Instrument rating checkride

On February 15, 2023, I took my instrument rating checkride with Lisa Dahl at the Salem, OR, airport (KSLE). That morning, my home airport (KCVO) was covered in thick freezing fog, so I couldn’t fly my plane there as originally planned. Instead, I drove to KSLE and then handed my car keys to an instructor who was kind enough to drive my car to KCVO and fly the plane back to KSLE for me, while I did the oral part of the checkride. We started the oral part at 10 a.m. and finished around 2 p.m. (when the plane showed up), ate a bit of lunch, then went flying for 2 more hours.

Overall, the oral part of the exam was very conversational, and Lisa encouraged me from the start to take notes so I would know what to look into more deeply after the checkride. That was something I’d wanted to do anyway!

Lisa checked my documents, endorsements, and qualifications (training and experience), quizzed me about IFR currency requirements, and discussed my personal mins (guidelines for conditions under which I’d feel comfortable flying IFR). We reviewed the airplane’s inspections and airworthiness and talked through some decision-making scenarios.

In advance, she’d asked me to plan an IFR flight from KSLE to KRBG (Roseburg, in the hills), then pick up a passenger and fly KRBG to KCEC (Crescent City, on the coast). This was a fun exercise, and I’d spent a lot of time compiling all the details I would want if I were really flying it (route, altitude, weight and balance, fuel requirements, estimated time en route, whom I’d talk to along the way, departure and approach procedures available, takeoff mins, my personal mins, runway properties (including lighting), airport services, NOTAMs, the latest weather that day, special concerns, and alternatives (if no-go on the flight). I brought Google 3D visualizations of the expected approaches to give a visual sense of the terrain (especially KRBG). Most of this we didn’t actually use, but we did talk about en-route altitudes and terrain clearance.

Planned flight KSLE to KRBG to KCEC

We talked through decision making in scenarios like being in the clouds and discovering you have icing on your plane, or turbulence, and what options you would consider. We looked at KONP (Newport) and how its airspace differs from KCVO’s airspace. We discussed being cleared for a “visual” approach and what that means, then talked through the RNAV B approach at KRBG. I shared my concerns about the steep descent rate required (a VDA (visual descent angle) of 5.36 degrees which is almost twice the typical 3 degrees).

Next we talked about the airplane’s electrical system: battery voltage, bus voltage, alternator failure, how long the battery might last, and that transitioned nicely to a discussion of what to do if you have lose communication. She asked if I would accept a tailwind landing and seemed pleased I had articulated a personal limit for this.

Apparently the oral part was satisfactory, because we proceeded to discuss a plan for our flight. We separated to eat our lunches, then I went out to pre-flight the plane. She joined me and asked a few questions about the plane (cylinders, spark plugs, fuel vents). She had me handle ATC communications while we were IFR and she took over when we were VFR. We flew the SLE4 departure from runway 34 (they gave us a heading of 340 and 4000′). During debrief later, Lisa said not to do a rolling takeoff, which was the first time I’d gotten that advice. (Instead, get on the runway and lined up, pause, final check of heading/runway/etc., then proceed). I’ve only done this for short-field takeoffs. Good to know!

She wanted me to demonstrate one hand-flown approach, one autopilot-coupled, and the other one my choice. We flew the ILS 31 from LOTKE, missed approach, hold at ARTTY, then the LOC BC 13, circle west to a low approach on RW 34. I used the autopilot after departure until we were approaching LOTKE, hand-flew the ILS 31, used the autopilot for the hold and LOC BC 13, then hand-flew everything else. She complimented my handling of approach speed and descent rate. Here I am reporting that we’re coming in on the ILS 31:

and then when we crossed the LOTKE waypoint:

and then when we went missed and were climbing away from the airport:

For the LOC BC 13, after leveling nicely just above MDA, I flipped up the foggles and started inadvertently descending (I think maybe due to the slight disorientation in switching from foggles to visual and simultaneously slowing down – pitching up and reducing power, maybe too much on the latter) and she said to watch altitude, and I quickly caught it. My alignment downwind was good, but in looking at my ground track I judge that I was way too far from the runway. The low approach went well and we climbed out VFR.

We did a sequence of VOR tuning and tracking operations, then everyone’s favorite: unusual attitude recoveries! We returned to the airport with the RNAV 31 approach. We simulated loss of WAAS, so no vertical guidance, and she put a post-it over the HSI to simulate the loss of one G5, so I also had limited lateral guidance. I flared a little high but it was a satisfactory landing. We taxied back to parking and she said that I passed!

Overall it was a great opportunity to go through all of the knowledge and skills that I’ve been working for months to acquire. Lisa gave me what I consider an enormous compliment in saying that I ask all the right questions and she likes how I get into the details of how things work. She encouraged me to get my commercial and CFI certificates and train some students :) I then flew back to KCVO, landing a bit after 7 p.m.!

The real reward for passing the checkride will be getting to fly instruments without foggles on! I can’t wait to see what I’ve been missing!

1 Comment
1 of 1 people learned something from this entry.

  1. jim said,

    February 20, 2023 at 9:50 pm

    (Learned something new!)

    *Congratulations!* Great write-up, and I especially appreciate the audio snippets. You certainly have that calm, cool Pilot Voice down!

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