Here are some tips for preparing for the Practical Test written by an examiner:
Over the years, I’ve done more than a few Private Pilot Checkrides. People usually pass on the first time, but there are some who don’t. I’ve complied a list of some problems I see during the test. I’ve added a checklist to help ensure you are prepared when you and I meet for the test.
- IACRA. (http://iacra.faa.gov/iacra) Make sure you and your instructor (and your 141 school if applicable) are set up for IACRA. I don’t like paper applications- too much chance for errors. This is the most efficient way to go.
- Knowledge test results – NO PHOTOCOPIES. Only the stamped original, please.
- Print out a copy of the IACRA completed application and get your instructor to sign it. This way, in the event the internet is down, we can still proceed. When the internet is back up, we can finish the application online.
- Student Pilot Certificate. Remember, this is valid for 60 Calendar Months if issued when you are (were) under 40 (24 otherwise). Make sure it’s valid and has the required endorsements on the back.
- Logbook with YOUR FULL NAME in it.
- Photo ID – You need at least one government issued photo ID.
- Logbook Endorsements – please refer to AC61-65E.pdf (or later version) Look at page 11.
- Proof in your training records that you meet at least the minimum requirements
- Maintenance records for the Airplane – Airframe and Engine and Propeller, including an record of the status of AD notes.
- Current Aeronautical Charts as required.
- An Airport Facility Directory or some other flight guides that essentially say the same thing, as long as they are current
- Make sure the certificates onboard the aircraft are in order.
- Examiner fees.
Common Problems on the Test
Check out: Maintenance records
- First, I’d like to point out that it is not my choice to test on all of these items, The FAA requires it. The maintenance/inoperative equipment/preventative maintenance areas are almost always weak. Have you sat down and created a status sheet for the plane? If you do, you will force yourself to become familiar with the inspection status of the plane, including AD’s. As PIC you are responsible.
- Logbooks – Many applicants seem like they have never seen the logbooks for the airplane until they look at them in my presence. You are looking for: Annual, 100 hour inspection (if appropriate), ELT Inspection 91.207(d) (this is not the battery), ELT battery replacement date, in addition to the ELT inspection, and the 91.413 transponder inspection date. Depending on the way the mechanic signs off the 100 hour or annual, it might require looking in the airframe, engine and propeller logbooks to find these entries. AD status must be determined. I am primarily interested in the status of any recurring AD’s. How many recurring AD’s are there on the plane you fly?
- Inoperative Equipment – How do you determine if something broke is not needed for the flight? 91.205? 91.213? Your equipment list? Most private and rental aircraft don’t use an MEL.
- Preventative Maintenance – Most know they can do it, but not where to look in the FAR’s, and that they can’t put things back together if it involves complex assembly. I think that means a tire or brake pad change on a Cessna 150 is OK, but not on a Lear 55!
- Airspace – Most can memorize it but some have problems applying it to the charts. Know what airspace you’ll be in at every moment of your XC flight plan and what the requirements and vis/cloud clearances will be.
- Night Flying – You need to know how to determine lighting at an airport, aero medical factors affecting night flight.
- Navigation – Most can plot the course on a chart, calculate a heading and time and then won’t actually fly it. Some meander all over hoping it’s somewhere in front of them.
- Emergency Procedures – Most people end up way too high on the final approach. They also try to impress me by reading the checklist. I would rather see you do the things needed, worry about a checklist when you have time. Remember you are single-pilot. Don’t forget we will go-around at no less than 500 feet AGL if there isn’t a runway in front of us.
- Short field Landings – You calculated the distance over the obstacle. I usually use the end of the runway for the placement of the 50ft obstacle, that usually keeps us on the VASI. You are expected to land in the distance that you calculated. You will need to know how to use the brakes properly. If you cross the threshold below 50ft after I said there is an obstacle at the end, you just demonstrated you can’t judge height! Most VASI’s are adjusted for 50ft!
- Sound Judgment – It’s amazing how few applicants understand that they are the PIC, not the examiner or the controller. Above all the applicant must NEVER decide to do the flight portion in conditions or situations that is beyond his personal limits. Just because a pilot examiner is sitting there should have absolutely nothing to do with the applicants decision to go flying. You’re being evaluated on your ability to handle the flight conditions not mine. I’m not supposed to be a safety net. Just be sensible in making a decision. Never let anyone tell you to do anything you believe to be unsafe. Short Field Takeoff? Don’t accept an intersection takeoff! Tell the tower you need full length. (more PIC stuff!) One element of the Short Field Takeoff is demonstrating that you can use MAXIMUM available runway! How can that be done from the intersection? It’s a practical test, not theoretical.
- Stall Recovery– I wish I could cover up the airspeed indicator to make sure you are looking outside to determine pitch attitude. Here is what should not happen: At the moment of the stall the stick should not be shoved briskly forward to break the stall, then add full power and wait till Vy to start climbing again. All that does is lose altitude. Granted, it un-stalls the wing, but if you do that near the ground we will be STREET PIZZA! The correct procedure is basically this: 1. Relax back pressure until the stall horn is gone or there is no buffeting and only that far. Add full power as you are doing this. Use rudder to keep a wing from dropping. 2. Reduce the flap to approach setting while maintaining an attitude that is un-stalled. 3. Allow the airplane to accelerate to Vy then retract the remaining flap. The objective of stall recovery is a minimum altitude loss during recovery. P.S. If flaps are extended, what are you doing at or above Vy? It’s drag, isn’t it?
Remember that the maneuvers you are asked to perform have a purpose. You will be a better pilot if you try to apply scenarios to the maneuvers you perform.