IFR checkride gotchya reminder...

Friend of mine busted his IFR checkride last week.


VOR alpha into Madison, did the procedure turn and turned inbound right on cue.

Crossed the VOR, did the T’s and started his descent as soon as he got the from flag.

The gotchya? He started the descent before he left the zone of confusion (the needel was full deflect) when he should start the descent once the needle starts moving into the 137 radial.

Examiner said he is not established until he starts capturing the radial therefore the bust.

While this may be a “nit pick” I’d have to agree with the examiner as one is not established with a full deflect but I was never told this myself from any instructor that descent must commence once the needles start coming in.

As long as I was on course before station passage, I always started my descent on the flag flipping to to from since I didn’t have any course change after station passage.

That will now change my way of executing the approach as we know, it’s always a continous learning lesson by listening.

Wow that was a DE that needed a bust

How does that saying go?

“Hello, I am the FAA and I am here to help you…”

Friend’s choice of DE certainly would not have been mine.

“You get what you pay for”

But I did learn something at his expense (or lack of in this case) :wink:

So did he retest yet ?

Not yet, funds prevent him for the remainder of the month from going back up.

From the sounds of it, he has to do the whole test as the bust was his first approach.

Been an interesting discussion on this in another forum I participate in. Been about 50/50 on whether the examiner is correct or not.

My head spinning as I am seeing both sides as correct.

As nit-picky as it may be, technically the examiner is correct. When in full deflection, course guidance isn’t achieved. Not only must you have a TO/FROM flag flip past the “cone of confusion”, the CDI must also be “coming alive.”

I feel bad for the guy though, but minimum altitudes are minimum altitudes. Good luck to him on his next attempt!

If you are holding the same heading the kept the needle centered inbound, you have ‘course guidance’.

FWIW, I have heard of a DE bust for the exact opposite. Candidate waited until the needle was less than half deflection after passing the VOR. DE said he waited to long to start the descent. IMO both DE’s are wrong for busting either way. Talk about nit pickers.


I think just about every pilot I have shared this with and including myself agree with you.

I think the “devil of the detail” is the position of the plane in relation to the VOR. Yes, you are tracking the 137 radial into KMBO but until you get station passage, you are not on the 137 radial, you are actually on the 317 radial. My thought is one can’t be established if they are not on the radial is why the examiner busted my friend.

My friend passed on the second attempt with a DE that he paid to take the test and he did hold him to not descending until the needle came alive (more then what I had on my checkride).

Like you said, it’s a ridiculous nit especially if my friend said is true that he was tracking the 137 radial outside the FAF as he said he did.

In your case where a person waited too long, only time I ever could think that is an issue is with an hellacious tail wind otherwise, in a C172, at least with the KMBO VOR Alpha approach, you have plenty of distance between you and the MAP to dive and drive safely.

Sounds like he used an FAA examiner on the first try and paid a DPE (designated pilot examiner, which is not an FAA employee) on the second… pretty well-known results is the FAA examiners will fail check rides on first try, while DPE’s look for actual skill and knowledge properly. I personally think this is intentional as the whole reason the FAA appoints DPE’s is to reduce their workload so they can focus on other aspects of aviation administration and enforcement. I think keeping the reputation in place is there to encourage people to pay DPE’s and not use up the FAA’s time. Otherwise everyone would want a free checkride with the FAA rather than paying $400-500 to a DPE, and the FAA’s workload would increase.