Ace Your Private Pilot Checkride: Essential Tips for Success

Ace Your Private Pilot Checkride: Essential Tips for Success

By Josh Page, CFI

The private pilot checkride is the finish line to your flight training. Or if you’re going all the way through to the airlines, the private pilot checkride is a monumental mile marker along your aviation journey. There’s nothing like hearing the examiner say to you, “Congrats, you are now a certified pilot”! All your hard work, all your long hours of study, all those stressful moments in the cockpit have finally paid off. This is the dream for every aviator, so let’s talk about essential tips for success.

Make Sure You’re Ready — Lean on Your Instructor’s Perspective

Trust your instructor when they tell you you’re ready or not for your checkride. They know what to expect in the practical test and they can assess your skill level accurately. There’s nothing wrong with taking a little bit more time to ensure that you can demonstrate the private pilot maneuvers to the checkride standards and pass the oral exam without issue. I’ve had students who were more than ready for the flight portion, but their ground knowledge just wasn’t quite up to par. They took a bit more time to study and then they were more than ready for their checkride. I’ve also had students who knew their ground knowledge incredibly, but they just needed a bit more time to improve on their flight maneuvers. By taking that extra time to prepare, not only was their skill level better, but their confidence was also a lot higher! If you’re not ready for the checkride, the examiner will know and the checkride will end in a disapproval. Make sure you’re ready. The opposite is also true — If your instructor says you’re doing great and you’re ready to go for your checkride, trust them! Go into it with a humble confidence.

Do a Mock Checkride with Another Instructor

When you get into the cockpit with your Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE) on the day of your checkride, they will be unfamiliar to you and your nerves will already be going strong. It’s helpful to have already experienced being in the cockpit with someone you don’t normally fly with and to have demonstrated the private pilot maneuvers to them. Doing a mock checkride with another instructor can provide you valuable feedback. Has someone ever said something to you that just clicked even though it was something your parents always told you? You just needed it to come from someone else! Sometimes this is the case when flying with someone other than your familiar instructor! This will prepare you for the big day you get into the plane with your unfamiliar DPE.

Hit the Books & Chair Fly

It takes a lot of effort to successfully pass your checkride. You will need to put in the work and study. Thankfully, there are so many excellent resources to help you in your preparation — from checkride study guides, free FAA training publications, and YouTube where you can find great videos to help explain all kinds of different elements of your private pilot training. In addition to studying, it’s beneficial to chair fly. This is exactly as the name suggests: Sit in your chair at home and imagine you’re in the cockpit of your plane. Step by step, go through each of your maneuvers as if you were really flying the plane. Reach your hands out where they should go. Say each step out loud. Use your checklist. This will keep the maneuvers fresh in your mind. Study and chair fly regularly leading up to your checkride.

Relax and Take Your Time

This one cannot be stressed enough. You never want to rush into a maneuver. Always take your time setting the maneuvers up — complete your clearing turns, mark your heading while also taking note of some visual cue outside, and configure the plane properly for that particular maneuver. When all this is set, now you may begin your maneuver. When students rush, crucial steps are forgotten, and the maneuver won’t be performed to the ACS standards. You’ve worked so hard for this day, so there is no need to race through it. Take your time. If you make a mistake, relax! It’s okay. Make the necessary correction to your error and continue on with the checkride calm and focused. I’ll never forget my CFI checkride. I was so nervous that day and I rushed into a maneuver like never before. As a result, I messed up my lazy eights maneuver so badly. The DPE felt really bad, but he had no choice but to give me a disapproval. Though I felt crushed, I learned a valuable lesson to relax and not rush. It’s never worth it. When I returned a week later, I was much calmer and I took my time. Thankfully, I passed with no problem!

So, whether your private pilot checkride is your finish line to now flying recreationally with friends and family, or if it’s one of many monumental mile markers along your aviation journey to the airlines, go into it set up for success so that you can enjoy the fruit of all your labor! 

By Josh Page, CFI

Northstar Aviation References brings you the Pre-Tabbed ASA FAR/AIMDIY tabs for your FAR/AIM and other pilot resources so that you can more easily study the regulations that form the foundation of your flying career or hobby. Have any questions? Check out our FAQs page or contact us. Check out other blog posts here