A Private Pilot Check Ride
with Charlie Monette
an extremely pleasant gentleman and sincerely wants you to pass the check ride. He doesn't play tricks or try to trap you into making mistakes. He places a strong emphasis on the practical
application of what you've learned. In the practical and oral, he looks to see if you are able to think for yourself as the pilot-in-command and assesses your ability to adapt your knowledge and
skill to the situation as presented. He places less emphasis on memorization. He gave me my cross country destination and his weight (for weight and balance) a week before my checkride date so
I had plenty of time to prepare. I've heard that he's been doing checkrides for about 20 years, and it shows. He is rather relaxingt.
After an initial handshake, he gave me a quick tour: DUATS computer, coffee, restrooms, etc. The checkride room was quiet and
comfortable. He had the receptionist hold his calls and asked that I turn off my cell phone. He then proceeded to scour over every bit of required paperwork. Charlie uses the paperwork
to determine that you are eligible to take the exam. Expect to pull out the White-Out if your application form is not completed exactly as stated in the instructions. Next, was a look-see of
my driver's license (photo ID), logbook and knowledge exam report. Make sure to bring the original report, not a copy. Charlie only accepts the report with the red stamp and raised
embossing. We joked around and generally settled in.
Shortly after he said, "The test has begun." It sounded rather formal and I just knew that there would be no more joking around. He opened
with, "Tell me how you're gonna complete our flight?," in reference to my completed cross country planning NavLog. He stressed that proper planning is the best safety precaution known to
aviation. He reviewed my flight plan and challenged all the "numbers" (i.e., TAS, GPH, etc.). Be prepared to explain how you obtained fuel burn rates, true airspeed, etc., from the performance
tables in the PIM/POH. I flew a factory-new Cessna 172 so the POH is rather specific for planning.
I used an electronic E6B in calculating, which gave time estimates including seconds. Don't use seconds on flight times. Charlie prefers you to
round them off. He feels that seconds needlessly complicate the flight plan. He discourages you from writing repeating values such as cruise altitudes on each line (leg) of the flight plan. He
prefers you to simply draw a line to indicate that the value repeats. He claims this simplifies the flight planning form, and is easier to read in flight, since a line simply says "same as
before" whereas a repeated value requires you to read the value then compare in order to conclude that the values are "same as before".
On the sectional, Charlie likes to see the use of highlight tape or pen. He says it makes it easier when trying to keep track of your flight in
turbulence. For routing, he has no preference, plan to follow a road, a VOR, or GPS. Whichever way you want to plan it is fine with him – but you must execute the plan. Consider
that although he gave you a cross country to plan that is 100s of miles away, we only actually flew the first 50 miles. So, pay particular attention to the first 50 NM with a few extra checkpoints
thrown in for good measure. Also, the PTS requires a diversion, so pay particular attention to all the airports within 50 miles or so, their airspace, communications and special AFD considerations.
Write out a flight plan form. On the flight plan form, do not use the standard "4.0 hours" of available fuel. He
wants you to take the actual burn rate at your planned cruise altitude (based on performance data in the POH) and multiply by the number of usable gallons on board (per the POH). In my case, the computed
available fuel was 6:45 hours, rather than 4.0. However, should your flight depart with less than full fuel, then be sure to consider that.
Calculate your exact weight and balance, considering the actual fuel on board. Charlie gave me his weight as 200 lbs. I forgot to include my
15 lb flight bag and this almost cost me a good ride. Don't forget to include EVERYthing in the plane in your weight and balance calculations. Be sure to use the actual weight of your
plane – not the sample data in the POH. If you don't calculate and plot the CG limits then he'll make you feel as if you didn't do all the preflight planning that you should have AND then you
can expect to have him leer over your shoulder as you nervously try to calculate. As he told me, "I'M not flying without a weight and balance."
He will point to airports on the sectional and ask you about the surrounding airspace visibility/ceiling limits and requirements. Be ready to talk
when he points to the chart, anywhere, and ask, "What type of airspace are you in right here?"
Be prepared for questions like, "What you would do if you were arriving into Lexington during a very busy time (like home-game, Keeneland Saturday
afternoons) and your radios failed?" You can offer the standard light gun procedure, but make sure you follow it with "I personally think if the airport is really busy I might just divert to
Frankfort or Georgetown (a less busy airport) and drive home. I'd return the plane home during a less busy time after I've negotiated with ATC to land in the "C airspace without radios." This
shows that you are thinking rather than just memorizing FARs - he really likes that.
