ASA Commercial Oral Exam Guide Updated, by ME!

The Eleventh Edition of the Aviation Supplies and Academics (ASA) Commercial Pilot Oral Exam Guide was just released on January 15, 2024. Originally written by Michael D. Hayes, after his retirement I was honored with the opportunity to help keep this book up-to-date going forward.

ASA’s Oral Exam Guide Series is an excellent study tool for students and instructors alike. Arranged in a question-and-answer format, this comprehensive guide lists the questions most likely to be asked by evaluators during the practical exam and provides succinct, ready responses. FAA references are provided throughout for further study.

Check out the updated book at:

You can buy this at Amazon by clicking here.

How many did you sign off as a CFI in 2023? How do you compare?

Every year I find the reporting of how many CFIs signed off any applicants for a practical test a very interesting data point. While I don’t have the end-of-year numbers just yet regarding how many total CFI certificates were held to allow us to analyze this data on a percentage basis, we can see how many CFIs signed off at least one applicant for a practical test in 2023.

The data further breaks down the number of instructors who signed off applicants in ranges of numbers to see how many CFIs were more or less active.

With the transient employment function of many CFIs who only do the job for a limited period of time before moving on to other career jobs as professional aviators, it is not unexpected that few CFIs sign off larger numbers of applicants for certificates and ratings in any given year. We can also infer that those CFIs that sign off larger numbers of applicants typically include CFIs who are focusing on students for add-on certificates or ratings for which a smaller training footprint is needed, requiring less time of the CFI and allowing them to work with more students in a given year.

So, if you are a CFI, here are the 2023 numbers. Enjoy comparing where you might fit into them!

2023 ATP Certificate Issuances Hit a High Point

Airline pilot hiring remained strong for most of 2023, and as such, so did the production of ATP pilots. With 2023 behind us, some early data is available that helps indicate how well our production of ATP pilot certificates compared with previous years.

The number of ATP certificates issued in 2023 strongly outpaces any of the recent years in the United States. Certainly in recent years, but perhaps ever, ATP production numbers reached a high point not seen previously.

A total of 11,086 ATP certificates were issued in 2023 through FAA ATP certification efforts. This number nearly doubles most of the recent years and even outpaces what was done in 2022 which was a previous high point. Continue reading

Excuses to Proceed with a Checkride (You Probably Shouldn’t be Using)

Sometimes, there are pretty obvious cues that it isn’t the day for your checkride. As a DPE, I hear all kinds of justifications for why someone is choosing to go forward with the test on a particular day. In too many instances, the logic of the justification should be a pretty good cue that rescheduling would actually be a better choice.

As we wrap up the year, here are a few I heard over the past 12 months used as justification for “I’m gonna do my checkride today no matter what.”

If I don’t get the checkride done today, I won’t be able to fly my family on the vacation we have planned for tomorrow.

I can’t help but think that if you are trying to force your checkride on a marginal weather day or if you aren’t really ready yet but are going to give it a try just because you have a trip planned to fly your family the next day, it might be time to hit pause. It might even be an indicator to the DPE that you are going to make such pressured decisions after the checkride also.
Get-there-itis also applies to checkrides, not just your flying after you are certificated. But if you are willing to let it affect your checkride, you are probably pretty likely to let it affect you in your flying later as well.

My parents say I have to have this done today.

Are you really ready to be the PIC if you are having your parents make the decisions for you about flying? I get it. Parental pressure to get your training done can be strong, but the DPE is there to see if you are ready to make good PIC decisions, as the pilot, not your parents.

If your parents putting pressure on you to get the test done is forcing you to do the test in conditions that are not suitable, you should be having a conversation with your parents about what you have learned about making good go-no-go flying decisions instead of telling the DPE that your parents really want you to take the test today.

I don’t have anywhere to live here if I don’t get this done today.

This reason to do a test has been given to me more times than it should have been!
People who have already moved out of their apartment or house and generally are out of time and who have to go “back home” right after the checkride fall into this category.

Good pilots always have an “out” planned—an alternate option. I have on numerous occasions had people try to do their checkrides with all their belongings packed in their car or moving van just because they left it to the last minute and now had to move out. Give yourself extra time if you have an upcoming checkride to deal with schedule changes, bad weather, or other unforeseen delays.
This pressure point can be especially present when you are traveling to complete training. Be ready if you are doing this to stay longer, return at another time to complete training, or find a test back where you are from if you run into training delays.

I already told a job I have a commercial pilot certificate and start tomorrow, so I need to do it.

Well, telling the DPE you lied to your next employer isn’t really a great way to start off the checkride. And it probably wasn’t a great way to start off that job, either. Especially if anything at all delays you from getting that practical test done.

Putting the pressure to do a test as a make-or-break moment for your next job puts a lot of pressure on your practical test.

I’m out of money. All I have left is enough to do my checkride.

I get it, flight training is expensive. The good news is that the career path repayment on the investment in aviation as a professional career is one of the best out there. And with recent hiring booms, it is even faster than ever with higher pay and big signing bonuses. But that doesn’t solve the immediate problem if someone has no access to additional funds to finish their training or checkride.
Delays in training, staying current while waiting for a checkride, and weather delays are just a few of the potential hiccups that can delay, extend, or expand training footprints. With that many times comes extra cost.

In some cases, folks end up pausing their training before they can finish up. We all hope that isn’t necessary, but that might be the best choice sometimes instead of trying to take a checkride when you aren’t really ready. That can result in added costs also.

I’m not telling you that everyone that used one of these justifications didn’t pass. Some did, some didn’t. But I know that the passing probability will not likely increase with added pressures. There is enough of that already in the fact that you are taking a test.

If you do proceed forward with a test with any of these or other handicaps already identified, you will get a fair shake from a DPE. However, they can’t stretch the standards because of conditions or circumstances. You will have to perform to the same standards despite any outside pressures as you would if you did it on a day when these pressures were not present.

I will always encourage any practical test applicant to do their test on a day and in conditions they are confident that they will be able to perform within ACS/PTS standards. Don’t leave passing your test up to luck. If you find yourself on a day where the weather is questionable, the aircraft is experiencing any challenges, or you aren’t feeling up to the IMSAFE checklist, perhaps it’s time to push the pause button and reset for another day.

The pressure to get a checkride done can be significant. Show the examiner that you will make good PIC decisions before you even start by not starting when you shouldn’t.