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PPL Checkride Pointers?

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Well-known member
Nov 28, 2001
I'm almost ready to take my PPL checkride and I want to use my last solo time to practice the checkride as real as can be.

After talking to some of my instructors, they said the examiners usually make you plan a x-country and then divert you (with the inflight E6-B stuff) and along the way you do the maneuvers.

Does anyone have any personal experience with the way their DE has done it? Any CFIs that have some tips?

I just want to cover all the bases I can and I don't want to bust my first ride.
First tip I can give: try to relax. I know it's harder than it sounds, but your CFI won't sign you off for the checkride unless he/she thought you were ready. It's impossible to get rid of all the butterflies - that's normal. Lord knows I probably tossed and turned for all but maybe 3 hours before my ride! Still - the DE wants to pass you. Just go up and show the guy what you know, and you'll be fine.

On the oral - don't show off. Answer the question, and nothing more. DE's love to pick up on the little extra part you threw out there and keep digging until you don't know the answer. Don't BS - if you don't know, say so, and tell the DE where you'd go to find the information. You won't be expected to know everything, and your DE will inevitably find a thing or two that you weren't prepared for.

When you fly - obviously use your checklist for everything. Just relax and fly like you know how to. You should be comfortable with anything in the PTS, so nothing will be a surprise. Relax. Relax. Relax. Release that death grip on the yoke! :D
It's been almost 7 years, but I remember my checkride well, so I'll give you the rundown on mine:

Departed using the 'flight plan' that I created during the oral. Got established on a radial inbound to the VOR (indentify it!), and he promptly diverted me. He gave me a heading and altitude to fly, and we did some hoodwork. After a few turns here and there, he had me take off my hood and told me that I was lost. I used two VOR's to find my position, and he had me fly to the nearest airport - telling him how much time and fuel it would take to get there.

Then we did some ground reference maneuvers, slow flight, a simulated engine failure, and finally some stalls. He did kick the rudder at the last minute during a power on stall to make sure I'd use the rudder instead of the ailerons to keep the plane from spinning.

We finally did some landings, including a short field landing, and both short field and soft field takeoffs. Don't be afraid of going around if you're not happy with your approach! On the final landing he pulled the throttle on downwind and did a power off landing.

That was it! 1.5 hours in the logbook, and I got to fly the plane home as PIC for the first time! There's nothing like it - even the controllers at my Class D home field asked me how it went, and congratulated me. It's a great feeling, and you'll experience it very soon. Good luck! Tell us how it went.
Private pilot ride

I'll give it to you from my point of view as an ex-ERAU stage check pilot who gave final stage checks for the Private certificate.

Standard procedure was to plan a cross-country. We'd really go through the PTS from beginning to end, asking about Private privileges and limitations, medical certificates, being able to charge for a flight versus sharing expenses. We'd discuss ARROW, required equipment for day and night, discuss whether the POH students bought in the bookstore counted as the aircraft's POH. We'd pull out the sectional on which the x-c was planned and go over airspace (I'd have them plan an x-c through a MOA and discuss communications requirements). We'd discuss weather, NOTAMs, the A/FD, etc.

Flight consisted of departing via normal takeoff on the cross-country, diversion, and then starting back on the field. I'd put them under the hood briefly while tracking to a VOR with some climbs, descents and turns to headings. Airwork would be constant-altitude turns, MCA, and the stalls. On the way back I'd "pull" the engine for a high-altitude emergency. At low altitude, ground reference maneuvers of turns around a point and S-turns down a road. Back to the field for shorts and softs with a go-around thrown in along the way, takeoff emergencies including aborted takeoff, engine failure after takeoff (observing to see that the examinee established best glide and looked for an open area; not turning back) pattern emergencies in which they'd lose the engine just before turning base (I wanted to see them go for the threshold) and a no-flap landing.

We had to test for everything at Riddle per the stage check sheet, but I didn't make examinees fly retangular courses because I could tell from pattern work if they knew how to correct for wind drift. This flight turned out to be a very thorough flight, and ran something like 1.7 on the average.

Not many examiners will be as thorough as an ERAU stage check. I never had an FAA practical that was as thorough as a Riddle stage check. Hopefully, this gives you some idea of what to expect on your ride.

Just be as well prepared as possible. Your instructor, if he/she is doing his/her job, should ensure that you're flying stricter than the PTS standards before sending you to the examiner to allow for nerves during the flight. Good luck with your practical.
Many examiners i've delt with will start you out on that XC you planned, go to a couple check points to make sure you know how to keep track of your flight and open and close flight plans with FSS. Then they put you under the hood to simulate flying into IMC and make you do a few turns. They tell the student to divert to some other airport due to the weather they just encountered. Do the E6B stuff, although most examiners i've seen will accept an estimate without using the E6B. Be ready for an engine failure once you get to your diversion airport, they like to pull the power as you are entering the pattern. Then probably do a few shorts and softs there, and a few stalls and steep turns on the way home. Pretty straight forward. You've already done all the stuff you'll be asked to demonstrate, so just relax and do what you know how to do. If you do mess up a maneuver or something, just fess up to it, put it behind you, and ask if it would be alright if you do that maneuver again. They almost always let you have at least one second chance.

Oh, one last thing. Don't let the examiner distract you. It is in the PTS that they should determine if you are able to deal with normal distractions. Usually all they have to do is make it obvious that they are taking notes on what you are doing. Don't let this distract you. Ignore it and fly the plane.

Good luck!
Some stuff I experienced

MY DE'S pet peeves ( yours may be different):

The DE was a nice old guy I learned very early that before turning make sure he sees you look I wound up having to make exagerated head craining moves so he knew I was looking for traffic. ( his vision was not the best)

When diverting to an alternate my DE wanted to see you draw a line from current position to the alternate and turn to it ASAP. ( NO DAWDLING!!)

My DE was very big on hood work - he actually vectored me back to the airport under the hood as a just in case scenario .

In an engine failure carb heat comes on quick as a dead engine cools quickly !

All in all I believe if your DE believes you to be safe than you will do fine
Remember this even though you are nervous you will enjoy the experience after its all over .
when its over you feel like you accomplished something great . Oh and ask yourself "How many licensed pilots live on your block?". Its a great accomplishment !! Chas

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