The Checkride

My original plan for my private pilot checkride was to do it on July 5th, giving me ample time to study during the holiday, and a chance to fly twice before the checkride. Unfortunately, the weather was not cooperative, and I had to reschedule for the following Thursday.

At the time of the checkride, I had not flown in over two weeks. Flying is not like riding a bike, after a few weeks you loose a bit, that’s one reason why the FAA has recencey requirements before pilots can take passengers.

The night before the checkride, I studied a variety of material. The checkride consists of a 1-2 hour oral exam, and a flight with the examiner. Its a lot different than the required written test. The examiner can ask you about anything, and do just about anything during the flight.

Needless to say, I didn’t really get a lot of sleep the night before the checkride. To make matters worse, I had to get up at 5:30am to get to the airport early in order to have everything set for the examiner. I needed to get a weather briefing from the FAA, finalize my weight and balance with the actual weight of the plane, finalize my cross country flight plan, preflight the plane, and check all the maintenance records of the aircraft before the examiner arrived at 8:30am.

The examiner arrived, and for the first 30 minutes we spent fighting Internet Explorer to access the FAA site for dealing with license applications. Once that was over, we went in to the oral portion of the checkride.

The oral exam was probably a little bit over an hour. We covered the maintenance records, licensing requirements, airspace, weather, and went over my flightplan and charts in detail. The oral exam went very well, mostly do to my extensive studying and preparation.

I preflighted the airplane before the examiner arrived, so it was ready to go when we finished the oral. I fired up the engine and began to taxi. I did my brake test (the plane moves 2ft) before fully looking for traffic in the taxiway. Sure enough, there was a Piper taxing down.

The runup and takeoff went without a hitch, and I started my cross country flight to Ocean City, MD. After hitting my first two checkpoints about 2 miles west of where I should have been, the examiner diverted me to Summit. I managed to navigate to Summit without issue. At Summit, I managed to fly the worse traffic patterns imaginable. I was really nervous, but I did short, soft, and normal takeoffs and landings.

After Summit, the examiner instructed me to fly northwest, where we proceeded to do a variety of maneuvers. Power off stalls, power on stalls, unusual attitudes, and steep turns. We also talked a bit about emergency procedures. The maneuver portion of the checkride went well, especially compared to my less than perfect pattern work at Summit.

The flight back to my home airport was uneventful. Afterward, I found out that I passed, and the examiner gave me a few items that I should work on in the future. Overall, if you are properly prepared, the private pilot checkride is straightforward. The trick is to make sure that you fly a few days before the checkride, and to try to not be too nervous, which is easier said than done.

Now, I’m going to take a few months off of training before I begin my instrument training in the fall.


  • Dan Clune

    Congratulations Alex.

  • http://aviation.pilottoolz.com K Webdaddy

    Good job Alex. I just passed my checkride as well and know exactly what your talking about. I was lucky and kept flying right up until the day before the checkride. In fact I flew to the examiners location the day before and that made a world of difference. Again good job and stay safe. – WD