Get a few DPEs together and we start telling war stories of past check rides and near death experiences. We are old and feeble and barely remember what we had for breakfast let alone what really happen three weeks ago but some elements of truth and commonality pop out in these stories.
Recent stories about entering and leaving towered and non tower traffic patterns have been making there rounds. Stuff like making right traffic at left traffic airports. calling in the wrong position in the pattern (or making the all to common call "turning left final runway XX), not following ATC instructions or telling ATC your east of the field when you are west, cutting off other aircraft in the pattern, landing downwind. The list goes on...
I can tell you to read and follow the regs and the advice in the AIM but I'll add a couple other thoughts.
1. Don't go near the airport until you are ready. Find the airport, get the ATIS or AWOS, figure out the active runway and the easiest way to enter the pattern. Take the time and THINK.
2. Double check your position from the airport before calling in. This is important! ATC needs to know your location to figure out how to sequence you into the pattern and keep you separated from others. At non towered airports, other aircraft need to develop the big picture too. Incorrectly announcing your position in relation to airport, runway or traffic pattern is a set up for a midair collision.
3. Keep your head on a swivel. You may be doing everything right but the other guy may not. If there is conflict in the air, its best to stay out of it.
A few years ago, an airliner got lost on an airport on a low IFR day. There was confusion on the frequency between the airliner and ATC. Thinking the Airliner was clear of the runway, ATC cleared another airplane for take-off. That pilot (hearing the confusion on the freq) declined the take-off clearance until ATC and the airliner knew where each other was at. Good thing this pilot declined the clearance. The airliner had made a wrong turn and was actually on the departure runway of the other aircraft. It would have been a disaster.
Most check rides start with a cross country. Why is it that the majority of applicants fail to set up and use their GPS (or other Navigation equipment) for that cross country?
My advice, do what you would do in real life. If you normally fly using that GPS, then use it for the check ride. Don't start yourself off with a disadvantage! If the examiner needs to see you navigate without it, he/she will fail it at some point.
I love all the new gadgets we have available to us. I recently added dual Garmin G5's and the G500 autopilot to my 182. Combined with ADSB In and Out, I now have traffic and various forms of weather products. Even if you're not flying a nicely equipped airplane, you can have the same features with Foreflight, WingX Pro, Garmin Pilot and some sort of ADSB receiver. All of this stuff is supposed to enhance situational awareness and safety. For the most part, it does but it can have a real negative effect on safety as well. People much smarter than me have written books on the subject. I would like to cover a couple of items that have played a major issue during check rides.
The first issue is not knowing how to use those gadgets. Lets take Foreflight or Garmin Pilot for example. Do you know where to find Hot Spots or how to determine the the altitudes of an MOA, Restricted or Prohibited Area? How did that App figure out that ground speed? Did you input that data for your airplane or did you select the basic (generic) profile? What power setting will achieve that TAS?
Regarding the Airplane itself. How do you determine if the data bases are current on your GPS? In a twin engine airplane, can we use the autopilot with an engine inop? If you're a private pilot pilot, do you even know how to use the autopilot. Do you know what the failure modes are for your MFD, PFD and how they present themselves? Can you fix them in flight or are you stuck with the backup instruments?
Those are knowledge areas we should have tucked safely in our brain just in case a bad situation presents itself. Imagine being a newly minted private pilot in an inadvertent IMC situation and not knowing how to use that autopilot.
The second issue that crops up is fixation on the equipment and not flying the airplane. Put yourself cruising along at 3500 feet when the engine suddenly runs rough or fails. What's the first thing you do? Is it go to Foreflight, go to Maps, then settings and then select "Glide Advisor" to On? Or is it select Nearest on the Garmin 430? I would certainly hope NOT! First and foremost, Fly the freaking Aircraft!
I've recently had a couple of private pilot applicants do just as described in the previous paragraph. While they focused their attention elsewhere, they failed to establish and maintain Best Glide, select and glide to a landing area and failed to trouble shoot the problem until they where to low to safely land.
In the past there use to be a saying "Don't drop the airplane to fly the mike." Pilots would get so involved with talking with ATC they would stop flying the airplane. Now it seems that we are dropping the airplane to fly the iPad (or what ever fancy fancy equipment the pilot is fixated on).
Now before I have a flood of folks saying Chris doesn't want you using this or that, I'll say this; We need to have a healthy balance on knowing how to use our fancy equipment and flying the airplane. That fancy equipment should enhance our performance as a pilot and not be a distraction.
