Earlier today, after several paperwork and weather delays, I passed my FAA Practical Test (or checkride) for the Private Pilot Single Engine Land certificate with Dave Morss In N5156X.

Flying Citabria N5156X on my First Solo Cross Country Flight While I'm not going to re-write the details of the experience or claim that I did everything perfectly, I'd like to pass along a few tips to anyone planning to take the test.


Simply put, it's all about preparation. The more practice you have, the more you've been flying recently, and the more you've studied the required material, the more routine the whole experience will seem.

  1. Learn The Practical Test Standards (PTS)
    These are the rules that tell you what to expect and govern how the Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE) will judge your performance. If you know them well, there should be no surprises on the Big Day.
  2. Learn The Required Knowledge
    Of all the books I've tried, the most well organized and comprehensive is published by the government. The FAA publication FAA-H-8083-25, otherwise known as the Pilot's Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge (available from Amazon.com in print form), is incredibly helpful. Not only that, but it's available for free on-line. Your tax dollars at work.
  3. Use VideosIn addition to all the reading, I'm a big fan of using DVDs to reinforce what I need to know. I wrote about this previously in FAA Private Pilot Test Prep DVDs from King Schools vs. Sporty's, but the quick version is this: get the King Schools DVDs. They're a little cheesy but very useful.
  4. Practice, Practice, Practice.
    Simply put, fly a lot. And try to get to the point that you're doing all the required maneuvers well within the tolerances specified in the PTS (see point #1). Then you'll have some wiggle room when it comes to the test day and you're a bit nervous.
  5. Reconnaissance
    Find out what you can in advance about your DPE. Ask others who've had check rides with him or her recently. Are there particular areas that seem to get more attention? Brush up on those.
  6. Get Organized
    Make a list of all the materials you need for the Big Day and have them together the night before. You don't want to be scrambling around looking for paperwork on the morning of your test.

Checkride Supplies

Of course, I had help...

Thanks to the instructors at Amelia Reid Aviation who've been flying with me off an on for the last year or so, especially Jim Grant and Dave Gray. If you're looking for primary flight training or tailwheel transition in the Bay Area, I highly recommend them. Thanks also to Al, the resident mechanical genius, for keeping the plane in flying shape. :-)

Other pilots reading this, please add your comments below. What did you do that really helped in preparation for your checkride.

See Also

Others posts about my flight training:

What'd I miss?

Posted by jzawodn at February 03, 2007 06:11 PM

Reader Comments
# Mark Fletcher said:

Nothing to add except to say Congratulations!

on February 3, 2007 08:42 PM
# Kris Johnson said:


As far as advice to other student pilots goes, I'd just add "relax." The DPE isn't expecting perfection. Prepare as much as you can, but get a good night's sleep before the checkride, and try to enjoy it.

on February 3, 2007 08:58 PM
# Jonathan Hughes said:

Congratulations! So, when can I get a ride in 56X? (since 07S is still waiting for an engine...)


on February 3, 2007 09:50 PM
# VaibhaV Sharma said:

Coolax! Congratulations.

*clicks on the "post to del.icio.us" browser button*. Will refer back for my checkride in the future.

on February 3, 2007 10:04 PM
# Darryl Ramm said:

Congratulations. I hope there is a tow endorsement in your future.

Six Delta X-Ray ready...


on February 4, 2007 02:36 AM
# liatris said:

Congrats! I still remember my checkride. Almost as well as the day I first soloed. My DPE was really friendly on the ground. Once we got in the air he was all business. Very particular about how he wanted maneuvers done. What do you plan to do with your license?

on February 4, 2007 08:04 AM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

I'll mostly use it for fun, visiting family, and flying to where I keep my glider in the summertime.

on February 4, 2007 08:24 AM
# Henri Bergius said:

Well, as long as you don't do it like I did, traveling overnight from a party in Russia for the check flight in the morning, and get food poisoning over all that... :-)


But yeah, congrats!

on February 4, 2007 08:51 AM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:


After we replace the oil cooler.


on February 4, 2007 03:16 PM
# melanie said:

congratulations! reading this really make me miss flying! if you ever get a chance to meet jeff marconette (he owns the gas co., and used to own inbound aviation which is directly to amelia's - it's called something else now), tell him melanie says hello.

main piece of advice: do your best to sleep the night before!

now that you have your license, i highly recommend flying to a lil airport called shelter cove just north of san francisco. the airport has a tiny airstrip which makes for a fun landing. there is a very cute little town to explore as well. :)

on February 5, 2007 03:50 PM
# Bob Lisbonne said:

Congrats! If the first solo is thrilling, passing the checkride is satisfaction. All that stuff you've heard about a "license to learn" is true, so (as if you needed any encouragement) now go out and fly, early and often.
Be safe and have fun!

on February 5, 2007 04:38 PM
# Eric Gideon said:

Jeremy, congratulations! I'm envious of the fact that you earned your private in a tailwheel aircraft - the hour and a half or so of Champ and Decathlon time I have was incredibly fun. I've also enjoyed seeing Dave race at Reno the past several years... sounds like the checkride could have been challenging.

