Somewhere during the check ride personal minimums will come up. Interestingly some people have never thought about them. Some make them up on the spot. Others will tell me something but we actually go fly the check ride busting those minimums they've established.
For example, we'll be talking about the weather and I'll ask what would be the lowest ceiling and visibility they would fly this cross country on. I'll hear "Oh, I've never thought about it, clear skies and say no less that 15 miles?" and yet we take off on the check ride with the ceiling at 2500 feet and vis at 3-4 miles. I'll ask about winds. "I don't fly with winds gusting over 15 knots and no more than a 7-8 knot crosswind" but yet we launch on the check ride with winds gusting to 25.
Fuel minimums: Almost everyone tell me they double the FAA requirements for fuel reserve. But you know what the number one reason engine failure is? Fuel starvation and/or fuel mismanagement. Do know how close to the destination they get before they run out of fuel? Within 5 miles. This tells me we don't really follow our personal minimums or we don't know how to correctly plan a cross country and/or operate our fuel system.
Personal Minimum keep us within our skill set, they keep us safe. Personal Minimums can change as you build knowledge, skill and experience. They can change up or down for different situations. For example, you just got checked out in a new airplane and you're not as comfortable with cross winds as your old airplane. You're flying a cross country at night. Will your weather and fuel mins be the same as during the day? Maybe you got that new instrument rating. Should you launch off when the weather is 200x1/2. Remember just because it's legal doesn't mean it's safe.
Are you doing it correctly??????
Unusual attitude recovery are required on the private, Instrument, CFII and ATP check rides. The biggest problem I see during the recovery is how the applicant uses power. On the nose up recovery, add full power. Nose low, power to idle.
For the most part, private pilot applicant do very well. I've seen a trend with a couple of items
Oral: Stalls and Spins. I'm being told that stall recovery is a function of airspeed. It's not, it's all about angle of attack. I'm also having problem with applicants not knowing how to recover from a spin. I was once told several years ago that the applicants airplane wasn't certified for spins so she didn't need to know how to recover from one.
Flight: Three problems areas. First the new one. It really hasn't been an issue until last year. And that is Flight with reference to the instruments or flying under the hood. I've been using the same scenario for 12 years and yet the word hasn't gotten out. The scenario is......You're flying home and you're down to 1000 feet and the ceiling and visibility keep getting lower and lower. What are you going to do? Some applicants have problems figuring out what to do. I've been told by some that they would continue lower until they where out of the clouds. The other problem with flying under the hood is aircraft control. The PTS requirements are very generous with altitude +/- 200 ft, heading +/- 20 etc. Unfortunately, I've seen several applicants in the past year who where unable to keep the aircraft under control and within the PTS requirements. This usually has to do with a poor instrument scan. If you're an instructor don't just put them under the hood without a way to systematically scan the instruments. You want to teach the scan so the pilot knows what instruments to look at and when.
The second problem area is stalls and spins. I've been spun a couple times last year. Both times I had to recover. The problem seems to be the lack of, or incorrect use of, the rudder.
Third problem area is take off, landings and go-arounds. I've written a lot about these in earlier blogs so I won't rehash them here but most of the problems have to do with poor cross wind correction and failure to establish a stabilized approach. Go-around problems: failure to add full power before retracting the flaps and gear, allowing the nose to pitch up uncontrollable after adding power, and failure to maintain coordination.
I'm see some reoccurring problems on private, commercial and CFI helicopter rides. They are basic knowledge and stick skills issues or in other words, things that should be a problem by check ride time. So let me get on with it.....
Oral: Emergency procedures. For example: Low G recover, Recovery from RBS, Settling with power and LTE. With the exception of Settling with Power, we can't train and test these so it's imperative that we know how to recover correctly from memory.
Flight: Auto-rotations: Number 1 failure item, failure to maintain RRPM within limits. Number 2 item, failure to establish a stabilized Auto-rotation. I usually see an unstable auto on the 180s. Poor pitch control leading to poor airspeed control and chasing RRPM are usually the result.