I tend to ask a lot basic (or fundamental) questions on check rides. Stuff a pilot really should know. Lately, I've had several applicants fumble on a few basic flight planning questions. It hasn't just been private applicants but commercial and flight instructor applicant as well. So what are the questions? here they are .......
1. Explain to me how you determined your power setting and what true airspeed and fuel burn that will yield.
2. Is that with the mixture leaned? If so, How do you lean the mixture?
Commercial Pilot Applicants. Did you know that Area of Operations (AOO) VIII, Task B requires you to know about Pressurization? Remember an examiner has to test all the skills and at least one Knowledge and one Risk Management item? A basic question might be; Explain how a typical pressurization works. That question may lead into a scenario to test other Tasks with in AOO VIII
Multi Engine Check rides: Way to many applicants identifying and feathering the wrong failed engine. Slow Down and fly the airplane. You know what that means dont you?
Also when you experience and engine failure on departure you must maintain Vyse. In most situations, that means you must lower the nose to do that. When the engine fails, you will lose a lot of airspeed quickly. That will probably put you very close to Vmc and lead to a lose of directional control.
Engine failure during cruise: Maintain your altitude while you do the engine out drill until the airplane slows to Vyse. If you cant hold Vyse without losing altitude then let the airplane drift down at Vyse. Of course if you have enough power to maintain altitude and an airspeed at or above Vyse, then do so.
Engine out Instrument approaches: Set up your approach and get it stabilized! Fly it like you only got one chance at doing it right. In real life you may not be able to go around and try it again.
All check rides: I am still seeing to many applicant show up not qualified or lacking the proper endorsements for the check ride. This is purely the instructors fault. Why do I say that? In the Regulations the instructor signs off the student as meeting the requirements of the regulations and attest to giving the training required. The FAA doesn't make it any more clearer that that.
Acute fatigue: How you physically and mentally feel at the end of a long day.
Chronic fatigue: Long-term fatigue which has serious physiological and psychological effects.
Performance degradation due to acute fatigue can be correlated to blood alcohol level.
The longer a person is awake, the sleep urge and need becomes stronger. The pressure to sleep grows more intense as the day progresses, then dissipates when one sleeps at night.
As one extends wakefulness into routine sleep hours, the urge to sleep increases. The primary factor that affects alertness is the number of hours continuously awake. At about the 16 hour mark, sleepiness begins to affect performance of the average individual.
Studies show that after 18 hours of wakefulness, participants showed a 30% decrement in performance and problem-solving ability.
Chronic fatigue can be caused by multiple back-to-back long days with less than the required sleep each night. This leads to serious performance degradations. Performance degradations include the following:
,I do a lot of Multi engine ratings in several types of airplanes from several schools. It's amazing how differently things get taught between different schools using the same airplane. As I posted in the Commercial Single Engine earlier, I encourage everyone to review the appropriate ACS and the Airplane Flying Handbook.
I also encourage everyone to use and follow the emergency procedures as described in the airplane POH. I have seen several applicants deviate from the check list and unfortunately screw things up to the point that the airplane is no longer in their control. Even a few applicants have failed to use the checklist other than for the run up. Using the checklist is a part of good Airmanship.
Here's one situation that continually creeps up on multi engine rides. The applicant straight and level at 5000 feet when an engine fails. As they go threw the engine out drill they let the altitude and or heading drift outside of ACS tolerances. The applicant is so focused on the engine failure that they for get to fly the airplane. So hold heading and altitude while you do the engine out drill. If you are above the single engine service ceiling, hold altitude until the airplane slows down to Vyse and then allow it to drift down at Vyse.
Another problem area is shooting the engine out instrument approach. I usually ask what speed and configuration you will fly this approach at. Unfortunately, most fail to fly what they tell me they will. The biggest issue is they are usually 20 to 30 kts too fast. The second issue is they fail to maintain vertical and lateral guidance within ACS requirements. I recommend developing a profile that uses minimum work load to fly a stabilized approach at Vyse+10 kts (no slower than Vyse) with the gear down and no more than 10-15 degrees of flap.
Last piece of advice....Above all else.....Fly the Airplane!
The Commercial ACS was updated last year with a couple of new items and clarifications. I'll cover a couple of those items here.
You'll note that the ACS describes the tolerances for each maneuver and not how to do a maneuver. In the ACS at the top of each Task the FAA list the References. In these references the FAA describes how to do each maneuver. During a check ride the FAA and the Examiner expect the applicant to perform each maneuver as described in the appropriate FAA reference material and to the standards listed in the ACS.
