Private Pilot Resources - Aviation Blog

I obtained my private pilot license in 2006. This site is dedicated to capturing little gems of knowlege I collected during training. Periodically I add items I find during research so that others might benefit from them. Please review the disclaimer at the bottom of this page.

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Location: San Jose, CA, United States

In 1999 a friend invited me to go flying and I was hooked. I live in the Bay Area about an hour south of San Francisco and fly out of Reid Hillview (KRHV). Please do get in touch and lets go fly!!

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Yeeehaaa!! I passed the checkride!!

Yesterday at 5 pm it struck me. I'm a private pilot. It has taken almost 1 year, countless hours of studying and lots of frustrations followed by the biggest highs imaginable, but yesterday I passed by checkride with flying colors. It was an incredibly beautiful day for flying. Winds were 12 to 15 knots and no more than 20 degrees off the runway. The sky was dotted by small white puffy cumulus clouds around 5 thousand feet and I had planned a flight to South Lake Tahoe. We took off from Reid Hillview heading out north over Calaveras reservoir towards Livermore.

About 6 weeks ago I had taken a stage III checkride with the same examiner, so I had an idea what I would face during the checkride (great idea Lucy). If you can afford it and you can find an examiner that also teaches, I can only recommend this approach. I learned a ton during my stage III check. Most important (and everyone will tell you this, but you have to experience it) do NOT under any circumstances let the examiner (or anybody else for that mater) rush you. The examiners' job is to try to rush you to. Most of us that have been students for a while have an aha moment. We are pilots in command. The only ones that will be making decisions on this and any future flight. We did our upper air maneuvers outside of Livermore airspace and diverted to Tracy (TCY) for our landings. There were a few planes in the pattern, but they soon departed and we were able to do a short approach mixed in with short field and soft field landings. I had brushed up on the shortfield with my instructor Jake last week and it paid off. I couldn't have been off more than 10 feet from the numbers. On the way back we requested flight following and cruised at 3500 feet with the sun's rays shining through broken clouds and incredible visibility. A normal landing and taxi back to Tradewinds concluded a fantastic experience. Since I knew what to expect I could actually enjoy this ride, occasionally take in the scenery and savor it as an experience.

There are some good learning experiences above and beyond what you find in the typical prep CDs and documentation that I thought I'd share so that they will help others in pursuit of their dreams. First, and obvious, you want to get as high a score as possible on your written. When the examiner quizzes you'll want to at least know where to find the answers. Make sure you know how to work the index on the FAR/AIM and know approximately what sections you'll find your subjects in. Have a written passenger briefing ready. I have some examples posted on this site. It makes life so much easier and again shows you are prepared. Make sure you use the same briefing again in the plane.

Only let the examiner give you one maneuver at a time. If your plane has a GPS in it, make sure you are thoroughly familiar with it. It beats having to find VORs, dial them in, identify them, plot your position, calculate time to get there. You can get it all from the GPS. All you'll need is fuel burn and that you can do in your head. I'm not advocating you replace your VOR navigation skills, but supplement them.

It would be a good idea to visit the most likely airports for diversion on training flights just to be familiar with them. As it was, I had never been to Tracy and it wasn't a big deal to check the AFD and map for pattern, TPA and communications information. Make sure you know any emergency drills in your sleep. Engine out with restart, fire, alternator failure. Always wip out your checklist on any emergency, run through from memory and then run through the checklist again. Even on a checkride you can learn. I discovered that Vx is best speed of climb without flaps. Check your POH for short field takeoffs over a 50 foot obstacle. It will likely give you earlier rotation and a slower speed for the 50 foot climb than Vx. In the Archer II it's 45 to 54 knots depending on weight. It states " Continue to climb while accelerating to the flaps-up rate of climb speed...of 64 KIAS". The examiner will be looking for that lower speed on the initial climb.

A big thank you to Jake, Ken, Nofal and Lucy at Tradewinds for getting me ready to call myself a private pilot today. I will once again call on your combined experiences to get my instrument rating soon. I've found it incredile helpful to learn from several instructors. It made for a slightly longer process, but I firmly believe it makes me a better pilot today. Everyone had some golden nuggets to contribute. Some people are worried about the cost of switching instructors or finishing up under some magical number of hours. I was less worried about cost, because I enjoy the process of learning and flying is inherrently expensive. Having passed my checkride, I can't wait to get back up there and explore the world from above.