Your browser (Internet Explorer 7 or lower) is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites. Learn how to update your browser.


Navigate / search

Private Pilot Checkride, What to Expect

FAA Private Pilot, Single Engine Land Checkride Experience.

May 2012

This post describes my experiences, to the extent that I can remember them, during my FAA Private Pilot check ride. The whole process was much less stressful than I had anticipated. I think you’ll find that as long as you are prepared, you will quite enjoy it.

My DPE was very friendly and reasonable. She is definitely there to do the job entrusted to her by the FAA, but she is not at all difficult or intimidating during this process.  As expected I found interviewing and flying with her to be easier and less rigorous than it was during my mock check ride.


The day started by her reviewing my log book to ensure that overall hours minimums and specific requirements (Long solo XC, etc) were met. She then reviewed my 8710 form, photo ID, etc to ensure all was in order before we began.  Once satisfied that all the requirements were met, she accepted my payment of $400 and the test began.  She mentioned we can pause the test at any time if we need a break for water, bathroom, etc.

She made sure to tell me to answer all questions from the point of view of a Private Pilot, not a student pilot. This seems obvious, but after several months of learning the rules of a student pilot’s license, this may be a helpful reminder.

Read more

Building the ideal FSX machine

As I will detail in other posts, I have begun the training process to obtain my Private Pilot’s License, at a flight school here in Seattle. The training process consists of ground school (classroom time), independent study (reading, watching educational videos, etc), and flight time in a Cessna 172P with my Certificated Flight Instructor.

Thus far, I have been having a blast with the training process. I’ve been looking forward to my three weekly classroom sessions, and really looking forward to the time I get to spend piloting the plane. I’ve been fortunate to this point, and I have been able to take a few hours each week off of work in the middle of the day to hop down to Boeing Field, 4 miles south of Downtown where I work, and get my flight time in.  There is just one problem. It is mid November.. in Seattle. The hours of daylight are getting shorter by the day, and the weather is getting worse and worse. As we move into December and January, I’ll have less and less opportunity to get regular flight time in, so naturally I’ve been looking for other ways to supplement the time in the plane with another experience that can be beneficial to a student pilot, the flight simulator.

A Real Cessna 172P
A Real Cessna 172P

While I’ve had a computer setup to run Microsoft Flight Simulator in the past, I had never experienced the potential that it has as a training tool for someone learning to fly until now.  While there are a lot of factors involved in flying a real airplane that do not translate well to the simulator (e.g. control feedback, spatial orientation, etc) its advantages are many. After a real world flight with my instructor, I can come back to the simulator and recreate the scenario I had just flown with remarkable detail, and repeat the lesson.

The panel of a virtual Cessna 172P in FSX
The panel of a virtual Cessna 172P in FSX

With that in mind, I decided to build a dedicated ‘gaming’ machine for the purposes of running Microsoft Flight Simulator X, and/or X-Plane. I put in hours of research to familiarize myself with the latest and greatest hardware options (I’m an IT professional, but had long since lost touch with the hardware that the kids are using these days for gaming.)  More importantly I researched the specific hardware components that the most experienced and passionate flight simulator users are using on their machines at home. As with all technology hardware, you often get what you pay for, but there are almost always points of diminishing return that are reached when dealing with the latest and greatest. With that in mind, I have put together the following components, which achieve extremely high FSX benchmark results*, while maintaining a relatively reasonable price point.



 - $269

The all important Video Card: EVGA GeForce GTX 580 (Fermi) 015-P3-1580-AR Video Card - 


Power supply: 

 - $169


 - $319

Processor Cooler: 

 - $94


 - $84

Hard Drive (SSD): 

 - $279

CD/DVD/Bluray drive:

 - $60

Finally, the Case: 

 - $139

Grand total: $1912 for a machine that will handle just about any high end graphics intensive game you throw at it. For my purposes, this will allow me to run Microsoft Flight Simulator with very high graphics settings, along with a number of third party addons toachieve greater visual and functional realism.


* For details about FSX Benchmarks, and to see real world results, click here.


