CFI Checkride – One Woman Pilot’s Experience

Most people told me that it’s likely the hardest checkride I was to face…

This story was first published on the 99s Flight Training Forum mailing list, reprinted with permission from the author.

Every checkride I do a write up about the experience. So why not continue that trend? This time it was my CFI Initial checkride (the doooosey). Most people told me that it’s likely the hardest checkride I was to face. I found the training to not be necessarily difficult.

I mean it’s the same material I had been studying for 3 years now in all my other training. But the level of comprehension and mastery was much different than it had been before.

The ride really started, as they all do, about a week before. I met with the examiner early to review my endorsements in my logbooks. As a CFI, you must know all endorsements that are required for any training you will be giving.

So with my checklist in hand, and armed with a freshly printed 61.65D AC, I reviewed my logbooks with him.

So far this went well as he could not find any errors in the logbooks. I had neatly “double-logged” all my ground training in new stickers in the back so that we didn’t have to fish through the books for an hour to find all my required ground training.

The official checkride started at 07:00 the following week. I had taken the entire day off of work. I find that if I do a checkride on the weekday, I have less weekend warrior traffic to deal with.

I had all my books, a fresh set of dry-erase markers (ones I knew would work), and my handy lesson plan notebook, complete with added diagrams and figures. After the standard paperwork review (another gander at my logbooks, a look at the aircraft logbooks, the 8710, the knowledge exams, etc) I had to part with my fee. Somehow paying in cash is harder than paying by check… but there it went.

He pulled out an oral guide and PTS and we got started. His oral guide looked 30 inches thick to me, but his relaxed nature really made it start to shrink to a realistic, yet still hefty, 1-inch thick. We started off with endorsement questions, which weren’t so hard. Then on to FARs, which again weren’t so hard.

A lot of the oral was either easy or handled through conversation rather than a question/answer period. Which might explain why I can’t remember all of it. Then he said he wanted some lessons.

My two questions were staged as follows:

“I’m a student pilot and I just got back from my solo cross country. During that flight I noticed some things that I would like you to explain to me. First, when I was trimmed and reduced power, why did the nose drop?

“Second, when I turned with only aileron, why did the nose go the opposite way?”

Ok, I thought. No problem… aerodynamics of trim, and adverse yaw. So he gave me some time to prepare my lectures and I started in.

During the trim lesson, I thought I had answered it, but he kept asking “why”?

I started to break a sweat. Obviously I was not getting into the detail he wanted.

So through a couple questions and probes, I finally realized he was looking more for a lesson on stability, than aerodynamics (well, they are related anyway…) So I pretty much grabbed the book, looked it up and taught straight from the book.

It wasn’t pretty, but it was accurate since I leaned heavily on what the book said, and pretty much repeated it verbatim.

The adverse yaw lesson when much more smoothly, but then again, I had taught that one a few times already. So I was more prepared.

We then reviewed spins and the aerodynamics of the autorotation. Then suddenly he said, “Ready to fly?”

Yes, but I had to know if I failed anything. I didn’t want to fly and not know, so I asked how the oral went.

He said “so far so good, a bit weak on aerodynamics, but just keep practicing.”

What a relief! I glanced at my watch and had to take a second glance. 4 hours went by? I thought we just started! I’m starving!

A small break, snack and check for TFRs and weather, and we were off in the taildragger (I used the Citabria and the Cutlass for this checkride). A soft-field takeoff and we were off to the practice area.

Now this examiner liked to talk… not necessarily about what we were doing, but also about other random topics. Not sure if this was the distraction element, but it made for a relaxed environment.

The airwork went pretty smoothly. Lots of clearing turns 🙂 Slow flight with a 180, secondary stalls with a question on why we demo them, chandelles, lazy eights, eights on pylons (a bit out of coordination, but explained he saw my nervous leg locking up on me – which is true), 3-turn spin recovery (with some commentary on how he would like to see it done that differed slightly from the POH) – all with either performing the maneuver or teaching the maneuver.

Then it was time to get another airplane so we headed back. On the way, he asked if he forgot anything and I told him I thought he did, but I wasn’t going to tell him since he would make me do it. He chuckled and I said we forgot emergencies… he just replied that was what the other airplane was for.

So return for landing and he asked me to do wheel landings. I bounced the first two, forgetting how to fly them from the backseat, not pretty, and even felt him come on the controls. That should have been a clue, but I didn’t pick up on it.

