What is a checkride for pilots?

Pilot Checkride
There’s nothing more satisfying than passing a checkride!

A pilot checkride is the FAA practical test pilots must pass to receive a particular pilot certification or rating. The checkride is like a final exam after the pilot completes a course, such as the Private Pilot License (PPL) or Instrument Rating (IR). Pilots train with a flight instructor, who practice maneuvers and review knowledge prior to the endorsement exam. CFIs typically provide helpful tips and administer mock exams before the big day. However, the actual checkride exam is administered by an FAA Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE). The DPE must sign off on the pilot’s knowledge and skills during the checkride in order to receive an FAA certification or rating.

What is the oral exam?

In addition to the hands-on flying exam, pilots must also pass an oral exam with the DPE prior to taking the flight exam. However, before taking the oral or practical exam, pilots must first have logged sufficient flight hours and passed the FAA written exam. During the oral exam, the DPE will ask questions about basic aviation knowledge pilots should know with certainty. For example, they may ask about how to respond in certain weather conditions, or ask about logbook information or the aircraft being used in the checkride. Pilots should take their them time when responding during the oral exam. It is better to be thorough than fast.

How hard is it to pass a checkride?

Commercial Pilot Checkride
Epic student Loic Chenge from Belgium passed his commercial multi-engine checkride on his first attempt. Loic trained hard and focused and was completely ready for his exam.

Pilots pass checkrides every day, and most pass on the first attempt. This is because flight instructors prepare students throughout training on all FAA requirements. No CFI wants a student to have to retest. They will even oversee their student pilots in a flight simulator as they prepare them for all types of scenarios. Prepared pilots are more likely to pass. In 2021, FAA data showed that 78% of all PPL pilots passed on their first attempt. In that same year, 79.5% of pilots passed their commercial pilot checkride, and the pass rate for CFI checkrides was 77.9%. Although these numbers are high, it is evident that many pilots failed on the first try. At Epic, we post all first time passes in our monthly newsletter.

Does a checkride failure impact a pilot’s ability to be hired?

Not really. There are many reasons a fully qualified pilot could fail a checkride. A bad case of nerves could cause a pilot to forget to use a preflight checklist or miss some crucial step the DPE has to point out. Anything can go wrong, but a good pilot will use the failure as an opportunity to reflect, practice, and improve. The things you miss on a checkride are things you will never forget again. When interviewing with an airline, pilots are often asked about such moments. Show that you learn from mistakes. This is a valuable trait.

What is the cost of a checkride?

Designated Pilot Examiners (DPEs) set the price for a checkride. The cost can range as high as $1,000, which is another reason you want to pass on the first attempt. DPEs do not work for the FAA, although they are authorized by the FAA. In some areas, you could test with an FAA Aviation Safety Inspector (ASI), although they are less common.

What are some tips for passing a checkride?

Whether you’re going for PPL or multiengine or Part 135 pilot, you can definitely take steps for a positive experience. Some simple prep can make all the difference. Follow the points from this guide, and with your flight training experience, you’ll only need a little luck!

7 Tips for Passing Your Checkride

  • 1. Take your training seriously. Treat every flight like a check ride.
  • 2. Ask other pilots about your DPE ahead of time. It can helpful to have some background.
  • 3. Get plenty of rest the night before your exam. Eat healthy (brain food) to be alert and at your best.
  • 4. Make sure your paperwork is perfect.
  • 5. Communicate clearly. Think before responding, whether with words or actions.
  • 6. Try to approach this flight like any other flight. It really isn’t that different.
  • 7. Relax and enjoy showing off your knowledge. You’re a pilot, and your CFI believes you’re ready!

Checkride Customs

Checkride Bell Ringing
Epic flight students ring a bell after passing a checkride. To paraphrase the classic film “It’s a Wonderful Life,” every time a bell rings, a pilot gets their wings!

Passing a checkride is a cause for celebration. At Epic, our flight students ring a bell, announcing their good news to everyone within earshot. This tradition lets everyone know the student is now a member of a unique club. Another tradition in celebrating flight training achievements is cutting off a pilot’s shirttail after their first solo. This custom was started to show a flight instructor’s newfound confidence in their student’s abilities. In early days of flying, the instructor sat behind the student pilot and would tug on their shirttail to get their attention. After successfully completing the first solo, the instructor would no longer need to do that, hence the cutting. These traditions change and morph over the years and depending on instructors and flight schools. Celebrating a pilot’s achievement is fun no matter how it’s done. Here’s to passing checkrides on the first attempt!

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