The birth of “la Crappist du Monde”

After nearly a year of experience with the home brewing hobby, I’ve been given a great excuse to brew up a very special beer. A good friend of mine loves Tripel style ales commonly brewed by monks in the Trappist Monasteries of Belgium, and after trying some of my other beers, requested a batch be made for her birthday in February.

Her favorite Tripel isn’t actually a Trappist, nor is it even Belgian. La Fin du Monde by Unibroue in Quebec, Canada is a fantastic Tripel style ale. It is brewed by French Canadian hockey fans rather than Belgian monks, but I have always had a real soft spot for this beer. It didn’t take much convincing when she mentioned she’d like to have a home brewed version of this available at her party.

In addition to the standard beer ingredients of malted barley, water, hops, and yeast, a Tripel will often contain flavoring spices as well as a significant amount of adjunct neutral sugar content to provide the extra alcohol. This particular recipe uses over 14 lbs of grain as it’s base, as well as 2 lbs of candi sugar (think rock candy). It also incorporates sweet and bitter orange peel, and coriander seed along with the hops for flavor.

I tracked down the ingredients needed and got to work this weekend.

Filling the brew kettle. I started with 7.5 gallons of water to make 5 gallons of beer. I use the Brew in a Bag method of all grain brewing.

“Mashing in” Stirring the grain into the water at a carefully controlled temperature (152ºF in this case).

After a 90 minute mash to convert the starches in the grain into sugars, I haul the grain out to drain, leaving behind the “wort” to be boiled.

The first round of hops, and other ingredients are added and the boil begins.

After a 6 minute boil, the hops are removed to drain and the copper wort chiller is used to quickly drop the temperature of the beer-to-be from 212ºF to under 80ºF.

The spent grains and hops make great garden compost

Transferring the chilled wort to a sanitized carboy for fermentation.

Yeast is added and into the fermentation chamber it goes to carefully control the temperature as the yeast goes to work. A sanitized airlock is placed on top to keep germs out while it ferments into beer.

There is a huge amount of fermentable sugars in this beer (meaning a high alcohol content when it is done), so the yeast were very happy got really active. There was so much pressure from the escaping CO2 it blew the airlock assembly right out of the bottle and sprayed yeast and beer all over the chamber. This photo was taken after cleaning and re-inserting the airlock. Academically, I suspected this would happen with such a “big” beer, but I had never seen it in practice. Once I got the mess cleaned up, it was actually a pretty cool experience.

It was very clear that the airlock wasn’t go to stay put a second time either, so I setup “blowoff tube” to allow the escaping CO2 gas and yeast particles to flow into a large container (1/2 gallon growler in the back) full of sanitizer. This allows more pressure to escape while still keeping a sanitized barrier between the outside air and the fermentation.

This post is intended to be an overview of one day’s brewing experience, not a tutorial on how to brew. If you are interested in learning more about this rewarding hobby, I suggest picking up a copy of “How to Brew” by John J. Palmer, and checkout the excellent forums at

Control Airplay/Airtunes in iTunes 10.1 with Applescript

My previously published Applescript to control iTunes Airplay/Airtunes speakers was broken recently when Apple released iTunes version 10.1. Apple made a few minor tweaks to the speaker control elements, which is to be expected since one of the key features in the 10.1 release is related to Airplay support.

I have re-created the script, which behaves almost identically to previous versions. This one contains a little bit more error checking for dealing with various iTunes states. I’ve also included more code comments than previous versions, which should help people modify it to their own needs.

Control Airplay/Airtunes feature of iTunes 10.0 with Applescript

I’ve been using iTunes with several Airport express units utilizing Apple’s Airplay (previously called Airtunes) scattered throughout my house as a basic but very powerful “Whole House Audio” system for several months now. In addition to my computer speakers in the home office, I have an Airport Express connected via standard audio, or optical audio cable to a stereo or dedicate speaker system in each of our primary living spaces (e.g. Kitchen, Living Room, Basement, Master Bedroom). This setup has worked very well for distributing high quality music throughout the house and can easily be controlled via the iTunes console on the computer hosting the music, or with the excellent and free Apple Remote application for iOS devices (such as my iPhone).