Well, I had to take the test twice. In preparing for the checkride the
first time, everyone told me that the oral exam is the hard part and the
flight is a piece of cake. I got really psyched out by that and studied
by butt off. I didn't do very much flying at all in preparation except
for doing a bunch of touch down autos. I didn't fly at all for a couple
of weeks before the checkride and just studied alot. I was also psyched
out by the fact that everyone told me the FAA tries to fail people on
the CFI check ride; that they look for any reason to fail people (and
all other kinds of horror stories).
The FAA examiner told me to be there at 8:30 and bring the aircraft's maintenance records. I, of course, showed up early and the examiner gave the maintenance records to a mechanic who went over the aircraft with a fine tooth comb (this immediately brought to mind a story I was told about a guy who was busted because his airplance had a small oil leak).
While the mechanic was looking over the aircraft, the oral began. Before the questions began, the examiner offered me a cup of coffee and tried to put me at ease about the whole thing. Next he went over my log book, license and endorsements. Then he began the questioning. Nothing tricky, he just went through the entire practical test standards book, item by item. When he asked me what were the requirements for a private pilot and I told him I didn't have them committed to memory. He said I should but when I told him I could go to them in FARs and did so right away and showed him that the section was highlighted, he was satisfied and moved on.
Luckily, all my studying paid off and it all flowed out smoothly. I did draw a blank on "what are the characteristics of an effective critique?". I told him "I know the answer but I'm drawing a blank" but, luckily, by then everything had gone so smoothly that the he just went on to the next question. Then he had me describe ETL, transverse flow effect, the forces on an aircraft in flight and a few other things on the black board and that went well (except I tripped up on the "increased load factor due to centrifigal force in a turn" but he let that go too). At about this point the mechanic came in and told us that there was a screw missing from one of the valve covers and that the rotor head seems to have alot of play in it. The examiner told him to call a local mechanic and check that out so out went the FAA mechanic. At this point, the examiner offered me a break which I gladly took to use the men's room and clear my head. When I came back he told me to prepare a weight and balance calculation for our check ride and left me alone to do it. When I was done he came back in and looked it over and asked a few questions about weight and balance and fuel burn. During this part, the FAA mechanic returned and said that he had spoken with the mechanic that maintains this particular ship and that it was all set. He also said that he had a mechanic from the local FBO replace the missing screw on the valve cover. Then he looked and me and said that he couldn't find anything wrong and the he really looked hard and gave me a half joking/half serious sneer. I didn't know what to do except give back a feeble nervous half smile.
Then the FAA examiner said, OK let's go. At that point, I couldn't believe I actually passed the oral after everything everyone had told me. I thought I was in; that the check ride would be a piece of cake.
Well, it started out OK. He had me air taxi to the taxi way we would be using and when we got there I just slowed down with some aft cyclic and down collective and he said "well that was a nice quick stop, got that out of the way". Then he had me do a normal take off and normal approach and here is where I began to fail the test: I dropped my airspeed to below 40 kts on turning final. I know there is absolutely no excuse for this except that I was a bit too relaxed and I let my discipline slide. When we got to the ground he mentioned it and told me to do a max performance take off. I checked the magnetos, calculated the max manifold pressure available at 24.5" and took off. Around we went and again (stupid me) I dropped the airspeed to below 40 kts on turning final. I can't explain why I did this except to say that I must have been pretty nervous about the whole thing and pretty drained emotionally. I did a steep decent to the ground and then he hover taxied us over to a spot for a slope landing. This I did perfectly even with a pretty strong cross wind component. He told me I did a nice job on it. Then we did a hovering auto and I botched it. The ship yawed 60-70 degrees to the right and that's when he ended it. He cited dropping airspeed on turning final twice, not making sharp rectangular patterns. He also said that I only pulled 23.5" manifold pressure on the max performance take off. He told me that I was clearly in control of the ship but that a CFI has to give proper examples for the student and that I did not do that. I certainly did not disagree with him.
So having failed once, I went back to the drawing board, got myself doing perfect rectangular patterns, keeping 60 kts in the pattern, pulling exactly the max manifold pressure on max perf take offs and practicing hovering and full down autos.
I went back and I was pretty nervous and told him so. We chatted for a while before going up and did a nice normal take off with normal approach, nice max perf takeoff with steep approach, then an ok hovering auto followed by a reasonable one. Then he had me do a 180 autorotation where I made my pattern too wide and as soon as I started turning I told him were weren't going to make it and put the power back in. Then he asked the tower to give us the active runway (we had been using numbers of the inactive). I did one pretty good 180 with power recovery. Then on the second one, we he told me to turn crosswind a little early and since we weren't going to have enough altitude he said to extend and do a straight in, and that one went fine. Then he told me to do another 180 and before we got to the point were I was going to enter, he chopped the throttle. I felt a yaw and paused for a second then down collective and enter a 180 auto with a power recovery. At that point he said "ok, we got the throttle chop out of the way". Now show me a full down. So I set up, entered the auto on down wind, turned towards the runway heading and did a pretty nice full down. He looked at me and said "that was not bad so let's take it back to the house." But before going back, he showed me an autorotation which was perfectly smooth all the way down. (On all of mine, I had chased the airspeed somewhat).
And that was it. It certainly wasn't the funnest experience of my life but the examiner was (tough and thorough, but) fair and it was a great learning experience. Now I am eager to begin instructing and continue learning.