Once your private-pilot examiner is comfortable with the thought of flying with you, it’s time to get airborne. The questioning part actually continues as you describe what you’re doing and the examiner asks additional questions during your flight.
What will the flight exam cover? Just about everything you’ve learned thus far. Though the examiner uses the Private Pilot Practical Test Standards as a guideline, he or she will combine maneuvers into a single directive to help you illustrate what you’ve learned. For example, the examiner might simulate an emergency (“You just lost your engine. What are you going to do?”) to help you illustrate a wide variety of flying skills.
Remember, you can practice your flight examination using flight simulation programs. Microsoft Flight Simulator, for example, includes a “Private Pilot Checkride” under flight lessons. It offers a good opportunity to test your flying skills at home.
What will the flight exam, sometimes called the checkride, cover? Here’s what’s typical:
- Preflight inspection
- Pretakeoff (start, run-up, taxi)
- Takeoff and climb
- Radio communications, including opening a flight plan (if you don’t have a radio this will be tested by oral questioning)
- En route flying using pilotage and dead-reckoning navigation skills
- Ground-reference maneuvers
- Short- and soft-field takeoffs and landings
- Ability to quickly read and interpret your airplane’s instruments
- Ability to maintain altitudes and headings within specific ranges
- Handling simulated emergencies
- Ability to fly safely
What is the major reason why student pilots fail their checkride? Inappropriate flying caused by nervousness. Doing something really dumb when you know better. Relax!
What should you do if you get an examiner who seems to have an attitude? Be patient. Most examiners take their job very seriously and want to put a little pressure on you to see how you respond. They want to help you realize that safety is more important than ego. So be patient and be thankful that the examiner is willing to give you this opportunity to learn about yourself — and to display our cockpit cool!