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How to Pass Your Private Pilot Checkride?

Updated: Jan 22


how to prepare for your private pilot checkride

The private pilot checkride can be a nerve-wracking milestone for most individuals. Achieving success in this evaluation not only bestows upon you the esteemed title of pilot but also introduces you to a community of aviators with a rich and fascinating history.


Wondering how to ease the stress and prepare thoroughly for your private pilot checkride? This comprehensive article will provide you with all the necessary insights, ensuring you approach the examination with confidence and composure.


How To Prepare For Your Checkride?

The initial phase of your checkride involves the Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE) reviewing your paperwork. Having your documents prepared in advance helps you concentrate on the oral and flight portions of the exam.


1. Master your skill

To excel in your checkride, focus on mastering piloting skills. Efficient training leads to a shorter, more successful flight by reducing the chances for errors and the examiner's opportunity to find faults. Demonstrate competence quickly by performing required scenarios and skills adeptly.


During the flight, verbalize every action to ensure the examiner is aware of your maneuvers, like checking your path before turning. This practice not only keeps the examiner informed but also boosts your confidence.


Echo the examiner's instructions as you do with ATC communications. This confirms understanding and immediately clarifies any misunderstandings, enhancing the examiner's confidence in your abilities.


Besides practical skills, attend to administrative preparations to ensure a smooth checkride experience. This comprehensive approach, combining skill mastery with clear communication and administrative readiness, positions you for a successful evaluation.


2. Review Your Aircraft's Maintenance Logs

Prior to your checkride, it's crucial to review your aircraft's maintenance logs to confirm its safe to fly. The logs can be complex, so to minimize stress on the day of the checkride, examine them the day before. 


This allows you to locate relevant entries and, if needed, consult a mechanic for clarification on any uncertain points. Being prepared and knowledgeable about your aircraft's maintenance history will demonstrate professionalism to your examiner.


3. Make Sure You Qualify for your Checkride 

Before scheduling your checkride, ensure you meet all necessary qualifications to avoid any last-minute disqualifications. Key requirements include:


1. General Eligibility: Verify that you meet the general private pilot certification requirements as per 14 CFR 61.103.


2. Aeronautical Experience: Ensure you have the minimum aeronautical experience outlined in 14 CFR 61.109, including:

  • 40 hours of total flight time, with at least 20 hours of dual instruction and 10 hours of solo flight training.

  • Dual instruction must include:

  • 3 hours of cross-country dual.

  • 3 hours of night dual (with additional specifics).

  • 3 hours of instrument dual.

  • 3 hours of dual practical test preparation within the last 2 calendar months.

  •   Solo flight requirements:

  • 5 hours of cross-country.

  • 1 solo cross-country flight of at least 150 NM (with additional specifics).

  • 3 takeoffs and landings at an airport with an operational control tower, involving traffic pattern flying.


Additionally, check that your medical certification is up to date and all required endorsements are in order. Reviewing these qualifications and ensuring compliance with the specified CFRs is crucial for a successful checkride appointment.


The Oral Exam

The oral exam serves as a comprehensive assessment of a pilot's fundamental aviation knowledge. The DPE poses questions designed to gauge the pilot's understanding and certainty in crucial areas. The oral examination for the private pilot license, typically takes about 1.5 to 2 hours.


The Practical Test Standards comprehensively cover the requirements for the oral exam, ensuring no unexpected elements. During this exam, you'll need to demonstrate your planning skills for a brief cross-country flight. The Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE) will quiz you during this process and may present various scenarios to assess your Aeronautical Decision Making (ADM) capabilities. It's essential to be equipped with the latest weather updates and NOTAMs for the exam.


It's understood that you might not know every regulation or answer all questions perfectly. Honesty is key if you're unsure about an answer, but don't hesitate to give it your best shot.


Moreover, the oral exam allows the use of reference materials, so it's wise to mark key information and be adept at locating it. Your skill in finding information is deemed more important than memorizing it. Treat the oral exam as a chance to learn and remember that making mistakes is part of the process.


Conducting the Flight Portion of the Checkride

Following the completion of your oral exam, you'll transition to the flying segment. In this part, you'll assume the role of the "pilot in command," while the DPE will act as your "passenger."


