Pilot, Flight Instructor and Designated Pilot Examiner
Common Errors and Frequently Asked Questions
Qualifying the Applicant and Aircraft
Prior to be beginning the exam, a DPE must ensure the applicant and the aircraft are qualified for the exam. This step usually takes about 20 minutes. The most common errors with qualification are listed below.
Your names on your IACRA Application, Pilot Certificate, Medical Certificate and Photo ID must match exactly. If your name on all documents doesn’t match, text a picture to Michele to discuss.
Ground Training Not Logged
The Regulations require you ‘receive and log ground and flight instruction’. Be sure you have all required ground instruction logged or have a graduation certificate from an approved school. If you completed an online ground school course, this is not required. HOWEVER, please be sure your certificate says Ground Training Course, not KNOWLEDGE TEST Course.
Endorsements Missing or Incorrect
The most recent AC 61-65 has the proper endorsements that should be in your logbook for your exam. In addition to the three (sometimes combined into two) endorsements for the practical exams, your examiner will verify you have endorsements for solo (C172, PA28, etc.), high performance and complex, if applicable, and the cross country flights you’re using to qualify for the exam.
Trending Knowledge and Skill Deficient Areas - Updated 11/30/2022
Not following the manufactures procedure for starting the plane, and elevating the potential for a ground fire emergency. (e.g. pumping the throttle on a C172 to start the plane instead of using the primer)
No taxi diagram available
Riding the brakes during taxi
No crosswind control inputs
Requirements for flight with inoperative equipment that isn’t required for the flight.
Riding brakes during takeoff
Not using sufficient rudder after Vr
Forgetting to raise flaps or gear after departure, if used
Short Field Landings: Not retracting flaps (when POH calls for it), not executing a go-around when warranted, not using maximum braking after landing.
The ACS DOES NOT say, simulate max braking. It says, ‘USE MAX BRAKING’.
Private Pilot Certificate:
You are required to have a cross country flight plan completed. And, during the flight portion, the ACS states - IN PART - the follow must be accomplished: (PA.VI.A)
- prepare and us a flight log
- Navigate by pilotage
- Navigate by means of pre-computed headings, groundspeed and elapsed time
- Arrive at the en route checkpoints within five minutes of the initial or revised ETA and provide destination estimate.
I’m always stunned that applicants don’t know they need current weather data to ensure the above items work out in their favor.
When is a flight plan required and how to file, open and close a flight plan.
CFIT - Are you susceptible on your flight? When are you most susceptible?
Weight and Balance - Empty Weight and Where to find this information
Weather, Airspace, NOTAM’s for the planned flight
What constitutes VFR, MVFR, IFR
Operation of installed equipment in the aircraft.
Emergency Descent: How does your POH say you should conduct this maneuver?
Emergency Landing / Engine Failure: Not selecting an emergency landing site first. Going through the restart and shutdown checklists BEFORE selecting an emergency landing site. Not setting up for an approach and landing to the selected site. Landing with a tailwind.
General understanding of weather and NOTAM’s
Aircraft system operation of the aircraft you are using for the exam
Programming the GPS and changing it if the plan changes
Reading Approach Charts - Specifically, Feeder Routes, MSA, When is a PT required.
Holding using the GPS when it is depicted as a VOR Approach
Holding with a GPS nautical mile distance vs. a timed hold when on an other than GPS approach hold.
VOR Check Requirements
Unstable approach, go missed and try again!
Commercial Pilot Certificate:
*The two most common reason the exam can’t be started is a misunderstanding of the required training.
1.) FAR 61.129 states you must have 20 hours of training. There is a legal interpretation stating if you have an instrument rating, you do not have to have 10 hours of instrument training. However, you still need 20 hours training.
2.) Your required PIC/Solo time must be ALL solo or ALL ‘duties of PIC (D-PIC)’. For example, if you are using a solo flight for your 300 NM cross country, you must complete your 5 hours at night solo. The regulation says you can use solo/PIC OR acting PIC. It DOES NOT say a combination of the two.
Failure modes of equipment installed in the aircraft you are using for the exam.
Operation of all equipment installed in your aircraft.
Weight and Balance - Empty Weight
If you’re using an EFB, know where the numbers for weight and balance and for the aircraft performance profile came from and be prepared to discuss the EFB.
Safety gear requirements
Power off 180 - landing too long. Go arounds to ‘try it again’ are not allowed. Go-arounds are allowed for safety but require the issuance of a Notice of Disapproval.
Short field - landing long, not following through with manufactures procedures.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I use my electronic logbook or do I need to print it out for the exam?
No need to print. I can look through your electronic records.
Do I need a paper nav log or can I use an EFB? (ForeFlight, Garmin Pilot, electronic FAR/AIM, etc.)
No need to bring paper to the exam. You do need a nav log for the ground and flight portion. We can use the printed (or screenshot version) from your EFB. Bring whatever you’re comfortable using. That said, I also recommend you bring whatever your instructor thinks you should bring as that is how he or she can prepare you best.
Can I take notes?
Prior to starting the exam, your DPE will conduct a pre-test briefing. This will cover many of your questions. This isn’t a secret. If you would like to go through the pre-exam briefing prior to your exam, call Michele and she’ll happily go through it with you.
What if I fail or discontinue the exam? How long will I have to wait to finish?
There are three possible outcomes of the exam once started; you receive your temporary airman certificate, a notice of disapproval or a letter of discontinuance. In layman’s terms, you pass, fail or discontinue. If you ‘fail’, you will need to receive additional training from a CFI, enter a new application into IACRA, have your instructor endorse IACRA and give you a 61.49 endorsement in your logbook. The circumstance warrant the wait period. I leave room in my schedule for these circumstances. You will have 60 days to complete your exam. I generally aim for 7 days from the date you tell me you are or will be ready.
Can I look up answers?
Yes and no. There are some things you need to know, like what airspace are you flying in on your planned cross country flight and what are the cloud clearance and visibility requirements. That said, if you forget what altitude you need to provide oxygen to passengers, sure, look it up if you’re uncertain. You can look some answers up if uncertain, but not every answer. You need a good, solid, working knowledge base.
Michele Keilman - 2021 - Updated 01/22/2024