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Closing Question

Lesson 6

I’ll close with a simple question: If you tune the frequency for a VOR or Localizer, how do you know if you have a good signal suitable for navigation? The answer is that you must be able to hear the Morse code ID, and the OFF flag must drop. I asked that in an oral several years ago and the applicant was unable to tell me the answer; she couldn’t remember the flag drop part. I let it go; we don’t fail people for not knowing a single small thing.

When we flew the plane to Columbus to do the ILS for her precision approach the glideslope flagged when she tuned the localizer frequency. The flag remained in sight throughout the approach, and the up/down needle never moved from the center. I was really wondering what she would do when she got to the outer marker where she should be intercepting the glideslope. The answer soon became obvious; nothing. She just flew along at the intermediate inbound altitude as if nothing was wrong. I had already decided she failed after the outer marker went off and then stopped and she didn’t do or say anything, but I was intrigued as to just how far she would fly. I let it go for almost 4 minutes, at which time she was right over the airport. I suggested that she look out the side window to determine where she was. She saw the runways directly below, and then I told her she failed. She was furious; said I couldn’t do that! Her reasoning was that the glideslope had worked the day before, and it wasn’t her fault that it didn’t work today. ..... We did her retest about a week later, after she learned more about inoperative equipment. Just because things usually work doesn’t mean they always work.

Single-pilot IFR is perhaps the most challenging activity in all of aviation. It demands continual situational awareness, especially wind awareness, and workload management is crucial. The pilot cannot allow himself to become overwhelmed because of errors and inefficient practices. As a pilot examiner I am looking at the big picture of whether an applicant is prepared to function safely in the IFR environment. His or her proper completion of the required tasks on the checkride will tell me if the applicant is ready.

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