ATP Total CFI Program Day 10

Wouldn’t you know it? Just when I was getting used to the 5:00 a.m. flights, they’re over. I took my multi-engine instrument instructor checkride this morning. And passed, thank you very much.

In fact, everyone in my class has passed every test so far. Three of us took MEII checkrides this morning. As I recall, Casey departed at 1:00 a.m., Gracie took off at 3:00 a.m., and I got to sleep in, departing at 5:00 a.m.

The hard work paid off, because the checkride was easier than the training flights. There were only two instrument approaches, a single-engine ILS and a partial panel VOR circle-to-land. There was also a hold, unusual attitude recoveries under the hood, constant speed climbs and descents, and compass turns. Piece of cake.

The flight wasn’t completely without surprises. For one thing, traffic was pretty heavy up there. It was about 5:45 or 6:00 when McCarren suddenly got slammed with aircraft.

Also, the wind was howling at altitude. Another aircraft on the approach frequency noted that there was “some wind up here”, but I wasn’t prepared for how much. The examiner had failed the left engine on me, and when I turned to intercept the final approach course, the HSI nearly pegged before I could get it under control. It ended up requiring about a 35 degree wind correction angle to keep the airplane on course. And naturally the wind was coming from the north, so I was cranking the Seminole to the right with the left engine failed. Meanwhile, I’m intercepting the glideslope and have to run the ‘gear down’ checklist to configure the airplane. Fun!

The other day I experienced a complete “freeze up” of the Garmin 430 in this exact aircraft, but there were no problems today. On the other had, Casey lost the GPS in his plane during an instrument approach today. In fact, all the Garmins have been acting strangely. There’s a notam out for unreliable GPS signals, but I can’t see any reason why that should cause the box to freeze up or reboot. When it does that, the Garmin has to go through the power on self-test, reacquire the satellite signals, and then you have to reprogram it for the current approach, all while descending toward the ground.

Or not. After all, GPS is not necessary to shoot ILS or VOR approaches, though it does get used as a substitute for DME and the display is necessary to use the #1 nav & com radios.

Finally, I did fail to notice that the aircraft’s HSI was, unlike the other ATP airplanes, not slaved. As such, I should have set the HSI to the magnetic compass prior to departure, but it completely slipped my mind. Thankfully, the examiner was fairly understanding about it. Technically, he could probably have flunked me for failing to set all the instruments correctly.

I learned an important lesson, though: just because you’re flying a plane of the same make and model, with the same paint scheme and avionics, as those you’ve been flying for the past ten days, that doesn’t mean that there are no differences. You just have to search harder to find them.

The test was done by 8 a.m. and I was walking out the door with a shiny new airman certificate in my pocket. I’m done flying twins for now and have to go back to the single engine birds to prepare for my single-engine add-on. But seeing as how I’ve spend the past ten days — or two months, depending on how you want to look at it — working nonstop on this thing, I decided to take the rest of the afternoon off. A “sanity break”, if you will.

I cruised down Rancho Blvd. in search of the house I lived in back in the mid 80’s. I finally found it and grabbed a picture. I also drove over to the Robindale house and was blown away by how much the area has grown. As late as 1990, there was nothing out there. Now it’s bumper to bumper traffic, even in the middle of the day. Hotels and strip malls are everywhere, and the roads are twice as wide as they used to be.

I stopped by the Bellagio to check out the Christmas decorations, watch a bit of the World Poker Tour tournament going on in the casino, stretch my legs, and get some fresh air. For the past week and a half, I’ve had virtually no exercise. I’m either sitting in class, in the cockpit, or here in the hotel room studying.

Anyway, as I noted at the top of this entry, the late night/early morning flights are done with. My next flight is at 11:00 a.m. tomorrow. Eleven a.m.?! I hardly know what to do with myself. The lady at the hotel front desk is so used to providing a three a.m. wake-up call that she might ring me at that hour just out of habit. Is it possible to ask them for a non-wake up call?

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