Check Ride Tips From the Editors

We editors at Flying all strive to grow as pilots, continuously learning new things and gaining new ratings. Within the past year, we've each achieved new pilot certificates. Here's what our experiences were like and some tips specific to each rating that may help you get through yours successfully.

Private Pilot
>>> By Connie Sue White

For many pilots, the Private Pilot check ride was their first. For me it was my second (I had taken the check ride for my Sport Pilot license just over a year prior – see my "Monster Under the Bed" blog). In comparing the two, having experience going into the second ride made a big difference for me in that I knew generally what to expect for the oral and practical test as far as basic procedure. And I had the same designated examiner, Janeen Kochan, with whom I had developed a rapport, so I knew there would be no monster lurking there to do her best to scare me into a pink slip. Finally, the check ride was in the same airplane, one with which I was even more familiar with than the last time — I had logged quite a bit more time in the Remos since my sport check ride.

However, an intricate layer of plain 'ole nerves still remained. One of the keys for me was to not work myself into a tizzy thinking everything on both the oral and practical had to be perfection. That isn't the mandate and the Practical Test Standards gives tolerance limits for performance. The goal for the examiner was to see that I had the knowledge and skill to safely operate the aircraft. And, if on short final it looked like I was going to botch the short-field landing, I knew it would be the perfect time to demonstrate the go around, just as it should be — and as my instructor, Chris Esposito, taught me.

Seaplane Pilot
>>> By Pia Bergqvist

After gaining a stack of pilot ratings over my nearly 13-year flying career, the Seaplane certificate was by far the most fun. Though it had been several years since my last rating, I knew what check rides are all about, so my stress level was lower than it generally is during tests. And with the seaplane rating, the main focus is takeoffs and landings, which in my opinion are the most fun phases of flight.

The seaplane rating can be attained in a weekend. But if you really want to enjoy your time on the water I would highly suggest doing some pre-arrival studying. Read the practical test standards and obtain the knowledge you need to pass the test. The FAA has published a training manual called Seaplane, Skiplane and Floatplane/Ski Equipped Helicopter Operations Handbook. Study these two FAA publications and you’ll be well prepared for the oral exam.

As with any pilot certificate exam, your instructor is the key to passing your test. So make sure that you connect with a respected flight school with experienced instructors. I was fortunate to do my seaplane rating at Alaska Floats and Skis in Talkeetna, Alaska, where there are lakes aplenty. My instructor, Esther Hershberg, prepared me well for the exam and made the training fun as well. She successfully instilled the confidence I needed to successfully pass the test on the first attempt. The most challenging part of the training was the glassy water landing, but when it came to the flight test that landing was smoothest glassy I had ever done.

Commercial Pilot
>>> By Stephen Pope

Before I took the check ride for the commercial multiengine rating a few months back, my instructor gave me some great advice. He told me perfection was not the standard by which I would be judged. Inspectors and designated pilot examiners follow the practical test standards, which spell out the tasks a pilot applicant must complete. As long as I stayed within acceptable tolerances, I should do fine, he said.

Also, unlike during the private check ride, the commercial ride requires that special attention be paid to professionalism. After all, once you earn your commercial ticket, you can be paid to fly, and that carries with it a whole new level of responsibility. For me, professionalism meant acting, and even dressing, a certain way. I approached the test very much as I would a flight with a paying passenger. That included flying with a smoothness that wasn’t expected of me during my private or instrument check rides. And it paid off: At one point during the test, the examiner actually thanked me for using the rudder properly.

I also made a conscious choice not to allow my apprehension about being graded by an examiner to affect my performance. If I let my nervousness get the best of me, my chances of passing would only go down. I had to convince myself of the truth of this, but in the end I approached the check ride in a more relaxed frame of mind, and that also boosted my confidence and helped me ace it.

CitationJet Type Rating
>>> By Robert Goyer

The first type rating is a big deal, so I was understandably nervous when it came time for the test for my Cessna CitationJet single-pilot type rating at Simcom in Orlando. My examiner was longtime CJ pilot, instructor and examiner Bill Ball, who had in the early phases of my training, put me through the ringer — there's so much to learn — but with grace and class and humor. So when it was time for my test, I knew what I was up against: a tough sim ride with a fair examiner.

The practical itself was as tough as could be. It seems as though I flew half of it single-engine, and by the end, I had not one, not two, but three single-engine go-arounds, the last of which was flown with a prodigious fuel imbalance thanks to burning a lot of virtual kerosene out of one side for a long period of time. Some of my approaches, single-engine and partial panel ones, were far from pretty. But I got the job done and got my single-pilot ticket. I was smiling for weeks afterward.

My biggest piece of advice for anyone taking any check ride would be this: Be tougher than nails. Go in expecting the examiner to give you the check ride from hell, so when it happens, it won’t surprise you and you’ll be up for the challenge.

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