Your list is a great set of tips for private pilot candidates, too - I also used the King video course, although back then it was on about 30 CDs, and it was a great help. The Pilot's Handbook is an incredible resource as well - and when you move on to other ratings, the Instrument Flying and Aviation Instructor's Handbooks are also available for free online.

on February 5, 2007 05:30 PM
# Phil Windey said:

Congratulations Jeremy! Big day and lots of fun to follow.

on February 5, 2007 09:16 PM
# Jason Z said:


How many hours of instruction did it take overall? Just wondering if the glider experience cut down substantially on your instruction time. Of course, it also appeared that you practiced on your own much more then the average student. Can you characterize your solo practice hours against the "average"?

Leaves just one question: When do I get a ride (in either aircraft)?

on February 6, 2007 07:24 AM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:


I'll have to go back and look at my hours. I definitely had way more than average, mainly because I split my flying time between gliders and powered planes, so I flew the plane less often and didn't push myself very hard to get done. My ~400 hours of glider time *definitely* helped, though. Had I really been working at it, I'd have been done pretty fast, I think.

Let me know whn you plan to be in a few hundred miles of the Bay Area and we'll get you a ride. :-)

on February 6, 2007 10:57 AM
# DM said:

Reading your ongoing flight commentaries have made me more excited than ever to start my course this summer .. great inspiration for a total novice ..

on February 6, 2007 09:08 PM
# Rob Steele said:

Congratulations and happy landings!

on February 7, 2007 08:24 AM
# Steve said:


on February 10, 2007 07:38 AM
# Craig said:


> I'll mostly use it for fun ... flying to where
> I keep my glider in the summertime.

Given the typical local wx you may soon want to complete your IFR rating, if you ever have a schedule to keep. ;-)

On my first soaring safari to MEV I rented a single engine out of HWD for the commute. I kept Fred L. waiting for 4 hours for my field check while I waited for the fog to clear in the bay area (forecast was clear).

It was a fun flight over the Sierras and fortunately the bay was clear of fog when I returned later that evening.

Subsequently I visited MEV on 4 other occasions while on travel in SJ but opted to drive and probably will continue to drive until I complete my IFR rating. With a flexible schedule, obviously going VFR is fine.

Have fun.

on February 16, 2007 06:02 PM
# Miles Kehoe said:

hey good job on your practical.. I'm working on my IFR over at Tradewinds and am *not* looking forward toi that puppy:) Found your link following a link from SearchEngineLand (we're enterprise search guys, just starting our company blog, my flight blog can't be too far behind...


on February 20, 2007 10:44 PM
# Stanley said:


i've found this post via Google! Have anyone translate this text to german?


on September 17, 2007 11:31 PM
# Eduardo Pere said:

Im about to take the writen in 4 days. Im very nervous, and you comments helped and provied some level of what to expect.. thx for putting this up.. and congrats. Hopefully I can share may good news as well..

on October 9, 2008 08:16 PM
# Nick Fernandez said:

Thanks Jeremy,
I took my progress check ride with my flight school today; its basically so the flight school ensures you don’t waist the FAA time when I get to the check ride. Passed the oral but was not able to fly due to high winds 20G24. I have been studying the ASA book, there is so much information; I know it fairly well; we were only able to cover about 20% in the 1 2/3 oral portion. I think having a good grasp of everything is key; your right, you don’t have to be an expert, and don’t try to fudge anything.

on November 22, 2008 12:56 PM
# Okke vanOudgaarden said:

hi there,

i stumbled upon your blog and wound it had some good tips, was wondering if it would be ok to add a link to my web site for it, I am a DPE in Portland, OR


on December 21, 2009 03:36 PM
# Casey said:

Some CFIs and I have put together a website that goes over the FAA checkride PTS step by step. It hits on many of the same things you talked about in this blog and adds a few more.



on February 5, 2010 10:00 AM
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