All posts tagged 'checkride anxiety'

Commercial Pilot Check Ride Prep

Pilot Check Ride Prep

For any pilot looking to chase a career in aviation and especially those who have already passed their flight training days, we all have to experience the dreaded check ride. All the time, money and energy put into completing the requirements count on this one day-and it’s the most nerve wracking thing. If you’re like any pilot you can’t sleep the night before, you show up to your testing place early to restudy everything because you managed to forget it all that morning, and if the smallest thing goes wrong you’re discouraged. But it all becomes worth it when you shake your examiner’s hand as they pass you your new pilot certificate, and you know you earned it. So, let’s talk about some things that might help you pass your commercial check ride:

  • First things first, KNOW YOUR PLANE. Don’t test with a plane on a check ride you’re not familiar with. You should know factors like its glide capability, the systems, Vspeeds etc. This will play a part in both the oral and flight portion of the test. Consider some questions like what type of engine you have or how the electrical system operates. Glide capability comes into play on the engine out scenario and the power-off 180º.
  • Know commercial pilot limitations and where to find them in the regulations. Two questions almost every examiner will ask involve common carriage and holding out. Here’s a hint-both are illegal. You cannot use someone else's plane and charge passengers their rate along with yours. You also cannot go advertising flights for passengers after becoming a commercial pilot, such as “$200 flights round trip to the Bahamas!” with you. That gets into Part 135 operations that has different stipulations, and that you don’t have the privileges to do without a Part 135 certification. This license allows you to operate under 14 CFR 119.1 for flights such as bird chasing, aerial photography and sightseeing (NOT charter flights).
  • Another limitation as a commercial pilot is what you’re restricted to do if you do not have an instrument rating. If you’re unsure of where to find it, check out 14 CFR 61.133. Without an instrument rating, a licensed commercial pilot cannot carry passengers more than 50 nautical miles away from their departure airport. Regulations also restrict carrying passengers at night for hire.
  • Now that you can carry passengers for hire, your flight planning and flying skills should be well developed past what they were as a private pilot. After all, if you’re being paid for these operations you need to be good at them. It comes down to the small things, like turning to a new heading. Don’t throw the bank in there, but smoothly start rolling it in. In short: Make. Everything. Smooth. You want your passengers to be comfortable and feel like they’re flying with an experienced pilot. As for flight planning, use all the resources available for a safe and well-planned flight! This is especially helpful on cross countries, time building to meet testing requirements. One way to do this is finding an airport to refuel for the lowest price. The GlobalAir.com Fuel Mapping tool is perfect for this and ranks airports in a specified radius from lowest to highest fuel price.

The last tip for a commercial check ride, and any check ride for that matter, is to not test until you’re ready. Take it from a pilot with a previous failure and who has talked with other pilots, everything is on your timeline. It’s when you’ve studied and flown enough that you feel you’re truly ready for this new license that it’s time to test. Check rides are stressful and nerve wracking. It’s likely that you’ll fly worse than normal on a test day, and that’s okay because it’s your nerves.

Just remember that safety is the goal, not perfection! Take a breath, take your time, then show the examiner what you’ve been training for.  Do you have any tips that you would like to offer a student pilot you think might help?

How to Get Rid of Check Ride Anxiety


Okay, so maybe there’s no getting rid of check ride anxiety altogether. In fact, a certain level of anxiety is helpful. It keeps you alert and ‘on your toes.’ But no matter how many check rides you take, it never seems to get any easier. Got a case of the check ride jitters? Here are a few ways to minimize your anxiety and maximize your chances of performing well on your check ride.

Take a mock check ride.
A successful mock check ride can be a great tool to help ease check ride anxiety. It’s often done with a more experienced instructor or a chief pilot at the flight school, preferably with someone who has been around for a while and has a successful pass rate of his own. You’ll probably find that the instructor evaluating you on your mock check ride will offer some constructive feedback, but in the end will tell you that you’re more than ready.

Get the gouge.
The actual content of check rides can vary wildly based on location and the check pilots themselves are different, as well. Don’t go in blind, without knowing anything about the examiner! Talk to other students and instructors in the local area before choosing an examiner, and you’ll often find that they charge different rates, have different philosophies and focus on different areas of the PTS. Asking students who have recently completed a check ride for tips is helpful, but always be prepared for anything!

Read through the PTS.
We can often ease anxiety by knowing what to expect, and failing to read through the FAA Practical Test Standards is a common mistake among students. The PTS provides information on how the check ride will be conducted, the examiner’s responsibilities, and the exact standards that you’ll be held to. If you know exactly what to expect, many of your fears may be alleviated.

Follow a checklist for what to bring to your check ride.
Your stress level will increase if you leave for your check ride without something important like, say, your logbook. Or your photo ID. Make a checklist and organize your materials beforehand, and then double-check and triple-check to make sure you have all of the required documents and materials.

Remind yourself that the worst that can happen isn’t really that bad.
So what if you fail? You’ll have to go up with an instructor and obtain a bit more instruction on the maneuver or maneuvers that you didn’t perform to standards during your check ride. Then, you’ll take a re-test and you’ll pass. I once heard an instructor say that your private pilot license just says "Private Pilot" and not "Private-Pilot-Who-Failed-His-First-Check-Ride."

Remind yourself that the examiner actually wants you to do well.
He really does. Most examiners know that by the time you’ve been endorsed by your instructor for a check ride, you’ve put in the hard work. You’ve spent at least 40 hours, maybe 140 hours, practicing maneuvers, and many of those hours were by yourself. The examiner knows that you’re perfectly capable of flying safely. By the time you get to your check ride, it’s just another flight to the practice area.

Remind yourself that your instructor wouldn’t endorse you if you weren’t ready.
If you fail, it’s not just you that fails - it’s your instructor, too. Your flight instructor won’t send you for a check ride if you aren’t ready. It’s that simple.

Think safety.
Your examiner isn’t looking for perfection, just consistency and a safe outcome. Every examiner will have safety in mind. Can you complete the flight safely? By the time you are signed off to take a check ride, you’ve soloed at least 10 hours - probably more - and you’ve demonstrated that you can safely fly to another airport at least 50 miles away and back safely. While on your check ride, always err on the side of safety, and you’ll be just fine.

Prepare, prepare, prepare…
Study, chair fly and spend some time with your instructor going over anything that you don’t clearly understand.

Then prepare some more.
The more prepared you are, the less anxious you’ll be.

Then stop preparing and get some sleep.
Fatigue causes missteps and mistakes. A good night’s sleep is necessary to ensure that you’re at the top of your game. Showing up for a check ride after only a few hours of sleep is always a bad idea.

Bring a lunch.
On the day of your check ride, be sure to eat a healthy breakfast and bring a lunch or at least a few snacks. Things often take longer than you think, whether it’s last-minute calculations on your flight plan or waiting for the maintenance guy to show up to hand over the maintenance logs, you might find that the day moves along slower than you anticipated. And the last thing you want to do is get in the airplane with an empty stomach, depleted of energy after hours of running around on the ground.

Think positive!
It’s normal and healthy to be a bit nervous - it keeps us on top of things. But there’s something to be said for positive thinking, and for knowing that failure is often just part of the process. After you’ve spent countless hours preparing for your check ride, the only thing left to do is to think positively and hope for the best!

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