I took my check ride earlier this week with Zenda Liess at Burlington/Alamance Airport (KBUY).
I went in with about 120 hours of flight time, which is three times what is minimally required to take a check ride. I decided to try to be super proficient (as much as a new pilot can be) before taking the check ride. While some people may feel comfortable being a private pilot with less than 100 hours of time, I wanted to be sure before taking people up in the aircraft, that I was comfortable flying the plane and handling emergencies.
I took my written exam at a computer testing center at Burlington in the spring. My flight instructor had taken many of his check rides with Zenda, and had had students take check rides with her in the past. He explained that she is a thorough designated pilot examiner who is fair. In short, he explained that if you pass your check ride with Zenda, you will have earned the certificate.
We arrived at just short of 2:00 – my flight instructor came with me. After confirming that my IACRA was properly submitted, we went in for the oral exam which started with airspace questions, then moved to talking about the sectional, then about my flight plane, regulations, aircraft performance information, weight and balance and so forth.
Zenda had a checklist of question areas that she marked as we went through the oral exam. I flubbed a few questions at the beginning related to G and E airspace, but have since reviewed that material.
After completing the oral exam portion, she sent me out to the airplane to do my walk around and pre-flight inspection. She came out a few minutes later. We took off at 3:30.
Zenda had me disable my GPS so I that I would be forced to navigate by pilotage and use the sectional and ground references for navigation.
We did a short field take off to start, followed by a climb out to my altitude to begin my planned route to Charlotte (KCLT). I identified my first landmark that I had included on my flight plan which was Lake Mackintosh about two minutes after taking off and about 260 from the airport.
Zenda asked me to point out my second landmark – which was SE Greensboro. I was a little off course initially, heading too far to the north. But I saw my error, pointed out Route 40 off in the distance, and corrected for the issue.
About 8 minutes in, I located the SE Greensboro. She then had me divert and locate Causey airport, a somewhat larger airport to the east of SE Greensboro.
With pilotage complete, she then asked me to fly to 3,000 feet and get comfortable to begin maneuvers. Before each maneuver, I asked her whether she wanted me to perform a clearing turn, and before each one she did, except when I went from one maneuver into another which I did on a few occasions.
First she had me go into slow flight, turn to a specific heading in slow flight, and then perform a power off stall. From there, she had me do a power on stall. And she had me do a step turn to my left.
We did a positive exchange of flight controls, and then I retrieved my foggles, and she tested me on recovery from odd attitudes.
Following the simulated IFR conditions, she pulled the power and instructed me not to put it in. I pitched and trimmed for best glide speed, identified a field and maneuvered so that I would make the field, and walked her through the check list I would perform to try to get the engine restarted or to prepare for an emergency landing if that failed.
After she saw I would make the field and we had descended enough, she said “Let’s go!” and I put the throttle back in.
Once we had recovered altitude, she asked me to navigate to the Greensboro VOR and, after I showed her that I could do it, she told me to head back to Burlington.
During various maneuvers, landings, I was careful to explain what I was doing
We then returned to Burlington for some full stop landings. The first landing was a soft-field landing, followed by a soft field take off. The second landing was a short field landing. Zenda asked me to specify my landing mark, which I told her on downwind would be the 1000 footers. I came in a little steep, but was able to hit the mark at the beginning of the 1000 footers as promised.
At that point, just shy of an hour had passed, and so we taxi’ed back to the FBO at Burlington where as we exited the plane, she congratulated me and asked for my log book.
We went in for a check ride review. Zenda had some feedback, but in general said I did an excellent job. She made an entry in my log book, and then printed out my temporary airman’s certificate.
My experience with Zenda was very positive. On the one hand, it was clear that this would be no cakewalk. On the other hand, she was very clear in her instructions and what she wanted. There were no surprises. Everything completed during the check ride was something I had gone over many times before.
But I felt I earned the private pilot license. The check ride was no gimme.