Preparing for your private pilot checkride: Here’s what you need to know

Preparing for your private pilot checkrideIn October I passed my private pilot checkride after 18 months of flight training.

I scored well on my written exam, but by the time my instructor signed me off to take the checkride I felt a degree of uncertainty. Part of this was due to high expectations I set for myself, and part of it was based on my knowledge that the examiner I was scheduled to test with had recently failed a number of students for various reasons.

I’m fortunate to have trained with a flight instructor who drives high standards and expectations. In addition, she’s a natural teacher who is able to communicate complex information effectively. Rather than just memorizing fragments of information, my CFI taught the whys and hows of systems, operations and regulations. But the checkride exams –– divided into an oral and a practical flying segment –– filled me with uncertaintity.



I channeled my nervousness into more studying and more flying. The end result paid off. I performed well and was issued my pilot’s license; When my examiner shook my hand and told me the job was well done, I felt like I had let out a breath I had been holding in for weeks.

To help other student-pilots out during this grueling process, I prepared the following guidelines on what to expect on the day of your checkride. I also provide a list of likely questions and topics that will come up during both your oral exam and your practical test.

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My flight bag

Ever wonder what student pilots carry in their flight bag? (from left to right): Cessna 172 Pilot’s Operating Handbook; emergency glow sticks; navigation logs; kneeboard containing local airport info, emergency procedures, comm frequencies, notes, etc; San Antonio sectional chart; contact lens rewetting drops; Smith and Wesson red/white LED aviation flashlight; sectional chart clips; pens and pencils; notecards; checkbook; laminated procedures checklists; replacement batteries for headset/flashlight; pilot logbook; Texas Airport and Facilities Directory; E6B flight computer and manual; navigation plotter. Not pictured: Bose A20 aviation headset, flight bag.

Flight training journal for September 25

The pace of training is increasing to about two flights per week, faster than my ability to blog each flight. Tonight I conducted five touch-and-gos at Austin Bergstrom. Remaining in the pattern at Austin is slightly more perplexing than the usual flights we take to smaller, more rural fields like Lockhart. Winds this afternoon were 15-25 knots, presenting strong cross winds that were compounded by heavy thermals over paved areas and highways around the airport. Traffic wasn’t especially heavy, but we were regularly position between MD-80s and 737s as early evening arrivals picked up around 5pm.