“Silence is a good thing,” Carey says. “If I’m not saying anything, everything is going right.”
In addition to conducting one or several mock test flights, you should find out as much as you can about the personality of your examiner. Carey, who was my examiner for the most difficult check ride I ever took — the initial CFI test — has a habit of leaning back in his chair and rolling his big blue eyes back into their sockets. Whether this behavior is intentional or not, it can be quite intimidating to a CFI candidate as he or she is attempting to teach complex concepts from a lesson plan. I was forewarned of the eye rolling, so when it happened it was an expected behavior that made me smile rather than creating an increased level of stress.
Organization is key to being a successful pilot. Make sure that you have all the documents and equipment you need for your check ride. Again, the PTS is a great help. There is a section called Aircraft and Equipment Required for the Practical Test that breaks down some of the details, and most PTS documents include a comprehensive checklist that covers the items you need to bring, including the check for the examiner.
Some equipment may or may not be acceptable to your examiner. For example, an iPad may not be allowed on the flight test, so check long before the exam to make sure that you have time to practice using the type of equipment that is acceptable to your examiner.
And don’t rely too heavily on available cockpit technology. Even if you have a GPS in the airplane, your examiner may require you to fly strictly by dead reckoning while evaluating your cross-country skills.
“I can only fail one thing,” Carey says. “If you have a Garmin G1000 airplane and I’ve failed the PFD and you push that little red button and it all goes over to the MFD, I can’t do any more to you.” And while a full G1000 failure would most likely be acceptable cause to discontinue the flight test, Carey recommends that you come prepared to fly with both the PFD and MFD failed. “I’ve had that happen, believe it or not,” he says.
Know Your Airplane
The most important piece of equipment is, of course, the airplane in which you will take your check ride. Flying an airplane that you are intimately familiar with will greatly reduce your stress level. If you’re renting the airplane in which you are going to get tested and you haven’t looked at the maintenance manuals for a while, request to see them a week or two before the test. You may even want to mark the pages to make it easier to find each entry since the examiner will likely want to see them.
Make sure that all the maintenance requirements are current, such as the annual inspection and the transponder, ELT and pitot-static system checks. If you are using a GPS, make sure the database is up to date, and, for the instrument ride, make sure there is a recent VOR check.
Also, for rentals, make sure the airplane is not getting too close to the 100-hour inspection. Dave So, who recently became a private pilot, knew the airplane was getting close to the 100-hour inspection. Unfortunately, “on the day of the check ride we checked and somebody had taken the airplane out the day before, leaving only 0.7 hours. So we weren’t able to fly it.”