Many of us are pilots and remember our FAA, or equivalent, Private Pilot check rides. I took mine back in 1987 and still remember how stressed and worked up I was as I flew into Montague, CA and faced Terry Weathers, the grim-faced, mean, seasoned examiner. I knew I was doomed when I walked into the office at the FBO and met him for the first time. After a 2-part exam, I passed. The first part was flown on one day and the second part was on the next day as the winds picked up so quickly that it was unsafe to continue with the examination on day-one so I had to fly back and continue with the exam a few days later.
Terry was 5'10" and pushing over 250lbs. I had topped off the little C-152 and after calculating weight and balance we were about 40 lbs overweight so we had to offload 3 gallons a side just to take off. We started our cross-country to SMF and about 20 minutes into the flight he said that he changed his mind and wanted to go to LMT. I had anticipated this and had written every VOR frequency within 300 miles down on a post-it note and taped that to the instrument panel so it was easy to dial in the LMT VOR and head that way. We didn't have GPS or auto pilot in those days so I had to hand fly the little 152 all the way. About 10 minutes later he pulled off the throttle and told me to perform an engine out landing at the nearest suitable landing area. I knew that the Weed, CA airport was directly below us so and I rocked my best enging out approach ever. As I came over the numbers of the runway we were hit with with a sudden downdraft and tail wind and the airplane dropped out of the sky as we were about 30 feet above the numbers. I pushed the throttle in and tried to save it and managed to get control just as the tail struck the pavement and drug for about 25 feet until I was able to get the little plane airborne. The sound was tremendous and hearing the tail drag was the most awful sound I had ever heard. I knew I was done and had probably failed the exam.
As soon as we were in a positive rate of climb and safe I looked over at Terry and saw his hands shaking. He looked at me and said, "Well done. I thought we were gonners." He told me to head back to Montague so we could land and check out the airplane but the crosswinds were so bad that he told me that he would land the airplane. We were landing on a 50' wide strip with 30+ knot crosswind and he nailed it and we stopped in about 150 feet. I taxied the 152 over to the FBO ramp and we got out to look at the damage. The only thing wrong with the airplane was that the tail tie-down was missing. There was no wrinkling or damage to the aircraft at all, other than some missing paint beneath the tail as if someone had taken some sandpaper to the surface.
We waited for the wind to die down and he told me to reschedule the remainder of my check ride for the next day. I flew back to my home airport knowing that I had cheated death and probably saved two lives. A few days later, when the wind died down, I flew back to see Mr. Weathers and continued with my checkride and passed. I was proud to have joined the brotherhood of pilots and call myself a Private Pilot.
Let's hear about your check rides.