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pilot's hand checking the controls of the cockpit

The moment your flight instructor believes that you’re ready to become a fully-fledged pilot, they’ll endorse you for a pilot checkride. Also known as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) examination, this checkride is a practical exam that’s designed to test your piloting knowledge and skills. As a student pilot, getting the chance to take the exam is both an exciting and humbling experience. You’ve spent countless hours hitting the aviation books, learning flight terminologies, and taking flight simulator training sessions, so you know that you have what it takes to pass the exam.

Just like any test, you have to prepare for your checkride. The difference, however, is that a pilot checkride is unlike any ordinary exam you’ve taken before. For one thing, the examination consists of two parts—one that tests your knowledge of the duties of a pilot and the other evaluates your skills in maneuvering an airplane. It’ll also be conducted by an FAA Designated Pilot Examiner, not your certified flight instructor.

Due to these factors, you might feel nervous about your checkride, and it’s perfectly normal to do so. You’re one step closer to earning your pilot’s license, after all, so you want to pass the examination at all costs. To help you get ready for the exam, let’s take a look at what you can expect during a pilot checkride. By familiarizing yourself with what goes on in the examination, you can better prepare for your checkride and restore your confidence in yourself.

The Paperwork

Before taking the exam, you need to make sure that all your paperwork is in order. On the day of your checkride, the examiner will ask for and check the following documents:

  • Printed copy of your Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application (IACRA) that must be signed by your instructor
  • Printed copy of your FAA written exam with an endorsement of your instructor
  • Government ID
  • Medical certificate
  • Pilot certification
  • Your logbook
  • Current version of FAR/AIM and any charts you may need

It’s a good idea to have a printed and electronic copy of these documents, so you’ll always have them ready. It also helps to keep them organized to make the examiner’s job easier. Double-check everything that’s written on the documents—from the spelling of your name to the expiration date of your medical certificate. That’s because the slightest discrepancies can lead to the rejection of your application.

The Oral Exam

After the examiner has checked all of your documents and found everything to be in order, you’ll move on to the oral exam portion of the checkride. This is the first significant part of the two-stage examination, and it’ll test you on the information you should already know. The questions typically revolve around what the duties of a pilot are, the flight rules and regulations you need to follow, and elements that should be found in paperwork like your logbook. The examiner may also give you hypothetical emergency flight scenarios and ask you how you’ll handle them.

Since the questions can be anything related to aviation, the examiner won’t expect you to memorize everything you’ve read in the pilot manual. What they’re looking for, however, is your general knowledge of what the FAA considers important for a student pilot to know. The oral exam is also open-book, so don’t hesitate to check your notes if you feel lost. Nevertheless, it’s a good idea to limit the number of times you do this to prove to the examiner that you’ve thoroughly prepared for your oral exam.

The Flight Test

The next and final stage of your checkride is the flight test. During this portion, the examiner will ride with you and ask you to do a series of safety checks and maneuvers. Some of the things the examiner will ask you to demonstrate include performing a slow flight, steep turns, soft field landings, and ground reference maneuvers. Aside from observing your performance, the examiner will also ask you questions regarding your preparations for the flight. This is one way to know whether or not you’ve followed your SOPs.

Between the two stages of your checkride, the flight test is the most nerve-wracking portion. Flying a plane is challenging enough, but having someone watch your every move adds to the stress. Fortunately, you can go through several practice checkrides before the test. This way, you’ll get used to the feeling of flying while someone is evaluating your performance and be more confident on the day of the examination.

Passing your checkride takes you one step closer to earning your pilot license. However, preparing for the examination can be a stressful experience. It would force you to learn by heart all the flight training knowledge you’ve gained, and it’s a great way to build up your nerves of steel. After all, being a pilot comes with a heavy burden as you will be responsible for the lives of your passengers. It’s only fitting that checkrides are rigorous and demanding. It prepares future pilots for safer flights and landings.