Monday, July 04, 2005


Things to Remember for the Checkride

Based on events during my stage check and later comments about it, here are some things I really need to remember for subsequent stage checks and the final checkride:

I don't know about what your check pilots what, but in real life, your approach doesn't have to be perfect -- it just has to be safe. Of course, you don't want to end up doing aerobatics to make the runway, you don't want to make your pax vomit, you don't want to blow off the side of the runway in a strong crosswind, and you don't want to continue if you're 10 or 20 feet off the ground and things just feel wrong.

However, often a long slip, some zigzagging, or even a 360 (with ATC's permission) is a very reasonable choice to fix a less-than-perfect approach. If there's no extra risk involved, why mess up the traffic flow with an unnecessary overshoot just to try to be perfect?

When you move to IFR you won't always have the priviledge of setting up your perfect approach -- on non-precision approaches, you sometimes have to bring it down very quickly when you see the runway; on ILS approaches, you sometimes have to keep your speed high until the last possible second to avoid holding up faster traffic on the approach behind you.

Ditto for VFR flying into short/soft/obstructed runways -- sometimes you have to bring the plane down fast, without adding forward speed, as soon as you clear the tree line or power lines.
I disagree with the "I think": being sure and wrong is a lot worse than being unsure and right. Let the examiner know that you know where your knowledge ends and let her know that you know where to look the information up. If you're supposed to know something by heart, then know it confidently. "Vx is 60 kts" (or whatever it is on your model). But "I believe nosewheel tire pressure is 32 psi, I'd have to look in Section 7 of the POH to be sure." You're not expected to know everything.

And hot day pax briefing: start it (ELT, smoking, fire extinguisher, lifejackets, exits, egress route, PIC) standing next to the plane, before you even board the pax. Load them, but leave doors and windows wide open (you opened them and left them open during preflight, right?), brief seatbelts, close one door, show them how to open it, then leave it open. Assure them that you will close doors before takeoff. Open all vents, start engine, close passenger side door if pax seem nervous about door, leave yours open, hold it open, even flap it for cooling as you taxi. Ensure doors are secure in the pretakeoffs. You can even take off with an open window. Close it as soon as you are established in climb, because the noise will make it hard to hear ATC.

The back seat is hotter in summer, colder in winter, si if they have thes, ensure they know how to use them.
If the final approach is high and a long forward slip is needed to lose enough altitude to make a landing, just go-around instead. If anything at all is not perfect about the final approach, it is better to go around than to show you know how to fix it.

Whoa! Yes, the first priority of an unsafe approach is the overshoot, but one of the most usefull lessons I learned in my own training was the forward slip, and I'm certainly not shy to use it!

I think quite the opposite. During my checkride, if I find myself high, I will most certainly demonstrate a forward slip in order to bleed altitude. IMHO it makes me appear more competent in the eyes of the examiner, not "reckless" by trying to salvage an approach.

Now, if something safety related happens on the approach that could be safely remedied by an overshoot, I will also not be afraid to do so, but that's a different situation.
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