FYI RE Airman Knowledge Tests – Will Require FTN Starting Jan 13, 2020…

FYI RE Airman Knowledge Tests!

From a recent communication to DPEs, but important also for all flight instructors, the following communication from the FAA was indicated:

Important changes to Knowledge Test Reports!

Effective January 13, 2020, any applicant that wishes to take any Airmen Knowledge Test (AKT) for any of the airmen certificates (Any Pilot certificate, Mechanic, Inspection Authorization, Parachute Rigger) will be required to have an FAA Tracking Number (FTN). Continue reading

Five Tips for DPEs to Provide Better Customer Service

Pilots for whom DPEs conduct practical tests aren’t just applicants, they are also customers. As a DPE, there are many things that can be done to help improve the practical test experience, allay some concerns, and enhance the professionalism of the experience.

There are certainly many that could be included, but here are five quick things on which a DPE might focus some additional attention in their practical test scheduling and conduct processes if they haven’t already.

Be Punctual and Communicate Professionally

A many times shared adage is “to be early is to be on time, to be on time, is to be late, and to be late, is unacceptable.” As a DPE, make sure you have enough time to get to where the practical test will be conducted, and leave time enough time between tests to get to a second or third activity in the same day if you have them scheduled. If you are going to be running behind, communicate that with the applicant. Having mobile phone numbers or even email addresses for your applicants allows you to communicate with them either via phone, text, or email if necessary should any scheduling hiccups happen, and they will. People get it, but it is much more professional to communicate this with the applicant than to just leave them hanging around the airport “wondering if their examiner is going to show up.” Its also a good idea to have the contact information for the instructor who is signing the student off for the practical test. Continue reading

10 Questions from Checkrides I Never Expected…

Sometimes the questions I get asked on practical tests (checkrides) leave me a little befuddled and confused, even a little surprised that they are actually being asked. But, yet, they still get asked. Just for fun, I thought I would share a few that were a little unexpected, and a few that were way more than unexpected.

Let’s start with something more common than you would ever expect.

What’s the ACS/PTS?

Ummm, it’s just the standards document that the FAA puts out listing the exact things that an applicant will need to know and demonstrate on a practical test administered by an FAA Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE). It’s a little scary how often applicants have never been introduced to the “menu for the checkride” by their instructors. Shame on those instructors that don’t bother to do this. 

Can we do the test at the table in the middle of the FBO?

An important part of administering a checkride for a DPE is to make sure that it is distraction-free for the applicant. In fact, the FAA indicates that the DPE must find a place to conduct the test that doesn’t incur distractions and has four walls and a closeable door. This ensures that the applicant isn’t getting any outside help and that the test isn’t interrupted in a way that would negatively affect their performance also. The middle of the FBO on a Saturday morning with people coming in and out for coffee and donuts isn’t going to be the place to do this.

Do I pay you only if I pass?

Huh? Well, your DPE is providing a service, the practical test, and the DPE does this for a fee. It takes their time, their expertise, and it is a for-fee relationship. So, no, you probably aren’t going to get to only pay if you pass. Plus, wouldn’t that be a little weird and unethical to have it be a “pay to pass” kind of thing?

Does my instructor need to know I am doing the test today?

Well, that would help. Especially because there is paperwork they need to do to make the checkride able to be completed. I have actually had this question on more than one occasion. Surprising, huh?

Do I need a student pilot certificate? Endorsements? Application?

Back to the above point that there is paperwork that the instructor needs to do. Technically, an applicant has to be “qualified” by the DPE for the practical test, which means reviewing all of their documentation, training records, and endorsements. Missing any of the required paperwork or certificates may not only result in ineligibility for the practical test, but it may even result in invalidation of some of the previously received training if the correct paperwork was never completed.

Can you give me a(n) [____] endorsement for [_____]?

Missing one of the endorsements you need for that checkride? Just ask the examiner to sign it off, right? Nope. The DPE isn’t there to give you training, they are there to test you to the FAA ACS/PTS standard that is applicable. They aren’t acting as an instructor and can’t provide you endorsements for the practical test. They also can’t give you endorsements that are missing, such as a complex, tailwheel, high performance, flight review, or any other endorsement that might be needed to keep that practical test going forward.

Do you do some of the flying for me?

An applicant is there to demonstrate THEIR abilities to perform to the ACS/PTS standards. The DPE is there to evaluate that. So, no, the DPE can’t do any of the flying for you. It gets asked more often than you would think.

If I mess up a maneuver, and fail, can I just try it again?

Testing standards indicate an applicant must demonstrate the maneuver. Failure to do so means they do not meet the prescribed standard. They don’t allow the DPE to let the applicant keep trying “‘til they get it right”. An applicant should be able to consistently perform within prescribed standards before they try to complete the checkride. 

Can my instructor help me with answers?

Well, an instructor is there to teach the applicant, not do the test for them. While resources are available for reference, things such as the FAR/AIM document, that doesn’t mean you get a “phone a friend” or your instructor on the checkride. Your instructor can’t answer for you, do maneuvers for you, or sit in on your practical test. Oh, they can’t translate for you when there is a language barrier either. English language is an FAA requirement. Yeah, that has been an issue in some places.

Can my parents come with?

Huh? Seriously? I actually have had this asked more than once. My response? “Gee, why? Do your parents want to be pilots?”

You would think the answer to this was obvious, but it isn’t always. So, officially, “No, your parent can’t come with on the practical test.”

I am sure there are many more that examiners and instructors have come across, but I thought I would share at least these. Anyone have more? Feel free to leave them in the comments below.

Things YOU Can do To Make the Checkride Smoother for Your DPE (and you)

Practical Test (checkride) day is stressful enough. Any number of things can make it easier or make you more prepared, but as you do get ready, there are a few things many FAA Designated Pilot Examiners (DPEs) have noticed that applicants and their instructors could do to make the day easier for your DPE and as a result, you!

Here are a few that are worth sharing to help you get a jump on the day and make it easier.

Clearly Identify All Required Flight Time Experience.

Scrounging through an applicant’s logbook for those missing couple of hours of cross country flight time, trying to see if particular cross country flights meet requirements for a particular rating or certificate, or making sense of how much time an applicant has logged in simulated or actual instrument time can be challenging. In reality, it is up to the applicant and the CFI to make sure that they are sending a “qualified” applicant to the DPE. The DPE must ensure the applicant meets the required aeronautical experience for a particular rating or certificate as the FARs dictate. If a DPE is unable to clearly identify that an applicant meets those requirements, they won’t proceed. I know personally, I have likely sent applicants home without starting a practical test who may have actually been qualified but due to having a disorganized logbook were unable to demonstrate that they met all the requirements. If it helps, create a separate log of the specific experience requirements for the rating or certificate you will be testing. Don’t just hope the examiner can find what you did and that it will meet the requirements, show up ready and able to show exactly why and how you have met all those requirements to ensure you will be moving forward to the actual test on checkride day. Continue reading