Instrument Checkride

Coastal Aviation, the flight school that took me on at the very last minute to finish my IFR rating, asked me to do a write-up about my IFR checkride. Hopefully this will help someone else that is trying to get a feel for what to expect.

When the checkride was scheduled, the DPE (Designated Pilot Examiner) asked me to plan a trip from my home airport, KLRO, to Lakeland Florida, KLAL, using “Victor Airways”. This was no problem because I had already planned a trip to LAL since I was actually flying down as Safety Pilot there just a few days later with a friend. The flight plan was to include proper altitude,  frequency changeover points, expected approach and a weather briefing (among other things).

When the examiner showed up we sat down to the computer to have me “sign in” to the FAA website to officially begin the exam. We then went into a room to begin the oral portion of the exam.

He first asked me why I chose the route I chose. I chose it because of a NOTAM specific to the destination. The Victor airway route I chose required a specific altitude due to the high volume of air traffic enroute to the event (Sun-n-Fun). We discussed several symbols on the map along the way, weather briefings, equipment failure procedures and other emergency procedures. The DPE shared a few stories from his experience and asked what I may have done in the same situation. When he was satisfied that I was capable of good planning and decision making, we went to the airplane to begin the practical segment of the exam.

For the practical exam there are several procedures the FAA requires the IFR applicant to demonstrate and 3 approaches that must be completed. Before we departed the DPE proposed that we do the unusual attitudes and steep turns before navigating to, and entering, the holding pattern for the RNAV (GPS) approach for Rwy 27 at KJZI.

We departed on Rwy 35 on a Runway heading. When I reached approximately 700′ in altitude the DPE took the controls while I put my “foggles” on. We turned to the Southeast to head to the practice area. The DPE had me fly to 3,000′ over the ocean just off the coast of Isle of Palms and then he had me lean my head down while he flew the plane in attitudes meant to disorient me, and returning the controls to me with the plane pitched up and to the side at first, then again in a nose down attitude. Both times the recovery was smooth and satisfactory. After these I set up the GPS for the JZI RNAV approach for Rwy 27 and headed for the holding pattern entry. The direction we approached the IAF required a parallel entry, which we discussed as I was navigating to the IAF.

The FAA requires that one of the non-precision approaches be done with “partial panel”. As I entered the holding pattern for this approach the DPE covered the Attitude Indicator and the Heading Indicator. Lucky for me the air was silky smoothe and this was my best approach of the exam. When I reached the MDA (Minimum Descent Altitude) the DPE told me the airport was not in sight and I executed the published missed approach procedure, flying the entire MAP to include one full circuit in the MA hold at the RILEY intersection. After flying the MAP the DPE removed the covers from the instrument panel so I would have full instruments again.

Next I programmed the GPS for the precision approach, the ILS for Rwy 9 at the same airport (KJZI). Upon reaching the DH of 270 the DPE took the controls so I could remove the foggles and do a touch and go.

After doing the touch & go, we contacted Charleston Approach to request permission for our final approach procedure, the VOR/DME-A into KLRO. Charleston Approach gave us vectors to the CHS VOR, where we began our descent from 3,000′ to 1,600′ at the Final Approach Fix. After crossing the runway at the circling altitude of 540′ I began my turn onto the downwind leg. Unfortunately, the wind was a little stronger than what was reported, (AND I underestimated the distance I should have been from the runway) when we last listened to the AWOS, and I was blown past the runway. This was one of the few times in my flying career that a go-around was actually necessary, and it had to happen on my IFR checkride. At least I made the right decision and the checkride ended with the issuance of my IFR ticket, and not with catastophe.

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