I finally accomplished the first step to become an airline pilot. I took my private checkride today and while I made few mistakes, it ended up being enough to pass the test and finally get my certificate. Here is a bit of what I experienced throughout the test:
The oral exam was supposed to be followed by the flight exam but due to strong winds that day the flight was cancelled and rescheduled 2 days later.
The oral exam
The oral exam was just like most people explain it – very conventional. I gave a briefing of the flight we were about to do (I didn’t know at that time that the flight exam will be cancelled) including private pilot privileges, aircraft performance, weight and balance and takeoff and landing performance. We spent a good deal of time discussing my cross country plan and why I choose the route I did. We also spent some time on the sectional charts, weather charts, METAR and TAF, NOTAM and AIPs and the various airspace we will cross and their requirements. It was very intense. Most of the questions I knew the answer but some questions I had no idea what the answer was. I wasn’t afraid to tell the examiner that I didn’t know the answer and he was happy to give me the answer. All in all a very intense exam who lasted 2 hours with a lot of questions about everything general aviation related.
The flight exam
I arrived 1 hour sooner to check the airplane, to check the documents on board and to put the proper amount of fuel needed for the test. When the examiner arrived, we started with a short briefing of the weather, NOTAM, AIPs.
The METAR and TAF for the day
METAR LFMV 271400Z AUTO 35005KT 280V080 CAVOK 33/11 Q1010 NOSIG= TAF LFMV 271400Z 2715/2815 27005KT CAVOK TEMPO 2808/2815 35010KT=
As you can see, a very hot day but a very good flight conditions, very light winds, good visibility and no significant changes for the next 2 hours.
My instructor asked me to planned to following route (dashed lines):
Leg 1: LFMV -> NE (Carpentras) -> VOR MTL -> LFHO
Leg 2: LFHO -> LFMV
R55 A was active, R55 B was active, R55 AE was inactive
Once the pre-flight done and the aircraft ready to taxi, I was heading for the runway 35. Just after taking off I contacted Orange APP and on my way to Carpentras (NE), my first turning point. But few seconds later the controller asked me to go East toward L’isle sur la Sorgue (E) and then north to reach Carpentras (NE). I wasn’t expecting that because I’ve never had a transit denied in the past at that location. But things went well and I changed course and reach Carpentras few minutes later.
Our next turning point is VOR MTL, so just after reaching Carpentras (NE), I asked the controller for a direct route to VOR MTL passing through the R55 A zone. The controller refused the transit and asked me to go north to Vaison-La-Romaine before heading direct to VOR MTL (Second diversion). This time I was ready for this to happen and knew what to do beforehand in case I wouldn’t be allowed. Once overhead VOR MTL not much happened. I was heading West and prepared the aircraft for a landing runway 36 at LFHO. The landing was ok, now my best but not my worst either. Once the aircraft was parked at the apron, the examiner gave me 5 minutes to relax and asked me to prepare the aircraft for the second leg.
I knew that second leg wouldn’t be the one I planned. I was prepared to avoid the R55 B zone for any reason (weather or communication failure) and was ready to go south to avoid it. One minute after I took off from LFHO and heading south-east, the examiner told me that we have a communication failure. I then told him that we can’t transit via the R55 B zone without a clearance and then told him that we would divert south to avoid the zone. I followed the diversion procedure to the letter and found where to turn East to Avignon without entering the restricted zone.
On the picture above, the circle is where we did the manoeuvring exercices. We did a couple clearing turns and he had me do a couple turns around a point. Next, he had me put on the foggles and do a climbing turn to a specific heading and altitude. After a few turns, climbs and descents, he took over control and put us into one of the most radical unusual attitudes I’ve ever been in. After recovering from that. Next he had me take off my foggles and do a steep turn to the left and to the right. After he asked me to plug Flying E into the GPS and head home. For my last landing he asked me to do a short landing on a soft field landing.
Most of the things went well but to be honest I wasn’t sure if I’d passed the exam or not. The examiner didn’t tell me anything before I parked the plane in the hangar, did the paperwork and it’s only after we debrief that he told me I was successful. The flight lasted 2h35 and was relieved and glad to finally be a pilot. A private pilot for now but still a pilot.