this far, and I look forward to the opportunities that lie ahead.