Check Ride FAQ’s

Practical Test Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is your testing philosophy?

I start every test expecting that the applicant will be successful. I do everything possible within the FAA Practical Test Standards and the DPE guidance information to give you the opportunity to demonstrate the required skill, knowledge and judgment required. You have worked very hard to get to the point where you are ready for your check ride. I want to make the process as pleasant as possible. Remember, perfection is not the standard, but you must meet the PTS standards. There is room to make and correct mistakes on your test, but the applicant cannot consistently exceed the requirements. This is sometimes a challenge for the examiner to determine and for the applicant to understand. Just do your best. Every applicant who meets the PTS standards will be successful. Those who do not meet the standards will be required to receive additional training and re-test to assure that they can safely operate in the National Airspace System. I will always try to give you and your instructor a complete debriefing following every test.

  1. What is IACRA and how do I use it?

IACRA is the Integrated Airman Certification and/or Rating Application. You are required to go to the IACRA website, register and complete an application for your certificate or rating. Once you set up your account, you will receive an FTN number. You will also create a user ID and Password. Be sure to write this information down in a safe place, perhaps in your logbook. You will need this information during your check ride. Don’t wait too late to set up your account and complete your application. I still recommend that you complete a paper version of the FAA form 8710, print it out, get your CFI to sign it, and bring it with you to the check ride. If something goes wrong with the IACRA system, we can still do the test.

  1. What do I need to bring with me to the test?

First, refer to the “Applicant’s Practical Test Checklist” in the applicable PTS, which lists everything you need. You should bring the aircraft maintenance records so we can verify that the aircraft is airworthy.  If you want to make your examiner happy and save time, it is a good idea to flag each of the required inspections. Keep in mind that the aircraft must be capable of performing all required maneuvers. Please be sure everything is working on the aircraft. If not, you should know what action is required. You should also know what equipment and instruments are required for the aircraft to be airworthy. If you are taking an Instrument practical test using a GPS, this must have a current database. You should bring current charts, Airport Facility Directory, AIM, etc. Here is a link to a helpful document on Airworthiness.

You should have received a cross country assignment in advance. You should complete the Nav log, FAA Flight Plan form and Weight & Balance using actual loading information. You should acquire the necessary weather briefing and print out the charts and forecast information as shown in the Weather section of the PTS. Once you arrive for your exam, you should update the weather by telephone and check for any NOTAMS and TFRs.

You should be sure your pilot logbook is completely filled out with all totals carried forward. Please flag the various requirements such as your long cross country, takeoffs and landings at a towered airport, etc. This will save the examiner from having to hunt for them. Be sure you have signed each page. While we are discussing logbooks, remember you must have received and logged ground training for the certificate or rating. Many instructors are not very diligent about this. The entries should be specific per the regulations and list the date and amount of training. For student pilots, you need a 90 day solo endorsement and a specific cross country endorsement to and from the airport where we will do the test. Speaking of endorsements, I am required to check for all required endorsements. Usually there are three that are needed:

The three are:

  1. A logbook or training record endorsement from the instructor who prepared the student for the required knowledge test (if required), or reviewed the home study course that the student used to prepare for the test.
  2. An endorsement from the instructor who has accomplished the required training and/or can attest that the student has met all the aeronautical experience requirements, and is competent to perform at the level required for the certificate or rating sought.
  3. An endorsement that states that the student has had training time within the preceding two calendar months, that the student is prepared for the test, and has been found knowledgeable in areas shown deficient on his or her airman knowledge test.

This third endorsement is often missing and some instructors don’t seem to understand that it is required. It reflects 61.39 and is always required when an endorsement is required for the checkride. Advisory circular AC 61-65E has the requirement for this endorsement buried in the Prerequisites for a Practical Test paragraph, and perhaps this is why it is so often overlooked. The appendix of this AC has sample endorsements for every other conceivable need except this one, go figure.

Anytime a complex or high performance airplane is used for the flight test, the applicant must be endorsed appropriately, and if it has been more than 24 months since the last checkride, there must be an endorsement for the successful completion of a flight review.

If the checkride is a retest, make sure that the notice of disapproval is available. The examiner must have this in order to give the applicant credit for any previously passed areas. Also, a new application must be filled out, and one additional endorsement must be entered in the logbook.

  1. Is the Oral Exam an “open book” test?

Yes, it is with some exceptions and qualifications. You should be generally familiar with the required information, but no one can remember all of the material. You are allowed to use all available resources that are listed in the PTS. These must be FAA publications. You should not guess if you are not sure of your answer. Rather you should know where to find the answer in a timely manner. However, some information must be memorized. For example, if I ask how you would recover from an inadvertent stall, it would not be acceptable to say you would refer to the aircraft POH. Also, there is a limit on how much you need to look up. This is left to the examiner’s discretion. Many applicants put together a check ride reference binder with information that may be helpful such as airspace requirements, weather chart legends, etc.

  1. Can I use an electronic flight planning program for the cross country?

Although some DPEs may disagree, I allow applicants to use programs such as Foreflight for their planning. However, if you do this, you must be prepared to explain and demonstrate that you know the underlying concepts and that you can perform the calculations.

  1. Do I have to know how to interpret the text weather acronyms or can I use decoded weather reports and forecasts?

I allow Sport and Private applicants to use decoded weather information. All others should be able to read and interpret the coded information. It is perfectly acceptable to refer to a glossary for unfamiliar terms or acronyms. Also, everyone should know how to explain the time of issuance, effective times, etc for each weather product.

  7. How are the Airman Certification Standards different from the Practical Test Standards?

The ACS is the newest testing standard and is being implemented for FAA Practical Tests. The ACS is similar to the PTS with a more granular breakdown of each required task. For each Area of Operation and Task, there will be knowledge elements (what you are expected to know), skill elements (what you are expected to be able to do) and risk management elements (what you should consider). It is important to know that the FAA does not require the evaluator to test every element. I can choose at least one knowledge element, one risk management element along with all the skill elements to include in my test plan. I also must cover all missed questions from the knowledge test. This means if an applicant makes a high score on the knowledge test, the Oral Exam portion of the Practical Test could actually take less time than in the “good old days” when we were using the PTS. The ACS also puts more emphasis on aeronautical decision making and risk management so applicants are expected to determine if something that is possible and/or legal might not be a good idea. You should spend time reading the ACS including the introduction and appendices in order to become familiar with the structure and philosophy of this “road map” to the test.

8. What else is different about the Practical Test?

First, you need to realize that you are required to demonstrate and explain things. This means you expected to apply what you know to a scenario or situation that could arise. For example, instead of asking what documents you are required to have in your possession, I might ask you to explain how you determined that you are able to legally and safely act as pilot in command of the proposed flight today? This would require you to know about and explain things like required personal documents, currency, fitness for flight, etc.

9. Important: The airplane you bring MUST be equipped with shoulder harnesses.


If you have any additional questions, please contact me directly or consider purchasing the “Insider’s Guide to the Practical Test”.