FAA Private Pilot Checkride

The Checkride Guide and My Experience

I put together a guide to help my fellow pilots understand what to expect for the FAA Practical and Flight Checkride for the Single Engine Land Private Pilot Certificate. If this guide is useful, please share it with other student pilots.

My exam was not what I had expected. The order in which my D.P.E asked questions was practical, and didn’t strictly follow the Airmen Certification Standards (ACS). I’ve listed everything in the order we covered it during the exam

Before Starting

  1. Log book hours check. The D.P.E will do this and verify the hours with  your IACRA form.
  2. Pilot Bill of Rights – a quick story about a senator and how you have certain rights as a pilot- during your exam and as a private pilot.


Takeoff/Landing Distances:

  1. Don’t over inflate the numbers by a large factor of safety. Go by the book
  2. Ground Roll Takeoff  + Ground Roll Land > Takeoff Distance available
  3. He likes the Cessna POH table values and following the conditions specified in the POH.
  4. Know how to find total runway length, landing distance (lds), takeoff distance from D3 (LGB), and how to find these in the Chart Supplement.
  5. The 50ft number is much better than the ground roll. It is a much more practical figure than the ground roll.
  6. Factors that affect a takeoff or landing:
    1. Weight
    2. Wind
    3. Density Altitude
    4. Technique (normal, short, soft)
    5. Speeds
  7. The Cessna POH has shorts and softs done with 0 flaps. At LBFC we do shorts and softs with 10 degrees.
  8. Takeoff ground roll + landing ground roll and the sum should be less than the length of the runway.


  1. VFR day reserve is 1 hour at least. Plan to land with at least 1 hour of fuel in the tanks.
  2. Don’t inflate the fuel numbers. You can add a reserve at the end if you think you need it, but be sure to have an explanation for the amount you choose.
    1. Method: Fuel Required (FltPlan.com or ForeFlight) + VFR 1 Hour reserve +
    2. Only dip into reserves if you have to divert. Generally, you shouldn’t go into reserves at all and try to land with 1 hour F.O.B.

Weight and Balance:

I planned 4 different W&B’s (normal, no fuel, adverse loading, MTOW) He thought that was a bit extra but at least do the normal and no fuel to prove that the airplane is within limitations. Show him the loading graph in the POH if he asks for how you got the numbers. Also, know where the DATUM is, how fuel burn affects the CG, and the range for the CG.

Utility versus Normal

  1. Explain the G-load for Normal and Utility.
    1. +3.8/-1.52 Normal +4.0/-1.75 Utility (C172)
  2. Explain the difference between the two. What maneuvers you can and can’t do
    1. Utility –  Spins, Normal – can’t (In POH)

Time, Fuel, Distance to Climb & Cruise

This one ties in with the fuel planning. Understand that Cessna’s POH has T,F,DoC in KIAS not KTAS. Cruise performance is done in KTAS. Be able to explain that and he might give you a sample to do. I had the LA Special Flight Rules in my FP and so I needed a second climb from SMO 4,500ft to 8,500ft. He asked me roughly how I would do that climb and the T,F,DoC of it. The cruise was pretty simple. He didn’t ask much about it but he wanted to know where I got my gallons per hour rate and so I referenced the cruise chart.


  1. For Kern Valley, I planned:


This route is fine but he asked me why I chose VNY as a point. In retrospect it really isn’t a good waypoint because of the Burbank Charlie airspace and he asked me to plan a route that is out of the Charlie. He asked for time, distance, and fuel (I had to use the plotter and calculate roughly the numbers in front of him). Turns out, avoiding the Charlie saves time and fuel. He is checking to see if you can anticipate airspaces, can do calculations, and have a plan if you cannot get flight following.

