Preparing for an FAA Practical Check Ride

A guide from the examiner

Personal Preparation

Its only natural to be stressed and a little apprehensive about taking check rides.  Most of us (and probably everyone) experience that feeling.  We strive for excellence and to reduce your stress by keeping the test as low-key as possible.  By being adequately prepared, you'll find that the check ride will be less stressful and more than likely an enjoyable event.

  • First and foremost PREPARE YOURSELF!
  • Below are a few tips to ensure you are mentally, emotionally, and physically prepared for your check ride:
  • Be well rested and (to the extent possible) free of any stress and distractions.
  • Make sure you've eaten before the check ride. You may snack during the oral, and will also have an opportunity to grab a snack prior to flight.
  • Postpone the test if you are sick or not feeling well. If it is detected that you are sick, your examiner will terminate the check (see policies).
  • Dress comfortably; but for safety, no flip flops, sandals, high heels, etc.
  • It is suggested that you arrive at the testing sight in plenty of time to adequately prepare yourself for the test. Also (if possible), do not have any commitments for several hours after the planned completion of the test (just in case there are any unexpected delays or complications).

Prepare the Airplane

The airplane must be airworthy (legal) and appropriate for the check ride.

  • It is recommended that you thoroughly preflight (and maybe flight test) the airplane immediately before the scheduled check so that you have time to resolve any mechanical issues (or arrange for a backup airplane) prior to the test beginning. If the FBO/flight school or the aircraft’s schedule does not allow for this, you may schedule the airplane approximately 2 hours after our scheduled appointment starts. For the purposes of the flight planning, you may use a generic POH/AFM for the make and model of the plane being used for the flight test. However, you will need the empty weight and moment for the airplane we are using.
  • If a GPS equipped aircraft will be used on a check ride for an Instrument Rating or ATP, the unit must be IFR certified, and the navigation database must be current. Note: Portable GPS devices will not be permitted on any flight test.
  • Ensure that the aircraft is legally airworthy, which means all required inspections and other maintenance requirements have been performed, and there are no inoperative items that have not been addressed in compliance with FAR 91.213.
  • Ensure the aircraft’s logbooks are available and properly endorsed. You will need to bring them to the test for examination. It is recommended that you tag or mark the required inspections and maintenance items for easy reference.
  • If you are taking your check ride at Walker County Airport - Bevill Field (KJFX) arrive early to familiarize yourself with the airport, surrounding areas, runway and ramp facilities.

Prepare the Paperwork

In order to get off to a good start, the paperwork needs to be right. If it's not, the process will take longer, or the check may have to be postponed.

  • The use of IACRA is strongly encouraged for the application process. If IACRA will be used, make sure that you bring a completed application (form 8710-1), in case there are problems accessing or completing the IACRA application process. If you (or your instructor) elect not to use IACRA, ensure that the application (8710-1) is properly completed and signed. Sign using Blue Ink, this makes it easier for FAA personnel to determine that this is an original document. The application must be typed or completed electronically. A fillable PDF version of the 8710-1 form is available here.  This AOPA article covers some of the most common 8710-1 errors, and is especially useful if filling out your 8710-1 by hand
  • We’ve prepared three checklists that will help ensure that you meet the eligibility requirements for the test. These are the same checks that will be used during the qualification process.
  • Appointment Information Checklist- I use this form to help identify any issues related to your identity, documents, or the test that may become an issue in establishing eligibility to execute the practical test. By doing so prior to the test date, any such issues can be identified and resolved ahead of time.
  • Verify Eligibility - Please review Part 61—Certification: Pilot, Flight Instructors, and Ground Instructors to ensure you meet all applicable training and eligibility requirements for the rating you are seeking.  Should you have any questions or doubt do not hesitate to contact us for clarification. Please note that it will be helpful (and save time) if you add up the column totals in your logbook pages.
  • Check Ride Checklist- This downloadable checklist can be used to serve that you have all required items in hand prior to showing up for your practical test.  Having the required items will ensure that your event will occur as efficiently as possible.

