Supply and DPE Demand
How Preparation Can Aid Checkride Success and Maximize Designated Pilot Examiner Availability
By Tim Pence, FAA Regulatory Support Division
These days, it’s hard not to notice the abundance of “Help Wanted” signs whenever you’re out at a store or restaurant. More often than not, employees within those establishments are attempting to do more with less. In these situations, efficient utilization of a limited resource is paramount to success. The same holds true with the process of preparing for, scheduling, and conducting a practical test or “checkride.” Let’s take a look at what can be done to ensure you, or your student/applicant, are able to complete the entire practical test on the day of a checkride.
Verify to Qualify
I am reminded of an experience relayed to me by a designated pilot examiner (DPE) regarding a checkride that was scheduled a month in advance, long before the applicant was ready to take the test. While it is important to project forward and to have a general sense of expectations, students learn tasks at different intervals. Predicting readiness for an exam is not an exact science.
Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE): an individual appointed under 14 CFR section 183.23 to conduct pilot certificate tests on behalf of the FAA.
That said, a week out from the scheduled checkride, the designee reached out to the instructor and applicant and inquired as to the status of the training and the online Integrated Airmen Certificate and/or Rating Application (IACRA). Unfortunately, this application would not be ready until the night before the checkride. The applicant flew about 35 minutes to where the designee was based to conduct the checkride, and it took about an hour to qualify the applicant. The student, in this case, struggled to find the necessary endorsements, flight hours, etc., in order to demonstrate qualifications for the certificate and rating they were seeking. Despite the designee’s best effort to keep the mood light, the applicant was too nervous and worked up from trying to find the necessary entries that the designee decided to postpone the checkride and reschedule. This designee did so in the better interest of the applicant while not collecting a fee. The designee knew that starting a checkride while worked up would most likely cause the applicant to fail unnecessarily. Unfortunately, this also robbed other qualified applicants that were ready to go for their checkride from obtaining a slot that day.
Preparation is Key
Being ready for your checkride requires a lot of energy and hard work; completing extensive training, laying out thousands of dollars toward your goal, and placing maximum effort into studying. Your flight instructor must also determine that you are ready and may have already set you up with another instructor as a “discount double check” or stage check. After all that, you might feel like you’re ready to go, but are you? The last thing anyone wants on checkride day is to have to track your instructor down to get a last-minute endorsement. This brings us to the main point of this article: preparation.
Making Your List, and Checking it Twice
There are many articles, applications, test prep books, etc., that provide checklists for the documents that you will need to take with you for the checkride. Look no further than Page A-11 within the current private pilot Airman Certification Standards (ACS) appendix section, or Page 23 within the current Flight Instructor practical test standards (PTS). These pages contain the “practical test checklist.” Keep in mind that the designee must qualify the applicant and the aircraft that is to be utilized prior to initiating the checkride. Let’s take a deeper look at some of these items and offer a few tips to help you get ready.
Each certificate or rating has aeronautical experience requirements that are either met by 14 CFR part 61 specific to the certificate or rating, or by completing an FAA-approved course under 14 CFR part 141.
- In either case, there are specific solo, cross-country, or instrument flight time requirements. Sit down with your flight instructor and notate/tab each of these requirements and where they are met in your logbook.
- Review all cross-country flights that are utilized to meet the above requirements to ensure that they are applicable.
- Ensure that you have totaled the completed pages of your logbook (assuming anyone is using paper logbooks now), that your logbook is legible, and that the hours match section 3 of the Airman Certificate and/or Rating Application (Form 8710–1).
- Ensure that you have the proper endorsements to act as pilot in command on the checkride, because you will be the pilot in command.
- Ensure that you and your instructor have reviewed the most current version of Advisory Circular 61–65H, Certification: Pilots and Flight and Ground Instructors, for sample endorsements.
Before the test may begin, the designee must determine that the aircraft is in an airworthy condition and is suitable for the test. While this is separate from testing on the airworthiness requirements task, it is nonetheless required prior to the test proceeding.
- Review the aircraft logbooks in advance and ensure that each required inspection and airworthiness directive has been documented.
- Tab the aircraft logbooks to bring quick attention to the appropriate entries.
- Remember the AV1ATE acronym for airworthiness (or your favorite memory aid).
VOR test (every 30 days)
100 hour inspection (if operated for hire/flight training)
Altimeter and static air system test (every 24 months)
Transponder test (every 24 months)
ELT test (every 12 months or after half listed life of battery or 1 hour of continuous use)
- If there are task(s) with reference to instruments as part of the checkride, be sure to have your view-limiting device with you and in the aircraft.
- Have your copy of the Pilot Operating Handbook or Aircraft Flight Manual with you.
- Have immediate accessibility to the applicable parts of the Code of Federal Regulations and the Aeronautical Information Manual.
- If there is a cross-county flight plan as part of the scenario, please have the planning and calculations completed in advance. The designee may still have you show how the calculations were completed; however, if the planning is done the day of the checkride early enough, your instructor will be able to review it.
- If utilizing an electronic flight bag, make sure the device is fully-charged and the aeronautical data is current.
Recommending Instructor or Pilot School Manager:
The role of the pilot school and recommending instructor is to help decrease the stress of the applicant on the day of the checkride.
- Have you reviewed and qualified your applicant?
- Have you answered any last-minute questions?
- Have you ensured that the scheduled aircraft has a little flexibility in case the oral portion runs long?
- As the student-turned-applicant looks at you, are you exuding confidence in their ability to pass this checkride?
- Are you available in case your student needs last-minute assistance (e.g., amending an endorsement, correcting IACRA entry, etc.)
Designated Pilot Examiner:
- Request to review IACRA/Form 8710–1 in advance by one or two days for possible corrections.
- Request that the aircraft documents necessary to demonstrate airworthiness are prepared and reviewed in advance by the candidate, and, if the situation allows, be scanned and sent in advance. (This cannot substitute for a final review; however, it can certainly speed things up.)
- Consider sending an email with directions on how to ensure qualifications to each applicant and their instructor prior to the day of the checkride.
The general aviation flight training community maintains a symbiotic relationship among the student/applicant, flight instructor, flight school, designated pilot examiner (DPE), and the FAA. As part of a broader mission to promote National Airspace System safety, each participant takes an active role in ensuring that training, testing, and oversight is held to the highest standard.
Addressing Supply and DPE Demand
With that in mind, the FAA is listening to the aviation community and has recently stepped-up efforts to add DPEs and ensure better utilization of the designee workforce. Using a data-driven approach, the FAA reviewed areas of concern across the country to determine where additional designees are most needed and has begun the selection process to bring on additional help.
A good way to further improve efficiency within the DPE workforce is to take heed of the tips mentioned earlier and avoid requesting a checkride before knowing both the applicant and aircraft are eligible. Being better prepared will reduce a major stressor on the designee system and will help place the applicants at ease knowing there should be no surprises come checkride day.
Tim Pence is an aviation safety inspector with the FAA’s Regulatory Support Division and a subject matter expert for the Delegation Program Branch. He holds an airline transport pilot certificate and is a Gold Seal Flight Instructor.