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Part 3: The Checkride Mindset

by Darren Smith, CFII/MEI
Getting the Most from Your Flight Training, April, 2007
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Checkide Series: About Checkrides | Are You Really Ready For the Checkride? |
Checkide Mindset |
Single-Pilot Resource Management

In this article, I want to talk about the psychology of taking a checkride.  In the first article, we talked about FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) but I want to expand on this.  I want to give you the tools to get yourself into the right state of mind so that you do your best on your next checkride. From my own experience of 25 checkrides, I can tell you that when I walked into it with FUD, it almost knocked me down.  I started to catch on that I can manipulate this to my advantage -- in other words pass the checkride.

Let's start with the basics, your examiner is human and will be subject to all the daily stresses of life as you are.  This will impact your checkride.  There are a few things that can not only turn it around but put the examiner in your corner so he's pulling for your success as well.

First of all, smile.  A smile is disarming and means you're friendly.  I'm not talking about that sly, half smile.  I'm talking about a smile where your ears move and you are genuinely happy.  If you're a fake, then you're just showing your teeth and we all know what to do when something is showing its teeth to us.  When you first meet your examiner, greet him with a warm smile and offer your handshake.  Look him in the eyes, and genuinely say, "its nice to meet you."  If you have a chance to meet the examiner prior to the day of the checkride, all the better.  Now you become something friendly and familiar.  Not a threat, not a problem, not a potential failure.

There are two new tools I want you to put into your flight bag:  thought stopping and positive affirmation.

If you have a habit of dwelling on your weak points, have I got the answer for you.  Thought stopping. We're going to stop that addictive behaviour by substituting a healthy thought for the negative one you've been focusing on.  By doing this, you're going to reduce stress and fear.  Here's the technique:  whenever you start to think one of those negative thoughts, you will put an end to it by saying "STOP."  This can be a verbal or non-verbal interruption of negative patterns of thinking.

What's the harm of continuing negative thought patterns?  They grow and become your reality.  What are you going to do about putting healthy thoughts in place?  That's where positive affirmations come into play.

Positive affirmations are positive thoughts or statements which describe the desired result.  Affirmations are powerful tools which command your mind to change its physiology.  As you think, so you are.  Like commands given to a computer, affirmations are healthy thoughts which will change your mood in under a heartbeat.  They can work as fast as touching a hot stove or may need to be repeated to reach maximum effectiveness. 

When repeating these affirmations to yourself, you can do it silently or aloud.  Repeat them everywhere you go, while waiting, while walking.   Here are some ideas on healthy affirmations you can use:
  • I'm glad I'm doing this, I know I can get better.
  • I'm doing well and I'm learning a lot.
  • Everything is great.
  • I'm successful at what I do.
  • I'm healthy and happy.
  • This is going to turn out great.
These two tools will help you put on your game face at the time you need to be successful.  Get started now so when you get to the checkride, you're already on the path to passing it.

Reader Comments

Date: Thu, 26 Jul 2007 20:36:56 Name = Adrian
Comments =   I just faield the commercial multi-engine check ride today, but I also failed the Glider Private Pilot and Multi-engine private. Do you think I would have any problem to get a job with an airline.
Reply: Yes, I think you will have a problem, you've shown a history of failure. You're now suspect and there will be doubt if you can pass an airline checkride.  You never know, so keep pursuing your dream. ds

Date: Tue, 22 May 2007 14:31:36 Name = Doug W
Comments = Totally agree with this...yesterday, I had a severe case of Checkride-itis and it resulted in a pink slip. I'd have to say that while I had completed a flight just prior to the ride that went very well, as soon as I got into 'checkride mode,' I let too many doubts creep in and I wasn't successful. I will continue on, but it was a really disappointing experience, especially with the fact that this was the first (of 6) checkride I've ever failed.
Reply: I suspect that everyone reading this page has experienced this at some point in their flying. Keep going, you'll make it. ds

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