As someone who usually has his emotions well under control I was surprised by how nervous I got in the days leading up to my checkride. My preparation flights left me with a good understanding of how I would be tested but I felt my performance wasn't as sharp as it could have been. I would nail all the maneuvers one day then forget a simple step in a procedure the next. On one preparation flight I had some particular trouble with landings in a stiff crosswind while practicing at Compton airport. I just kept telling myself to take my time with everything and it would work out.
My checkride wasn't scheduled until 1PM so I spent the morning reviewing for the oral exam and visualizing my flight. The weather was looking good so I headed over to the airport and prepared to meet the examiner in the terminal. Mr. Reed Novisoff, the examiner, arrived and we started by getting all the paperwork out of the way. He checked my logbook to make sure I met all the requirements for the certificate and submitted my application online. Then we were off and running with the oral exam. We started by reviewing the cross country flight I had prepared, a flight to Henderson executive airport near Las Vegas. He asked me why I had picked certain altitudes and checkpoints along the way. The exam was really more of a conversation than direct questions and answers. We progressed from airspace and charts to airplane systems. We didn't wrap it up until around 3PM mostly because it seemed everyone coming through the terminal knew Reed and stopped to say hello.
Before we headed out to the airplane I made sure to check the weather. The winds had picked up a little but wouldn't be much of a factor since they were out of the West, no crosswinds today. Reed said we'd start by heading out to the first checkpoint of my planned cross country but to expect a diversion soon after that. I made sure to take my time with the preflight briefing and checklists and soon we were on our way and headed to the Queen Mary, my first checkpoint. I realized I had made my first mistake soon after takeoff, I forgot to start a timer for the first leg of the cross country. After the Queen Mary I demonstrated I could intercept a VOR and track a radial. So far so good with only the minor timing issue.
Then came the diversion, I needed to fly direct to Hawthorne airport. I turned toward Hawthorne and quickly estimated distance and flight time. My biggest thought throughout the flight was to avoid flying into airspace without proper clearance. I made sure to stay above the Long Beach class C until I was well clear of it. On the way I was asked to point out some landmarks in the area. When I pointed out Compton airport Reed pulled my throttle back to simulate engine failure. Unfortunately for me this meant we were doing takeoffs and landings at my favorite airport, Compton.
After decent normal and soft field landings I came around for the short field. The landing was good, well within standards, but I took too long to get off the runway, particularly because there was another plane close behind. Reed turned from examiner to drill sergeant and really let me have it for that one. This was a case where taking my time backfired. After regrouping on the ground for a couple minutes we started on the last leg of the checkride by heading over to the practice area. Along the way we knocked out the last of the required maneuvers: recovery from unusual attitudes, slow flight, stalls, and steep turns. All went well so we headed back to Torrance. I finally started to relax once we were on the ground and on our way back to the terminal. Those magic words came after I pulled the mixture out and turned off the magnetos - "You Passed."