asked me to write up my checkride, so here it is.
Story of A Checkride
You Don't Fail Until The Examiner Says So
I started flying in the early 90s. I had been working on the glider
rating around the turn of the century but I had taken a few years off
since then. I decided the break had been too long and I would mark my
return to aviation by finishing up the G rating. In the summer NCSA
had been having trouble with glider availability so I decided to go to
Williams and just get it done. After 3 months of flying every weekend,
Ed S. (the CFI at Williams) said I was ready; I made a 2 pm
appointment for Nov 7 with Rex Mayes, DPE and owner of Williams Soaring.
The oral part of the exam was fun. It was thorough and explored the
depths of my knowledge -- but there's nothing wrong with talking about
flying for an hour or two! It made me realise how very little I knew,
but also that I was in fact prepared for the test.
I preflighted the glider, and soon we were hooked up and ready to go.
The takeoff was a little squirrelly and I reminded myself to relax.
Rex had told me that instead of giving me a slack line, he would just
put the glider into an unusual attitude on tow, and expect me to
recover -- ideally without any slack developing, but to fix any slack
that did happen. We did a couple of steering turns, boxed the wake,
and did a few unusual attitudes. He asked me to give the "slow down"
signal, so I rocked the wings.
"Are we slowing down?"
"No, because I gave him the wrong signal!"
I wagged the tail and we slowed down, and it was time to let the
After release he pointed out that making a right 90 isn't the best
idea: it's better to only turn 20-30 degrees so you can keep an eye on
the tug until it's far enough away and below the horizon. (He reminded
me of the accident at Crazy Creek where the towplane and glider
collided soon after release.) Phew, we're finally off tow! I can relax
now. And then he said,
"Where's the airport?"
!!! It was almost 4 pm, Daylight Savings Time had ended, and the sun
was low. All my other flights had been during the morning and early
afternoon, and all the fields had been green. They had now been
harvested, burned, and flooded, and it looked like an alien landscape.
I could see I-5 and the towns along it, but which one was Williams?
"Over there," I said, pointing to Maxwell.
"Ok, where are the Twin Barns?"
I look to where they should be, and there are only fields there! Was
the other town Williams? I haven't been lost since I first started
flying... and I picked a checkride to repeat it. This is a fail!
Lizard Brain wants to quit and go home! Luckily Human Brain took over:
we're PIC, and we don't give up. There's I-5; where's Highway 20? Oh,
it's under the glider. So that town to the left is Williams, and look,
there's the runway, and there's Twin Barns. We're north of the field,
not south -- which makes sense, because the winds aloft are from the
Since I was convinced I had already failed, the pressure was off. We
did a stall series, and then "falling leaf" stalls, followed by steep
turns. (He tried to lead me downwind away from the airport, but I
noticed and told him I would do a 180 first.) As I rolled into the steep
"Can we get back to the runway from here?"
"Yes, if we're above 2K here we're fine."
"How far is the airport?"
"How high will we be if we head there now?"
"Argh, I can't do arithmetic while I'm turning!"
"Well, in a glider you're always turning."
After all that, the pattern and landing were uneventful. My speed
varied more than I liked, and I touched down 50' beyond my selected
spot. I need to practice more before I re-take the checkride.
After we climb out of the glider, Rex put out his hand and said
"Congratulations, you passed." What?! After getting lost? And letting
the airspeed wander all over the place?
We then de-briefed the flight. He told me everything was within the
Private PTS, but I need to work on precision.
- if the airspeed is supposed to be 50, it should be 50, not 48 or 53
- no dawdling over the pre-takeoff checklist if you're on the runway
- a 30:1 glider goes 5 nm per 1000'; 40:1 goes 6.5; 50:1 goes 8.
- check spoilers high enough (above 1500) to be able to do something
about it if they're stuck
So, even though the FARs say there will be no instruction during a
flight test, I learned a lot. The most important: to not give up,
and to relax -- remember that flying, even a checkride, is supposed to
A big thank you to all the CFIs and tow pilots who made it possible.
Now for badges and XC!
ASEL, IA, G