As he continued pointing his finger further along my route, he started asking scenario questions about indications I would see on engine gauges. I
was expected to diagnose the problem he had in mind from the indication. He thinks this is more realistic. It also led into more questions about the systems, on the plane. It worked out
fine. The scenarios were all from the Emergency Procedures from the POH. If you are familiar with those checklists, you'll be fine.
In general, if you've studied the Guide to the Oral exam book sold at Aero-Tech then you'll have the basic info needed to pass the oral.
Unfortunately, Charlie has never read the little book and thus doesn't ask the questions exactly as they are printed in the book. His questions are more of the, "You are here and this happens, what
will you do?" type. I was encouraged to incorporate regulations AND weather AND aircraft limitations all together in forming a realistic answer to resolve a could-happen problem.
Sometimes I didn't recognize the question. Don't panic. He doesn't mind if you ask him to redefine his question.
You'll only go flying if you pass the oral portion of the exam. Before heading to the plane, he encouraged me to take a moment to update weather,
get a drink and take my time in preparing to fly. He was never in a rush and I always had plenty of time to think and do what I needed. Charlie gave me a complete recital of how the flight
would progress, and it went just as he predicted it would. I guess he's done this a few times.
It's important to note that the PTS allows only one chance on every maneuver. Charlie explained that it was OK for me to take a moment or two to
fully recover from the last maneuver before beginning the next. I used that time to tweak my altitude or heading if needed.
Arrange the cockpit carefully. It's not easy to get something out of the flight bad in the back seat. Have within easy reach: your chart,
Local AFD or other airport info, Flight computer and plotter.
Take your time on the pre-flight check. If you're like me, you trained at Aero-Tech and have an Aero-Tech plane for the checkride. But that
doesn't matter. Charlie will expect you to "prove this airplane is airworthy." He wants you to get the Inspection Status Book and to review with him all the required inspections, ADs and
discrepancies based on the current tach. Ohbytheway, don't try to use the numbers printed on the clipboard – those are HOBBS meter readings. You have to go to the plane to get the
reading from the tachometer.
Verify that he has properly secure his seatbelt and locked his door, but keep the passenger briefing quick and to the point. Make sure that all
flight bags are secured. Use exaggerated head motions to make sure he knows you are looking in all directions for conflicting ground traffic and obstacles. He doesn't' want you to explain what you are
doing in the plane. He has eyes like a hawk and trust me - he misses nothing.
After takeoff make sure that you record takeoff time and simulate opening your flight plan. Once at cruise, don't forget to lean. He likes
the maneuvers precisely as they are called for in the PTS. He doesn't deviate. But a few special notes:
Even though he told me not to explain what I was doing out loud, I did on the simulated engine failure – mostly because I think I really would
talk to myself. Get the plane trimmed for Vglide quickly while choosing an emergency landing field. Immediately squawk 7700 and dial in 121.5 unless you're still with departure. He makes a point
that if you have communication with an ATC facility it makes no sense to switch to 121.5. He also believes that a pilot should always try to restart. Quickly go through the restart checklist no
matter what your altitude. However, he is not a proponent of digging out the paper checklist unless you have plenty of time. He would rather you hit the fuel selector-BOTH, Fuel Shutoff-IN,
Throttle-IN, Fuel Pump-ON, Mags-RESTART while tracking the landing selection, control glide and make cabin preparation.
In between maneuvers, maintain last assigned heading and altitude. Remain situationally aware of airspace. Make heading changes if needed to
avoid incurrence. FLY the plane. Don't be whimpy with sloppy little turns or climbs. He likes you to put it in the attitude and make the airplane do what you want. As he explained
it, "Pilot In COMMAND."
Use your stuff. I mean the autopilot. Use it. He feels that it is a piece of safety gear that should be used. Use the GPS.
Use everything. I should also say that he failed my equipment from time to time, but I was allowed to use my autopilot during the cross country. I was allowed to use the GPS to come
home. He really like to see pilots use all available resources.
Charlie's major likes are:
- A businesslike demeanor (even for private) and respect for the aircraft.
- That you can think and have not simply memorized information or depend on ATC.
- Checklists, traffic avoidance, calmness, smooth on the controls and proper coordination.
- Using GPS, autopilot and everything else in the cockpit to your advantage
Charlie's major dislikes are:
- Unprepared pilots, shabby paperwork, not being able to reach the CFI to fix something simple.
- Students who have not read the PTS before the checkride.
I I passed. I didn't fly my best but I still passed. It was a checkride but I still learned alot. I'd recommend
Charlie Monette as an examiner. He was more than fair. He wasn't easy but he was easy to be with and to fly with. He never got excited or raised his voice. I think that if Charlie
did all pilot checkrides, the skies would be full of proud, happy, and safe pilots. I hope my experience helps you.
Good luck. Hope to see you around!