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Location: Massachusetts, United States

Friday, February 10, 2006

Pink slipped

I reluctantly accepted the pink slip from the examiner's hand the other day, and stuck it in my log book next to the white sleep I kept from my private checkride a couple of years ago.
This was definitely not the way I'd envisaged the multi checkride going and certainly not a good way to start this program. Every pratice flight, save one, went well last week and today and even during the worst of the lot my performance was always better than that prescribed by the Practical Test Standards. I never got complacent, but I certainly didn't expect to get pink slipped today.
For the most part, the checkride went very well, even with the FAA examiner in the back, whose job it was to recertify my examiner. My Vmc demo and emergency descent were probably the best and cleanest to date. Stalls and slow flight as well as short-fields went very well also. But I screwed up my steep turn to the left, typically the easiest one. It's a hard bullet to bite because I never, even in my PPL days, have trouble with steep turns. Plus, my turn to the right was spot on, with almost no altitude change at all. I'm not sure what happened, but there were some downdrafts today. Nerves might've played a role too.
In addition, the examiner thought I was too low on a single-engine approach to land. We'd transitioned from an emergency descent over Culpeper from 4,500 ft to TPA (1,300). I joined on a left downwind. Abeam the landing point gear and flaps came down, as I checked that the fuel selectors were on. Mixture and props full forward, fuel pumps on and begin a gentle descent.
Half way on base, at about 700 AGL, the examiner told me I was too low and gave me my "failed" engine back for a normal landing. I knew that wasn't a good sign and stupidly didn't ask him to at least let me continue the approach.
I know we would've made it to the runway safely. Because of today's chilly temperatures, the operating engine was giving me great performance and I could hold altitude with it set for 65-70 percent, so a climb, if needed, would've been feasible.
When I queried the examiner after the ride, he told me that yes, all was working fine today but on a hot and humid day I might not have made it to the airport. Probably true. On a hot and humid day, however, I would have flown that pattern differently, staying closer in and as high as I could hold until final.
I just wish he'd let me continue the approach. Had we rolled out on final with 4 reds on the PAPI, then sure, fail me unless I correct it by at least holding altitude until on a proper glideslope. Ending the maneuver on base with 700 ft below us and no obstacles taller than 50ft on final, I think the decision was too harsh.
If the examiner is recertified by the FAA, we'll go up tomorrow and redo steep turns and the single-engine approach to land.
It's a terrible feeling to have failed, especially after having done so well with my instructor and after having worked so hard and learned so much. If anything, I will probably learn a thing or two on the retest from a guy with 21,000 hours.
He wasn't immediately reinstated, but we decided to do the retest with him when he does, in the next 10 days or so. The day after the checkride he came into the office to debrief my CFI and told him I'd done very well on most of the maneuvers and that if I had a few more total hours he'd trust me to fly his Aztec. The instructor got a feeling that had the FAA inspector not been there I would've easily past.
Somewhere inside me I believe that too, although I don't want to make excuses. While the single-engine approach to land deal was debatable (and the next day it surfaced he had an issue with the school's checklist more than my performance) I did blow the steep turn to the left and deserve the pink slip.
For now, we've put this behind us and started instrument training, which is going very well. Once the examiner is recertified, I'll go up and do steep turns, power on stalls and single engine approaches again and take the retest.
I'm sure it'll go well. It's just a bummer since none of us expected this outcome.
Life goes on, and so does training and with it a heap load of fun.


Blogger Jim said...

Sounds like you did your checkride with David Pearce. He's on of the fairest examiners I've ever sent my students to or taken a checkride with. Sorry to hear about the pink slip. It happens to most pilots at some point in the career.

8:00 PM  
Blogger GC said...

Sounds like a simple case of bad luck (the FAA being on-board, that is).

Glad to see you still have a good attitude about the whole thing! Keep it up!

6:41 AM  
Blogger Oshawapilot said...

Hang in there.. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. :-)

7:19 PM  
Blogger John said...

I think you're right that having the FAA on board probably did have a "chilling effect." With the added weight of a third person on board, it's probably a good idea to assume reduced performance on one engine.

One question. Was this a private pilot multi-engine rating? if so, did the examiner let you try these two maneuvers a second time? This is allowed, at the discretion of the examiner, in the newer private pilot PTS that came out about 3 years ago.

In any event, I'm sure you'll nail these the second time around. Stiff upper lip, and all that!

8:15 AM  
Blogger Capt. Wilko said...

Hi guys,
Thanks for the kind words.
John, it was my multi-private and the examiner did not let me give the steep turn another go and actually didn't even let me finish the single-engine approach. I asked him if I could try the left steep turn again since it was slightly out of PTS and the one to the right was within commercial standards but he refused.
Oh and while the examiner in the back did add weight, I think it helped me quite a bit on the Vmc demo since heavier is better. Reduced performance is a godsent since it reduces Vmc.
It now appears that he will not be recertified any time soon so I'll have to retake the ride with a different examiner. While a bit of a pain it'll be just another excuse to get more practice in!:)

7:54 PM  
Blogger John said...

Hmm ... I wonder why the guy is not being reinstated. Something seems fishy there, but best of luck on the second checkride!

10:14 PM  
Blogger Cat Hermansen said...

John. Dave is the fairest examiner alive as well as the best instructor around. Because he NEVER wants to see the obituary for a pilot that he has checked out, some people do get pink slipped. He is my dad and he taught me to fly in his 47 PA-11. He pulled the power back on my third takeoff, said "awe, your engine died, what you gonna do?" That training is the reason I survived my long cross country as the airplane I rented started having issues towards the end. The engine cut off after rotating at Frederick's airport. If you think you had it bad, try being his only daughter flying his beloved airplane. Fact of the matter is, you messed up your turn. Had you been alone who knows what would have happened. The thing I learned in my very first hour is that you cannot force a landing, particularly in a taildragger. If it is screwed up you GO AROUND, something I became an expert in when he changed the tail wheel over from fixed. When anyone on the east coast has an incident, David immediately makes sure it was not one of his students, as had HE messed up......well......let's just say I would be thankful for the pink slip cause as you know, when you mess up you cannot pull off on the side of the sky to regroup, ya know.

Regarding your buddy's
'Fishy" comment, here is your fish. His medical was pulled because he had heart surgury years ago and the FAA doesn't want people in their upper 70's (yes, he is 79 this year) acting as examiners. I have watched the FAA systematically pull ratings as the old guys, well, get old. After his surgury he regained ALL of his ratings and went on to receive many awards and recognition.

Please remember, there are old pilots and there are bold pilots. There are NO old bold pilots. Be happy, my dad probably saved your life by issuing that pink slip. If nerves was all it took to mess up a turn, yeah, maybe one more hour of training and the knowledge that even you aren't as good as you think, paid off. Much respect.

11:07 AM  

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