  1. I used FltPlan.com for my routes (KLGB-L05, L05-L45 fuel stop, L45-KLGB)
  2. He asked me to use an E6B (electronic or paper) to show him how to do go from TC to CH on the VFR Nav Log.
  3. Radio Nav, Dead Reckoning, and pilotage ← double check that last one


Equipment Required

  1. Know the order of most restrictive equipment to least.
    1. MEL, Kinds of Operation List (from the AFM), Equipment List (POH), 91.205
  2. Show in the POH where the equipment list is, OR if it states that the equipment list is based on 91.205. Know ATOMATOFLAMES + FLAPS. Write out the acronym if needed

Inspections and Documents On-Board

Tab the Aircraft Book for the inspections, be sure to explain each one, when they are due for the specific plane, and if you can still fly without a transponder or ELT.

A – Airworthiness Cert. (displayed in cabin visible to passengers)

R – Registration

R – Radio Lic. (not req.)


W – W&B

A – annual

V – vor check (not req)

1 – 100 hr (airframe, prop, engine)

A – Pitot, Static System

T – Transponder

E – ELT (ELT Battery as well)

AD’s – What is it? Reoccurring? Can you fly without compliance? Where are they located?

Know that if an equipment is inop, you can placard it as INOP or remove it and get the W&B done over again for the airplane. Placarding it INOP and turning it off is easier.


  1. If the pitot tube gets clogged what happened? (airspeed)
  2. If the static port gets clogged what can you do and what instruments go? (alternate, altimeter, airspeed, VSI)
  3. What instruments rely on gyros? (attitude, heading, turn) Which are electrical? (turn, fuel gauges)
  4. Will your oil temp/press gauges go if you lose electrical power?
  5. (there are more but I am forgetting the rest right now)



  1. What is white smoke an indication of? (electrical fire) What should you do to fix this?
  2. Should you attempt to turn electrical systems back on? (NO even though checklists or the POH will say you can)
  3. What is black smoke an indication of? (engine fire)
  4. How will you fix this?
  5. (Know these steps by memory)
  6. What if your passenger is sick? What will you do?
  7. What is a stall? What influences the stall speed?


  1. Took out TAC and Sectional.
  2. Asked me along my route what kind of airspaces are where.
  3. Some things he asked me that aren’t on the picture were:

What is the cross on the airport?

Why are some airports blue and some magenta?

What is D airspace? B? C?

What are their requirements and communication?

What is the SoCal APP box? What’s the difference between the blue and magenta boxes?

What is Echo to the surface and how does it look?

Name what airspaces are above a point (I got Kern Valley and Bakersfield Meadows Airport)

VFR minimums for E, G, & D at various altitudes and night.

What is a NOTAM? Are there any important ones we should know for the airports we are going to?



  1. For the Checkride I printed:
    1. METAR/TAF
    2. Low Level SIG (SFC-FL240)
    3. Surface Prog
    4. Graphical AIRMET
    6. Winds/Temps Aloft
    7. Freezing Level
    8. Aviation Forecast
  2. Went over each one quickly because SoCal weather is not interesting
  3. Asked for different kinds of fronts, areas of pressure, what is a trough, what is a ridge, what is an isobar.
  4. We went on aviationweather.gov and he found:
    1. Wind barbs – read their magnitude and direction
    2. METARs and TAFs of stormy weather (I got Miami area TS LGTICCG thunderstorm lightning in clouds, clouds to ground)
  5. What are some official aviation weather sources?
  6. L05 doesn’t have a METAR or TAF, what do you use to find weather?
  7. If you see hazardous weather coming down from Sacramento on the radar or satellite, should you go to L05? What about density altitude there?


  1. Know your SIGMETs and AIRMETs. What are they? What are the three kinds of AIRMETs? Why is it important to know about SIGMETs and AIRMETs?
  2. Know MICROBURSTS and how they are dangerous (extreme downdrafts)
  3. How far should you stay away from thunderstorms
  4. What is the local phenomena around Los Angeles (marine layer and Santa Ana winds)
  5. How are thunderstorms made? (Lifting force, unsteady lapse rate, moisture)
  6. What causes fog or low clouds? (difference between dewpoint and temperature decreases)
  7. What is dew point?
  8. What is wind shear? When and where can it happen?
  9. What is wake turbulence? How do we avoid it?
  10. Difference between density, true, and pressure altitude.
  11. Difference between true, indicated, calibrated, and ground speeds.