On the third one, I landed it fine, but received commentary about the rollout and holding the tail off the ground. I was comfortable with the bounces, as I knew that I would just do a go-around, but he didn’t know that and was a bit cautious about them.

Regardless the third landing stuck and we taxied back for a second airplane. Still feeling confident, I decided to check again on progress.

So I asked again.

He said, “Well, we have to do the wheel landings over, but the rest was good.”

I was not shocked, but stunned is a better way to put it. I *had* to know, didn’t I? I just pinked my first ride ever.

Now what? He sent me to go preflight the Cutlass.

This was good. I had a few moments with myself and the airplane.

I’ve had a few Zen moments at the airport when preflighting. I listen to the sounds of the aircraft taking off and landing, the wind and spend .a good bit of time just really looking at the aircraft and thinking about the systems, checklists, procedures, etc. It’s a time to get my mindset about flying that particular aircraft. Its very similar to the time I spent with my horse getting ready for a competition. Very quiet, and calm.

I decided that this was like no other flight. My next mission was to fly this Cutlass from the right seat. Demonstrate I could teach/fly it and not let any bit of information interfere. Show PIC.

Although I was nervous at first, the Cutlass flight was pretty good. We were going to do a short, no-flap approach for the “emergency” and one lap in the pattern under the hood. Well, by default, I started to put in flaps on the descent, so we just landed and took off again.

The next time around we did a short approach with no flaps, and then the third landing we requested a 360 on downwind where I flew the plane with the hood on and got vectors to final. Lifted the hood at 200′ and landed. I even got a compliment on the taxi back to the tie- down.

It was all I could do to bite my lip and simply say “thank you”. The voice in my head was very loud about how I could have used a bit more power, or tracked the centerline a bit better. Just keep it quiet and not verbalize was the task at the moment.

There it was. It was all over. I had completed it and just needed to find out how many tasks were going to be asked for retake. As it turns out, just the wheel landings. Everything else was acceptable.

Whoo Hoo! I was still a bit stunned, being my first pink experience, but hugely relieved as I had managed to pass what I thought were all the difficult parts! We chatted about next steps and then he printed my form.

Well all this talk about Pink Slips… mine was white! So other than being cheated on color… I was pretty happy with the rest of the day. The best part was not allowing my failing wheel landings to interfere with my Cutlass flying.

77 wheel landings, 10.5 Hobbs, 1 passenger and 2 new-to-me instructors later, I scheduled my retest for the following week.

Relearning the maneuver didn’t take as long as I thought it would and most of the high numbers are really because I love flying so much, rather than “struggling” to learn wheel landings again.

I did learn a lot of great things about wheelies, and possibly even more ways on how to do one than I thought I would.

The Retest

More paperwork review: new 8710, new endorsements, new cash, a ground lesson and we were up again in the Citabria. I tried to be as relaxed as I could. We were staying in the pattern, and I took my time with the run-up and calling ready to the tower. But, I couldn’t sit on the ground all morning, so off we went.

The first approach resulted in a go around. I’m sure mostly because of nerves, but decided to call it off because the first 1/3 of the runway went by pretty darned quick.

Second approach was a good wheel landing, but on the third approach, the examiner asked for a three-point on final.

WHAT!?!? I hadn’t done one of those in at least 75 landings! So I adjusted the speed and attempted the 3-point landing. It was a bit shakey and we ballooned a bit, but I was able to analyze what had gone wrong.

So another lap in the pattern and back to the wheel landings. I landed another one, and asked if he needed to see more. He said, “Nope, I have seen enough”

I was a little nervous about that rocky 3-point and started to doubt the outcome. Just after getting taxi clearance to parking from Ground Control, one of my instructors came on frequency and asked, “So how does it look?”

I asked the examiner, “So how’s it look?”

He said it was great, and I repeated it back on the radio. I was so elated. I had just passed my retest and I was now a CFI.

Now I just need to get a CFI job!

Happy National Aviation Day,
Torea Rodriguez

A few days after submitting this story, Torea emailed the list to let us know she had been offered a position as an independant contractor CFI at her flying club.

Torea is a member of the Santa Clara Valley 99s and a 2005 winner of the 99s Amelia Earhart Scholarship. We are very proud and lucky to have her as a member of our chapter.