What to Expect


  • The first thing we will need to do (after collecting the required fee) is to verify that you’re qualified to take the test. This process involves checking your application (8710-1), logbook, and identification. While the paperwork is being examined as well as the aircraft log books, you will be busy completed the necessary flight planning to the day’s flight. Then I will give you a Pre-test Briefing, and then begin.
  • If you are a foreign national or a non-native English speaker, a simple and short English language test must be administered at this time (in accordance with AC60-28). Check this link for a sample of the test.
  • Please let me know prior to the day of the check ride if any of the following apply:
    • You hold a foreign pilot certificate, and are seeking an additional rating, certificate, or removal of limitations.
    • If you hold a dual citizenship.
    • If you are re-testing - you must bring your 8040-5.


  • If there was a flight plan assigned, it will be reviewed in detail, and will likely be a substantial part of the oral.  There will also be questions selected from each task in the ACS, as well as on any questions missed on the knowledge (written) test.  There are no trick questions. If you are well prepared (using the ACS) you should have no problem. I would suggest that you bring your reference materials (POH/AFM, FAR/AIM, studying materials, etc...). While most of the oral exam is closed book, there are some limited items that may be able to be looked up.


  • Assuming the oral goes well and after a short break followed by a pre-flight briefing, we will move onto the flight portion.  Again the ACS is the guide. As per the ACS, perfection is NOT the standard.  It may help to visualize this part of the test as an opportunity to show off your skills, and try to have fun doing so.

Keys to Success


  • The FAA Examiner will be using a written Plan of Action to organize the practical test.
  • The Examiner will be taking notes for the debrief, and to ensure check was conducted per his checklist.
  • Oral questioning will continue throughout the test. ASA Oral Exam Guides are strongly recommended as study guides for all applicants.


  • Pass: A Temporary Airman Certificate will be issued.
  • Fail: A Notice of disapproval of application will be issued.  Credit may be given for Areas of Operation and tasks completed.
  • Letter of Discontinuance: Issued in the event the test cannot be completed once it has begun. This is not a failure, and credit will be given to those Areas of Operation and Tasks completed.


  • Daylight & VFR conditions are required for all tests except:
    • Tests for an Instrument Rating, ATP, or MEL add-on can be conducted at night.
    • Tests for ATP can be conducted at night, under IFR or VFR, and in limited IFR conditions.
    • Tests for a Commercial or ATP can be conducted if an IFR departure is needed to reach VFR conditions, provided that the applicant holds an instrument Rating, and is current on instruments (as required by 61.57). The same hold true if an instrument approach is necessary to return to the airport of departure.


  • For Instrument Rating, Commercial, or ATP applicants: If a Flight Training Device is to be used, I need a copy of the Letter of Authorization for that device prior to the flight check.  Note that the number of tasks allowed to be performed in a FTD is very limited. Refer to the appropriate ACS.


  • The address on the 8710 and medical certificate should be you home address (permanent mailing address) and not the school's address. If you wish to have a certificate mailed to the school (or somewhere other than your home address) it should be noted on a separate piece of paper. If using IACRA, there is a place to indicate such.
  • It's is highly recommended that you allow 2-4 weeks between the expected date of your check ride and your return home. This will allow some addition time in case your course completion and check ride is delayed for any reason.
  • If you hold a dual citizenship, you must first be cleared by the FSDO before taking the practical test.  Note that IACRA cannot be used.


  • The test may be discontinued at anytime by either the FAA Examiner (Gordo) or the applicant (you).
  • The failure of one or more task will result in the failure of the associated Area of Operation, and therefore a failure of the test.
  • In the event of a failure of a Task or Area of Operation, the examiner may elect to continue the test with the concurrence of the applicant, in order to complete as many Tasks and Areas of Operation as possible or practical.
  • If a maneuver or question does not go well, we suggest that you put it behind you and try to continue with check in order to get as much credit as possible. If you elect to continue with the test, the examiner will usually elect to continue the test unless he thinks that you are unable to put it behind you and concentrate on flying the airplane and the task at hand, or if there will be extensive re-training required. Depending on the nature of the failure, it may be entirely possible that we could do a successful re-test after some additional training on the same day.
  • If possible, we suggest that you arrange for the instructor who endorsed you, to be available to clear up any paperwork or qualifying issues that may arise. We also suggest that you have your (or another) flight instructor available in the event of a failure. If it’s just a matter of cleaning up a couple of things, time and schedule permitting, the instructor could immediately provide the additional necessary training, re-sign you off, and the re-check could be completed that same day. The fee for a re-check will depend on the extent of the re check needed.