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Part 2:  Are You Really Ready For the Checkride?

by Darren Smith, CFII/MEI
from Getting the Most from Your Flight Training, June 2006

Checkide Series: About Checkrides | Are You Really Ready For the Checkride? |
Checkide Mindset | Single-Pilot Resource Management

Getting the Appointment

When you are ready for a checkride, you or your flight instructor will contact the examiner to set the appointment.  Ask your CFI what is the local protocol as some pilot examiners prefer to talk to the CFI (or require it) and some don't care.  Before setting the appointment, be ready to answer these questions:

  • Applicant Name & Phone #
  • Medical, class & date issued
  • Have you had a drug conviction? Date of final conviction.
  • Instructor Name & Phone #
  • Practical Test, certificate or rating
  • Is it a retest?  Be prepared to fax a copy of the 8060-5 (pink slip)
  • Fee for test
  • Aircraft make & model
  • Aircraft documents (AROW)
  • Aircraft inspections (AV1ATE)
  • Location of test, time, & date
  • Knowledge test results, score & subject codes, taken at least 48 hours prior to the checkride but not more than 24 calendar months.
  • Applicant's method of application, if IACRA, provide FTN# & Application ID#
  • Identification to be used for checkride (passport number, etc)
  • What endorsements you have been given to take checkride
  • Flight time records & requirements for checkride
  • "Are you familiar with the PTS?"
  • "Do you have all the required equipment specified by the PTS?"
  • Cross country flight planning information...

Basic Preparation

It is your instructor’s job to brief you on the requirements to sit for your checkride.  Save time, show your professionalism… have everything organized.  Do you care about what you’re doing?  Then it will show in your behavior, especially how you prepare for the checkride.  Here's a list of the things you'll have to obtain or put together.  As you collect these items, prepare a checkride bag that you'll carry into your checkride which contains all the resources you might use for the rating you are seeking.

  • Photo identification – current with signature
  • Pilot Certificate
  • Current medical – minimum 3rd class
  • Completed 8710 with instructor signature
  • Pilot logbook with instructor endorsements
  • 8060 (pink slip) if applicable
  • Examiners fee, always pay cash
  • Transportation Security Admin approval (foreign)
  • Aircraft documents (AROW)
  • Aircraft logs (AV1ATE)
  • FAA publications appropriate for the rating you are seeking
  • PTS for the rating you are seeking
  • VFR or IFR cross country planned, w/proper chart
  • Weight & Balance for you & examiner
  • View limiting device
  • For instrument rides, approach plates, timer, kneeboard
  • Navigation tools – plotter, E6B, etc
  • Publications – current charts, AFD, FAR/AIM
  • Written/knowledge exam exam results
  • Requirements met
As part of being a good consumer, it is the applicant's responsibility to make sure that he is ready for a checkride.  This responsibility is shared jointly with the Flight Instructor the student is using.  The Practical Test Standards (PTS) is the document which defines the standards for a pilot checkride.  See the download section for a full list of available PTS documents.

In surveying pilots for thoughts on this article, I learned that many student pilots don't have any idea what a PTS is nor what it contains.  Pilots told me that their CFI made vague reference to a PTS but were never required to read it.  That's a real disservice and a sad commentary on the level of training some students receive. 

Special Emphasis

One of the critical things missed in pilot training is a special list the FAA put together called "special emphasis."  This is a list of items which typically get pilots into trouble in real life, so the FAA thought it would be a good idea to test these items in the process.  In fact, the PTS requires it.  This list has been developed by reviewing all of the PTS documents in my collection as well as the the Examiner Test Guide (FAA Order 8710.3E).   I consider it my master list of special emphasis areas.  Obviously you should consult the PTS for the rating you are seeking.

  1. Preflight
    1. Aircraft manuals & documentation
    2. Pilot & medical certificates
    3. Weather
    4. Airport area & surroundings
  2. Pre-flight inspection
    1. Landing gear
    2. Engine(s)
    3. Adequacy of fuel supply on board the aircraft
    4. ATC communications & airspace considerations
  3. Clearances
    1. Instructions
    2. Operations to/from/within/near Class A, B, C, D, E airspace
    3. Land And Hold Short Operations (LAHSO)
  4. Proper use of flight controls/brakes on the ground - crosswind landings
  5. Positive exchange of flight controls
  6. Collision Avoidance, avoidance of objects in the air & on the ground
  7. Maintenance of adequate flying speed - stall/spin awareness - spatial disorientation
  8. Operations to/from/on suitable terrain for takeoff/approach/landing configurations & procedures
  9. Observation of minimum safe altitudes - congested & non-congested areas
  10. Use of stabilized approach/flight path procedures
    1. Wake turbulence avoidance
    2. Low level wind shear
    3. Landing flare
  11. Forced landings (emergency procedures)
  12. ADM & risk management
  13. Checklist usage
  14. Temporary Flight Restrictions, Special Use Airspace, Aviation Security
  15. Single-pilot competence if the aircraft is type certificated for single-pilot operations
What do you know about each of these areas?  You could be asked detailed questions about each of these areas and would be expected to provide correct answers and demonstrate that you meet the requirements of the ratings you already hold.  For example, if you can't perform a proper crosswind landing, you are not likely to be successful in getting an instrument rating.  The same is true for pilots that don't use proper radio phraseology as described by the AIM and Pilot/Controller Glossary.  Ask yourself this hard question:  can you pass a checkride for the pilot certificate you already hold?  If the answer is no, then don't try to take a checkride for a new rating.  Instead, become proficient in these special emphasis areas and become qualified for the ratings which you already hold.

Other Little Tips

Keep in mind, if you don't verbalize what you are doing on your checkride, the examiner might not realize you actually did it.  The classic example is clearing the area before maneuvers.  If you don't call "clear left" then the examiner is likely to assume it wasn't done if he didn't catch you doing it.  Do you want to run the risk of failing because he didn't happen to observe you doing something correctly?  Conduct your checklist on the assumption  "if you didn't say it, then it wasn't done/checked."

When you are training for your rating, keep in mind you should be able to apply the concepts you've learned to all parts of the country.  Some examiners will pull out a chart from another area and expect you to be able to answer questions from a chart that you might not be familiar with.  As a good consumer, you will want to determine if the information received is universal to all kinds of flying.  And if not, why isn't it? 

What is Satisfactory Performance?
  • When maneuvers are performed within standards
  • Mastery of the aircraft
  • Outcome of the maneuver never seriously in doubt
  • Satisfactory proficiency
  • Sound judgment
  • Single-pilot Competence
  • Crew Resource Management
Examiner Pet Peeves
  1. Any kind of dishonesty.
  2. The question:  "Did I pass?"  You should already know if you met the standards set out by the PTS. 
  3. Not using the available resources to help you prepare for the checkride.  Examples:  this page, the PTS, the associated FAA pubs.
  4. Improperly prepared paperwork.  Follow the instructions on the 8710 and you'll avoid 99% of the errors.

Checkride Resources

Practical Test Standards
My instructor will not sign me off for a checkride, what do I do?
What's the right amount of ground training?
Do accelerated training programs work?
Rating Application FAA Form 8710
New Helicopter Commercial PTS - August 1, 2006

Curious about the instrument checkride?  See the Instrument Rating Checkride Plan of Action

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