You'll start this phase with the first leg of the cross-country journey you planned during the oral exam. Once the DPE is content with your proficiency in cross-country navigation, you'll move on to various flight maneuvers. After demonstrating these, you'll return to the airport for take-offs and landings. Be prepared for the DPE to introduce different emergency scenarios throughout the flight.


The maneuvers you perform will be evaluated based on the criteria laid out in the Airplane Airman Certification Standard (ACS), ensuring clarity in the performance expectations. However, keep in mind that each DPE might focus on specific areas during the checkride. If possible, ask your DPE if there are particular aspects or maneuvers they emphasize.


It's crucial to understand that the DPE's role isn't to trick you. If the DPE is quiet, it doesn't necessarily imply disapproval; it often means they have no concerns about your performance. Should there be any issues with a maneuver, the DPE will communicate this directly. Your main focus should be on flying the aircraft efficiently and safely.


The opportunity for a more relaxed conversation with the DPE, perhaps over a beer, will come after the checkride, once you're back on the ground.


10 Tips To Pass Your Private Pilot Checkride

Beginning on the journey to become a private pilot is an exhilarating and demanding endeavor. Here are some essential tips to help you successfully pass your Private Pilot Checkride:


1. Embrace the Pilot-in-Command Mindset: Treat the checkride as a real flight, making decisions as if you are already a certified pilot.


2. Prepare for Higher-Order Thinking: The examiner will test your ability to interpret and apply knowledge, not just memorize facts.


3. Learn from the Examiner: Use the checkride as a learning experience. Examiners are seasoned pilots and excellent teachers.


4. Don't Fear Mistakes: Mistakes are inevitable. The key is to correct them safely and learn from them.


5. Slow Down and Think: Under pressure, take a moment to breathe and think before acting, especially during intense moments of the checkride.


6. Honesty Over Guesswork: If unsure about a question, it's better to admit it and demonstrate where to find the answer, rather than guess.


7. Understand the Examiner's Focus: Inquire about the Designated Pilot Examiner's (DPE) focus areas and question styles by consulting with instructors or peers who have had experiences with them.


8. Continuous Learning: Always look for opportunities to learn and grow as a pilot.


9. Stay Within Standards: Remember that the DPE adheres to the Airman Certification Standards (ACS) framework.


10. Relax and Embrace the Journey: Hard work is essential, but don't let it overshadow the excitement and pride that comes with obtaining your Private Pilot License.


Checkride Essentials Checklist

When you arrive for your checkride, being well-prepared is crucial. Some items are standard for any flight, while others are specific to the checkride. Here's a comprehensive list to help you get ready. Cross-check this with your Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) and ensure you have everything you typically carry on a standard flight.


1. DPE Fee (if applicable): 

  • Ensure you have the payment for your Designated Pilot Examiner.


2. Identification and Documentation:

  • Photo ID.

  • Medical certificate.

  • Student pilot certificate.

  • Logbook (accurately totaled and signed).

  • CFI endorsements.

  • Knowledge test report.

  • FAA IACRA 8710 form or its online submission printout.


3. Necessities:

  • Water to stay hydrated.

  •  Food and snacks for energy.


4. Reference Materials:

  • The current FAR/AIM. Consider adding tabs for quick reference.

  • List of personal minimums.

  • Visual aids like system diagrams and aircraft quick reference information.


5. Airport-Specific Information:

  • Printed taxi diagrams and other relevant airport information.


This list will help ensure you have everything you need for a successful checkride.


Key Takeaways: Preparing For Your Private Pilot Checkride

As you approach the end of your flight training, you'll need to decide between an FAA official and a Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE) for your checkride. While there's no fee for an FAA official, their availability may be limited or involve long wait times, making a paid DPE a practical choice. Fees for DPEs vary based on location and travel requirements. Your flight instructor can advise you on this decision.


Regardless of the examiner type, the test format and questions are similar. A well-regarded instructor known for preparing students well can positively influence the examiner's initial impression of you. Your task is to validate this impression by demonstrating thorough knowledge and proficient flying skills.


To succeed in your private pilot checkride, focus on a comprehensive study program, skill mastery, attention to detail, and thorough preparation. With these elements in place, you're well-positioned to excel in your checkride.


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