Several maneuvers that are frequently not performed in accordance with FAA reference material are the Power off 180 degree accuracy landing, 8s on pylons and the power off stall. I erge everyone to review the FAA's Airplane Flying Handbook for correct description of these maneuvers.
I'd also like to point out a new requirement in the ACS (it appears in both the private and commercial). If you look in the Area of Operation labeled "Takeoffs, Landings and Go-Arounds" under "Skills" you will see the phrase "Touch down at the proper pitch attitude...". This is important. In the past we would see applicants try to force the airplane on the runway to make the desired spot. In attempting to do that the airplane would hit the ground flat on all 3 wheels (not talking tailwheel airplanes here). Landing flat is not good techniques and could easily damage the airplane.
I'd like to emphasis some of the wording on landings from the ACS. " Touch down at a proper pitch attitude with in XXX feet beyond or on the specified point, ....... with NO side drift, minimum float and with the airplane's longitudinal axis aligned with and over the runway centerline. In reality, this is the description of a good landing. Notice the don't say anything about how smooth it must be. Don't worry about trying to role it on.
Some basic questions are being missed. Can you answer them?
You are going to Madison (MSN) for lunch. You are at 3000 feet and 20 nm to the southwest. Explain how you will go about entering their airspace?
You are departing the Monroe airport (EFT). At what Indicated Altitude will you enter Class E airspace? (Indicated Altitude is the altitude read off your altimeter).
There is a diamond symbol just to the southwest of the MSN airport. What is its significance? Will FSS know about this?
A few new issues have been creeping up on some helicopter check rides. I thought I'd bring them to everyones attention.
1. Figuring limitations out (like Vne, Mcp and take off power) and other performance numbers requiring us to determine Pressure Altitude. I've seen quite a few applicants lately unable to correctly calculate pressure altitude. What that may mean is we maybe exceeding a limitation of the helicopter ,or incorrectly determine HIGE or HOGE
2. Low rotor RPM and blade stall. Most of my check rides are done in Robinson products and SFAR 73 specifically address' these two subjects. Unfortunately, from my observations, it looks like instructors are not teaching the subject or not evaluating it enough to insure each pilot understands the material. While SFAR 73 is aimed at Robinson helicopters, the knowledge and skills apply to all helicopter pilots.
3. Autorotations. Lots of problems coming up but mainly its been poor Rotor RPM control. RPM is life folks! I've seen low RPM from not fully lowering the collective, to exceedingly high RPM. Other issues have been poor peddle control and being out of trim, turning the helicopter downwind, poor timing on the flare (to high, to low), and not being remotely close to the intended touchdown point.
Flight Instructor Endorsements
Notice Number: NOTC8054
The FAA recently received the following email message from a stakeholder external to the FAA. The email read -
“I was contacted by an applicant for an Initial CFI in the XXX FSDO with an issue regarding the newly released Touchdown Autorotation Proficiency Endorsement. Per the applicant, he had never received any training in the performance of a touchdown autorotation. When the DPE arrived to administer the practical test, the DPE questioned the CFI applicant about the training he had received to obtain this endorsement. The applicant advised he had never received this training, so the DPE would not accept the endorsement.
Once the DPE advised the training school that he would be doing a touchdown autorotation during the practical test, the DPE was advised that the school did not have insurance to conduct this maneuver, so the practical test was cancelled.
It was at this time the DPE began investigating why a school would provide this endorsement without actually conducting flight training for the touchdown autorotation. He was advised that the XXX FSDO told their DPEs that this training could be conducted either by ground or flight.
We believe this was not the intent of the endorsement process.”
The FAA would like to reiterate to flight instructors, training schools, and designees, that this training is not intended to be conducted by ground training only. There is a proficiency component to this training in which the flight instructor attests to the applicant’s competence in these tasks. In order to accomplish this, the flight instructor issuing this endorsement must have flown with the applicant in order to make that determination.
For more information related to flight instructor practical tests in helicopters, refer to FAA-S-8081-7B (with Changes 1, 2, & 3). You can find the most recent copy of this document at https://www.faa.gov/training_testing/testing/test_standards/media/FAA-S-8081-7B.pdf.
As a reminder, this is no different from the requirements outlined in 14 CFR § 61.183(i) for airplanes and the stall/spin endorsement. Flight instructors, training schools, and designees preparing someone for the airplane flight instructor practical test, or conducting the practical test, should refresh themselves on this requirement.
Thanks for the help with this and if you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact the Airman Training and Certification Branch at (202) 267-1100.