Category: Aviation

The Checkride

My original plan for my private pilot checkride was to do it on July 5th, giving me ample time to study during the holiday, and a chance to fly twice before the checkride. Unfortunately, the weather was not cooperative, and I had to reschedule for the following Thursday.

At the time of the checkride, I had not flown in over two weeks. Flying is not like riding a bike, after a few weeks you loose a bit, that’s one reason why the FAA has recencey requirements before pilots can take passengers.

The night before the checkride, I studied a variety of material. The checkride consists of a 1-2 hour oral exam, and a flight with the examiner. Its a lot different than the required written test. The examiner can ask you about anything, and do just about anything during the flight.

Needless to say, I didn’t really get a lot of sleep the night before the checkride. To make matters worse, I had to get up at 5:30am to get to the airport early in order to have everything set for the examiner. I needed to get a weather briefing from the FAA, finalize my weight and balance with the actual weight of the plane, finalize my cross country flight plan, preflight the plane, and check all the maintenance records of the aircraft before the examiner arrived at 8:30am.

The examiner arrived, and for the first 30 minutes we spent fighting Internet Explorer to access the FAA site for dealing with license applications. Once that was over, we went in to the oral portion of the checkride.

The oral exam was probably a little bit over an hour. We covered the maintenance records, licensing requirements, airspace, weather, and went over my flightplan and charts in detail. The oral exam went very well, mostly do to my extensive studying and preparation.

I preflighted the airplane before the examiner arrived, so it was ready to go when we finished the oral. I fired up the engine and began to taxi. I did my brake test (the plane moves 2ft) before fully looking for traffic in the taxiway. Sure enough, there was a Piper taxing down.

The runup and takeoff went without a hitch, and I started my cross country flight to Ocean City, MD. After hitting my first two checkpoints about 2 miles west of where I should have been, the examiner diverted me to Summit. I managed to navigate to Summit without issue. At Summit, I managed to fly the worse traffic patterns imaginable. I was really nervous, but I did short, soft, and normal takeoffs and landings.

After Summit, the examiner instructed me to fly northwest, where we proceeded to do a variety of maneuvers. Power off stalls, power on stalls, unusual attitudes, and steep turns. We also talked a bit about emergency procedures. The maneuver portion of the checkride went well, especially compared to my less than perfect pattern work at Summit.

The flight back to my home airport was uneventful. Afterward, I found out that I passed, and the examiner gave me a few items that I should work on in the future. Overall, if you are properly prepared, the private pilot checkride is straightforward. The trick is to make sure that you fly a few days before the checkride, and to try to not be too nervous, which is easier said than done.

Now, I’m going to take a few months off of training before I begin my instrument training in the fall.

I completed my long solo cross country flight today, which took me to three different airports for a total of 2.4 hours flight time. Only a handful of flights and preparation to go before my PPL checkride.

Long Cross Country Flightplan

My trusty rental cessna

Cooling towers east of Allentown
Cooling towers #1

Blue Mountain
Blue Mountain

Radio Stack
Comm Stack

Bush Unveils Plan to Ease Holiday Air Delays

Saying it was time “to bring order to America’s skies,” President Bush today proposed a series of changes to try to ease congestion and delays in holiday air travel.

His primary suggestion —requiring Congressional approval as do the others — was to allow airlines to make fuller use of military airspace.

The primary reason for air congestion is airports. There are simply not enough runways to deal with many planes, wanting to land at the same place, at the same time.

Opening up military airspace during the holidays, will do nothing to alleviate the major source of air congestion, the ground. This initiative is simply a way for Bush to look like he is actually doing something constructive.

Mr. Bush said today’s air travel was run under a system “designed during World War II.”

That statement has about as much truth to it as “Mission Accomplished.” Many IFR flights use airways plotted out in the 30’s and 40’s. There are future technologies that will solve this problem, such ADS-B, but they are 10-20 years away from being deployed. There have been numerous improvements in the air travel system since WWII.

If the FAA wants to do something about air congestion, their should be restrictions on the amount of landings and takoffs at peak periods at the busiest airports in the country. Most of the congestion problems with air travel are caused by overbooking limited runways. Airlines are flying regional jets in constantly, and they all want to land and takeoff at the exact same times. A 747 with 400 people and a regional jet with 30 people take up the same amount of airspace.

Right now it costs 5,000 miles to upgrade to first class on one leg of a domestic US Airways flight. Beginning in October, that price will jump to 15,000 miles.

US Airways Mileage Changes

Effective October 3, 2007, all one-way upgrades within the contiguous U.S. / Canada / Alaska will require 15,000 miles. All one-way upgrades between the contiguous U.S. / Canada / Alaska and the Caribbean area / Central America / Mexico or Hawaii will require 17,500 miles. All qualifying one-way upgrades between the contiguous U.S. / Canada / Caribbean area / Central America / Hawaii / Alaska / or Mexico and Europe will require 30,000 miles.

Looks like I have yet another reason to stop being a loyal US Airways customer.

TAM Crash

tam crash

I can’t say I would recommend flying to Brazil anytime soon. Here is what is known so far:

  • The Runway is short, 6300ft. For comparison, Wilkes-Barre (KAVP) has 7500ft.
  • The runway is known to collect water.
  • It was raining. SBSP 172300Z 36009KT 6000 -RA BKN008 OVC070 15/14 Q1018
  • The runway was in the process of being resurfaced, but the necessary grooves for water dispersal were not going to be done until August.
  • At one time, 737’s were banned from landing on this runway because it was considered unsafe.

To make matters worse, the airport is surrounded by buildings and the runway surface is highly elevated.