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What is a Checkride Like?






It is the day before your big checkride and you are studying like crazy to fit as much information in your head as possible. Tomorrow is the big day and your kind of nervous inside. What is it like in a checkride and how do you know what to study? Well I am glad you asked because this blog will guide you as you prep for that big day.


The practical test (checkride) is made up of two parts. The first part is the ground portion. The applicant will need to be qualified by an examiner to take this particular checkride. You will then move into the oral phase of the checkride. Typically the examiner will give you a scenario to plan out for that day that will be used to talk through all kinds of questions. Second, you will need to complete the flight portion of the checkride. The examiner will test the skills of the applicant in the aircraft. How do you know what the examiner will test you on? Well that is covered in the Airman Certification Standards (ACS)


Airman Certification Standards (ACS)

The very first thing we will discuss here is the ACS. This document can be found on the FAA website linked at the bottom of this section. The ACS is the guide to your practical test checkride. Every good certified flight instructor and designated pilot examiner knows this document and can guide you through it. The examiner will follow the ACS exactly as written. The next picture is captured from the Private Pilot ACS and I will discuss it.


Oral ACS Example



Flight ACS Example


The first section titled References is a list of all the resources to help you find the information that this particular section is asking for. For instance 14 CFR part 61 is all about requirements for pilot certifications and that is where you would find private pilot privileges and limitations.


The second section is the Objective of this particular section of the ACS. What is Satisfactory Knowledge? Remember that you are going into a "practical" test. This means that it should be practical. Are you expected to know everything? Absolutely not!!! Does this mean that if asked about minimum flying altitudes you can look up the regulation in the checkride? It is practical so what would you do in the real world if there was a question like this? You would look it up in the regulations. So the answer is yes you can look up regulations in a practical test. This leads me to my final thought about satisfactory knowledge. If you have to look up every single regulation, you have not shown satisfactory knowledge of the regulations. Risk Management is a term used throughout aviation. The idea here is that we naturally take on risk for most things we do. You would like to get groceries. Well, you take the risk of stepping outside in the weather. How do we manage that? We put a coat on. We take a risk when driving to the grocery store. Well, we manage it by buckling our seat belts and knowing and following the traffic laws. Flying comes with inherent risks and we as pilots need to identify those risks and do everything we can to manage those risks.


The third section is the Knowledge section. This is the meat and potatoes of the section. This section will list the required knowledge from the applicant. You can use the references section to find the knowledge for these items.


The fourth section is Risk Management. I previously defined what risk management is. This section tells you what the examiner is specifically looking for from you to determine that you have good risk management skills.


The last section is the Skills section. This is where the knowledge and the real world collide. It is one thing to be asked a direct question about how many landings you need to carry passengers in an airplane. Every pilot reading this can or should be able to answer that. However, creating a scenario where the applicant is making a cross-country flight plan to take a friend to Mackinac Island and asking them how they will stay legal for this flight is a practical question and is different than the rote memory style question given above.


Flight Instructors Role

It is the flight instructor's responsibility to make sure you are fully qualified, prepared, and endorsed to take your practical test (i.e. Checkride). Your flight instructor will help guide your studying and help you be prepared by utilizing the ACS to help you study.


Designated Pilot Examiner's Role (DPE)

It is the DPE's responsibility to determine your knowledge, understanding, and skills to be a rated pilot. They are required to have a plan of action and they are required to abide by the standards listed in the particular ACS or PTS guides. They are very knowledgeable individuals but they are not there to teach. They also have a requirement to put the applicant at ease. Most DPEs are really fun to talk with and are really easy to just chat about planes with.


Everybody gets nervous about a checkride. That is a normal body response. Take the time to relax before your checkride. Understand that DPEs really want to see students pass. If anything, the paperwork is way easier for them when you pass. Your flight instructor wouldn't send you to your checkride if they felt like you couldn't pass. There are a lot of people in your corner. Do your part in studying with the guide of the ACS and go into your checkride with boldness and confidence.


I hope this helps you understand how a practical test is conducted. Please reach out to us at 4 One Air if you have any questions.

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