After three weeks of intense training, I had my instrument rating checkride with Richard Batchelder, FAA Designated Pilot Examiner, at his office in Concord, CA. Incidentally “Rich” was my examiner for my Private license in 1999.
We were supposed to meet at 1300h at his office in KCCR. I arrived by 1130 and checked in with him. He was happy that I was on time. I had lunch and refreshed the latest weather. I was back in his office promptly at 1300h.
He was impressed that paperwork was well organized – I had a clear sleeve folder with all documents neatly laid out. Had a print out of all XC (with distance covered and distance of furthest airport) and all Instrument flights, so it was easy for him. Wants to see all the A/C information (date of last annual, inspections, etc.) in one place / table (I didn’t do this). Make sure you’ve pulled the codes for areas where you got answers wrong on your written – it makes it easier for him.
Plunged straight into the oral – wanted me to sketch the Pitot-static (I forgot to draw the encoding altimeter) and Vacuum systems, list the equipment required for IFR flight (GRABCARDD), the mandatory reporting under IFR (MARVELOUSVFR500). Wanted me to list the total distance, time and fuel consumed for my flight plan. Verified that the numbers were close to what he got when he put it in.
We then went section by section of the ACS, with him asking me questions and sometimes putting scenarios in place. Some questions I recall are:
In summary, he went methodically through every section of the ACS and asked a few questions about each area – if he saw you were confident and answered correctly, he moved on.
We finished by 1530h.
He then gave me my faux clearance – “Cleared to KSAC via KANAN4 departure, SAC transition, climb and maintain 3,500, departure frequency 119.9 and Squawk 1200.” He told me we’d do the ILS02 into KSAC, hold at SAC, then do the VOR-A into O88, circle to touch-and-go. He didn’t tell me (but I expected it) that the VOR approach would be partial panel. Then some unusual attitude recover in that area, and then back to KCCR for the GPS RNAV 19R approach. Simple enough, airports and approaches that I had flown to many times. I took a few minutes to assemble my charts, study the approaches on last time, and then walked out to the aircraft. He asked me to wait for him to do the pre-flight, so I used that time to turn on the master and save the flight plan into the GPS.
He watched me do the pre-flight – I was careful to explicitly call out whatever I was doing. We then strapped in, he gave me some instructions on positive exchange of controls, traffic avoidance, etc. We then taxied out and took off, he was very relaxed and made me feel relaxed.
He let me contact the Travis controller and request the approach, at some point he himself cleared me down from 3,000ft (he had amended the altitude) to 2,000 and I flew the ILS well, needles centered all the way to the DH. I even remembered to switch guidance from GPS to VLOC and to identify the VORs and Localizer. As we intercepted the glideslope, I lowered full flaps like I’d been taught, and he started taunting me “full-flaps, is that the way they taught you? That’s really odd.” And so on. I realized he was trying to distract me, and I firmly but politely told him “Yes, that’s the way I’ve been taught, we can discuss it later, I’d like us to maintain a sterile cockpit now.” He stopped then.
On reaching the DH, he said “okay, execute the missed”, I did everything correctly, then we switched frequencies back to the controller. He spoke to the controller and asked for a hold at SAC, which was great because it gave me time to get set up. I switched the CDI guidance back from VLOC to GPS, and the GPS took me to the VOR and also told me which way to turn for the hold. I timed the turns and also the tracking really well, because after we reached the holding fix he said “okay, that’s enough, are you ready for the approach?”
I was, so off we went to Rio Vista to shoot the VOR-A approach. I switched the inputs again from GPS to VLOC, set the final approach course. He gave me a heading to intercept the course, I needle began to move, and I turned onto course. He then took two stickies and covered the AI and DG. I had practiced it often, so immediately went to my turn coordinator, and kept tracking reasonably well. A few times he asked me “what height are you descending to?” and I gave him the correct answer from the chart, and he was happy. Leveled off at 600 ft (MDA is 560ft), and he asked me not to look up till be said so. A few minutes later he said “you can take your foggles off now.” I looked up, and the airport was ahead, with the runway running from East to West. I turned downwind, he kept making the radio calls, and then turned final and lowered full flaps. “Just keep the speed above 65! I’m an old man and don’t like to get scared!” he said. I couldn’t have asked for a better day – calm winds, moderate temperatures, and I greased it on.
We then departed straight out, and at a 1,000 feet he gave me vectors to the South, with the AI/DG still covered. We climbed to 2,500 ft and then he took control, gave me one nose down and one nose up attitude, I recovered smartly and immediately, and he was happy.
It was then back to full panel and the Travis controller and he got us cleared for the RNAV approach. He then started meddling with the GPS (“Why can’t I get it to do that?”) and I was really afraid that he’d punch some buttons and get us into a situation where I’d have to do a lot of programming to get the procedure back. “Let me take care of it, Sir,” I said, and then I put in the KCCR RNAV approach. We were near Rejoy, so I had plenty of time to track the Rejoy-Fevta initial segment, and get ATIS, get set up for the approach.
When I got ATIS, KCCR was using Runway 1, so I expected to circle to land at the MDA of 980ft. However, when we were inbound and had switched to the tower, Rich asked the tower if we could circle to 1 Left. The tower said “we’re changing runways now, so you’re clear for 19R itself”. I descended to the 980ft MDA (this was to be an LNAV approach, although I had a WAAS GPS capable of LPV). Rich said: “Take off your foggles and land.” I took off my foggles, the runway was straight ahead, and I made a smooth landing. As we shut down, I was wondering whether I had passed or not - I knew that if I had failed, he would have told me, and was hoping that I had passed.
He then told me that I had done fine, and that I had passed. A wave of relief and emotion broke over me, all those sessions with the instructor, all that training and planning, had paid off, and I was now an instrument rated pilot!
Hats off to my instructor, Mike Korklan... I know as an older person it has been frustrating to get new ideas into my thick skull, but his work paid off. He never let me set low standards for myself, and gave me tough situations to prepare me for this day. Thankfully, conditions and the scenarios of the checkride were much milder than anything he'd thrown at me (DME Arcs, anyone? I actually like them :-)).
One last thing - big thanks to Foreflight throughout the checkride for helping me keep situational awareness. I had earlier tried to be cheap and hadn’t taken the full $200 subscription which gives you geo-referenced charts (I thought I’d use fltpan.com Go). But I’m glad that I splurged on that, because without it I might have managed, but it would have been quite a bit tougher. Foreflight has everything you need in one place, sensibly organized, and you get used to the navigation so that you’re not messing around in a crunch.
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Executive, entrepreneur, investor and mentor to social entrepreneurs, golf and squash addict, author of thrillers... In short, an amateur dabbler in new experiences, and provoker of thoughts.