On March 26th I attempted my instrument checkride. Here's a brain dump to help those who might be about to take their's (and hopefully not bust):
-enroute chart, the MCA/MRA are sometimes listed right at the fix / vor, (i knew) but also sometimes listed as a note (black number in a circle, like a footnote).
-departure procedures, if there is no SID, then use the ODP, if there's no ODP, then there's no obstacle, climb to 400 (standard TERPS clearance) then proceed on course, and use an approach plate to find the pointy things. didn't know there was a thought process like that, from one to the other to the other. can't remember that in any of the books either, fwiw.
Q: along an airway, a higher MCA is coming up, but you have not yet received clearance, frequency is congested, what do you do?
A: climb anyway, they know you have to, you're 'doing their job' as the DE put it.
i was good on the FARs as far as currency, VOR checks, alternates, and alternate minimums, able to catch MEAs and other critical altitudes and their meanings. i had a very good grasp on the weather and was able to answer the few questions there without a problem. other than that, nothing much significant.
did my usual instrument checks during the taxi, and during the run up he said he had a clearance to give me. 'standby,' as i was in the middle of the mag check. we departed rwy 5 at KBED, and the foggles went on at 400 agl. the right arm broke in the process, which I had hoped was a good sign. he gave me instructions to turn to 250, and climb to 2000, matching the clearance from before, and then up to the expected 3000. i did well, headings and altitudes assigned, 1 unusual attitude recovery (which was a level climb at 500 fpm, with surprise covered AI...piece of cake.)
we were south of the minuteman airport (6B6) and would set up to do the VOR/DME RWY21 approach there. instructions were to intercept the 021 radial MHT (030 on the OBS - good) head to EGORE, one hold at EGORE at 3000, no problems, got cleared to do the approach while in the hold, now i can descend as i'm on a published leg, all went well. he had me go visual a mile out, and circle to land, giving me a ceiling of 1100MSL. i almost busted the MDA because i had the field in sight, but saved it remembering that i'm not in a position to make a normal landing. i also made sure to remain within 1.3nm of the runway end at 90kts, on a very short final to rwy3, we went around, and set up for the NDB/GPS5 at KLWM. confusion set in with ATC and their clearances at this point. the DE was doing all the radio work up to this point. he requested the GPS approach, they said NDB approach, I corrected them (GPS), but he said, 'no NDB', 'but i'm using the GPS overlay, correct?' correct. i set up the radios, ID'd LWM and MHT, turned MHT to 165 to identify KRIED, since I already had the GPS and ADF and marker for HAGET. the DE covers the AI and the DG for some partial panel fun. i tracked okay inbound using the GPS. as we're nearing HAGET he said they're using runway 32, so let's use the appropriate minimums. confusion started to set in, as i'm behind things at this point due to wind corrections using the GPS ground track / approach course. so down to 680 still? i thought "appropriate" meant we'd go missed early to avoid traffic. ok, i just passed and identified HAGET (the final approach fix) at this point, so i started timing, and descending. 'i want you to use the appropriate minimums', 'oh, circling minimums, okay, 720 is our new MDA.' continuing downward to 720 for my dive and drive, I hit the deck and started to track the magenta line on the GNS430 using the desired track, bearing and ground track, while making sure not to go below my MDA of 720. i got to the MAP, started to fly the procedure, but he took the plane and explained that I wouldn't get my instrument rating today, because unfortunately there are no do-overs in the practical exam. he said it was a simple mistake, but an important one: there's a step down fix at KRIED where you have to be at 920, but I was already at circling minimums of 720. 200 feet below MDA with no corrections or admission of error is a bona fide checkride bust. he gave me the option to stop for today, or if I'd like, I can get the precision approach out of the way back at KBED. one of the main things you learn while training for instruments is to shrug off bad approaches or mistakes, don't dwell, just concentrate on doing the next thing correctly. i said of course i'll do the precision approach.
we got vectors back to do the ILS29 at Hanscom. it was probably the sloppiest (but within standards) ILS approach i've flown. the wind was all over the place, plus knowing I busted didn't help. but i was able to keep a good attitude and just wanted to get that approach over with. i already failed, so what's the worst that can happen?
once we were tied down, he went over the retest procedure, told me i just need to log additional training, whether that's 15 minutes of ground, or 3 hours of flying, it doesn't matter. schedule a retest with him, and we'll just do that one approach again, full panel.
what really made me feel a little better was that before getting out of the plane he looked at me and said, ' everything else you did was fine, it was a small mistake that i'm sure you will never make again, especially now. don't worry, the sun will rise again tomorrow!'
it sounds corny, but it really did make me feel a lot better.