Remarks: Remembering Checkrides


Recently my wife and I were musing about my checkrides, so I went through them. My private endured loneliness for about 15 years before I added SES (single-engine sea) to the certificate. Those two hung out together on my paper certificate for about another 15 years as I was mostly a dabbler, flying when time, money, and obligations permitted. Then, my certificate enjoyed a flurry of changes over the next few years as I added an instrument rating, commercial, multi, and finally all three CFIs. 

A few years later, the airline I’d joined after dumping my high-tech career, paid for my ATP. So, I’ve had nine checkrides. I remember some and have forgotten a few. But, there are stories.

My private ride is completely lost in fading memory. My SES flight was short. Our first landing was on a remote lake. We shut down the engine for some “drifting.” Then the master solenoid refused to supply power to restart the Champ’s engine. Recalling hard-earned knowledge from misspent years with unreliable cars, I told the examiner (who was almost in a panic) to whack the solenoid with the paddle. After giving me the best what-the-hell-are-you-talking-about look, he did. It worked. We flew back to home base and he signed me off.

My instrument examiner was new. I was his first victim. He dutifully assigned me tasks and checked them off in his PTS. Nearing the end, he surveyed the check marks and realized we needed an NDB approach and a no-gyro approach. So I got to do an NDB approach no-gyro. Fortunately, there was no wind—none—and in still air even I could nail the NDB without a gyro. I passed.

My initial CFI ride was a hoot. The examiner and I sat on a picnic bench for a couple hours, mostly swapping war stories. He finally announced that we should probably fly. We did. He gave me my first ever no-airspeed-indicator landing (in VMC). He was satisfied enough to sign me off.

My double-I was also interesting. I’d had that examiner the day before for an uneventful MEI ride, so I guess he was okay with me already. For the CFII ride, he told me to treat him as a private pilot needing an IPC. He flew well and didn’t make any mistakes. He signed my logbook and then asked me to sign his—he actually did need an IPC.

My ATP ride was scary. My job was on the line and I was miserably sick with a head cold. I took a box of tissues into the sim. I corrected a few of my first officer’s mistakes, and I’m guessing the examiner liked that. My turn at “pilot flying” is lost in a fog of fear and illness. That plastic in my wallet says I’m an ATP, so I guess I passed. Oh, the examiner had a reputation that led to the nickname, “The Terminator.”

Am I done? Maybe. I don’t have a bucket list, but if I did, it might have glider or helicopter on it. We’ll see. Moral: Don’t stop! This is fun, right?

—Frank Bowlin


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