AeroMedical Factors

  1. What is hypoxia
  2. What are kinds of hypoxia?
  3. What are some illusions in flight?
  4. Why is night flying more intensive on your body? Eyes rods/cones
  5. What altitudes are oxygen req. at? 12.5, 14, 15
  6. What if your passenger is motion sick?
  8. (there were more that I am forgetting)

The Flight

  1. Walkaround – He will ask you questions on some parts of the plane.

What is a shimmy damper? Should this be here? What does that do? Why is this open? How much oil do we need? HAVE CHECKLIST IN HAND to reference.

  1. He expects a passenger brief. Remember SAFETY (acronym)
  2. Do everything as though he isn’t there. Runup at the runup area, call out taxiways and if they are clear, USE THE CHECKLIST.
  3. I performed a left crosswind departure from runway 30 for LA Special flight rules.
  4. He watched as I took time data down for dead reckoning and to see if we were on schedule with the flight. He asked me to figure out if we were behind or ahead of schedule.
  5. Do not talk or do checklist items when someone is talking on the CTAF.
  6. At VPLSR he took controls, asked me to wear the hood and canceled LA Special Flight Rules.
  7. We did unusual attitude recovery over Torrance airport (under the hood). If it is a dive, power idle, wings level, pull up.
  8. After he asked me to get to the practice area and set up for maneuvers. NO Flight Following!
  9. Do the R.A.C.E. check (reference point, altitude, clearing turn(s), emergency plan) for every maneuver he asks for.
  10. We then simulated engine failure.
  11. We then performed a diversion Torrance. He asked me time, fuel, and distance.
  12. We then did shorts and softs landings.
  13. We flew back to Long Beach and did the forward slip, crosswinds, and go-arounds.
  14. The total flight time was around 2.3 hours.
  15. After the flight we debriefed at the flying club and that was it!

REMEMBER: He can always change up the routine on you or divert you to another airport. This is just what I was asked to do.


Instructions Given for the Checkride

For the Private Pilot Airplane practical, please accomplish the following prior to our appointment.

1)Cross country to Kern Valley (L05). Plan to bring only trip fuel meaning what we need to get there + reserve. You may only plan full fuel if that is required. I will ask about how much I may bring in baggage so that we depart at maximum takeoff weight.

2)I weigh 215 lbs for the performance calculations.

3) If you choose to prepare a hand written navigation log, I recommend completing it sometime in the days before our appointment (it’s best not to do it the morning of). Keep a note of the planned departure time and bring whatever weather you use for your flight plan so we can discuss it during the practical. We need a navigation log using real time weather so the morning of our appointment, please use an electronic flight planning service to print a current navlog. I don’t recommend using ForeFlight because the printed navlog is challenging to use. 1800wxbrief.com has a good product but you may use whatever source you prefer.

4)Prepare for the trip as if we were going to conduct the full flight. Performance data must be accurate for all phases of the trip (departure, cruise, arrival and alternate, if appropriate).

5)Using ForeFlight or a similar product is acceptable in flight but it will fail. If you plan on using another electronic source as a backup then the GPS on that source must be disabled, simulating a GPS outage.

6)Please review the Private Pilot Airplane Airman Certification Standards (ACS) as it is the guide for the practical and outlines the requirements. A revised PPL ACS became effective on June 11th and you’ll see me use it for the practical so you should be familiar with it.

7)Please ensure you bring all required items to prove airworthiness of both yourself and the aircraft. We won’t be able to start the practical until we are sure all requirements have been met, including an airworthy airplane.

Contact Info

1)Use IACRA for your application and you’ll need your login info for the practical. A paper application (8710) will not be accepted without prior permission from the FSDO.

2)If a knowledge test is required, the original test report must be verified even if IACRA is used so please bring the report.

3)Please forward the following:

•full name

•phone number

•email address

•certificate number

•aircraft type to be used for the practical.

•Note: This information is required a minimum of 48 hours prior to the appointment time or the reservation may be subject to cancellation.

•The fee is $800 for the practical; electronic (not BitCoin), cash or check, please.