The Career Advisor
I have a question about failing an FAA practical test. How long do failures remain in your FAA records? Do airline employers consider whether or not you have failed your private,instrument,commercial, multiengine, or CFI? I've heard that after two years the FAA shreds all documentation that reflects an unsuccessful performance. I've also heard that some examiners won't file your pink slip.
-Glen from Omaha, Nebraska
The carriers will probe into FAA practical test successes and failures during an interview for several reasons. First, those companies need to determine if an applicant is trainable. If there are multiple notices of disapproval, some flags are thrown up. Does the applicant possess the requisite aptitude, skills, and knowledge base? Airline training is, as they say, "like taking a drink of water from a fire hose." If a recruit doesn't get it the first time around in basic private, commercial, and instrument training, will he or she survive in the hectic airline training environment?
Second, let's be honest. If a person is well trained, there is little reason to fail an FAA practical test. Is it that the pilot recruit has the aptitude but doesn't apply himself?
There is yet another motive for probing into a pilot's pass/fail history: Does the pilot take responsibility for the failure? Avoid saying something such as, "Yeah. I got 'pinked' on my private checkride last year. Boy! That examiner was a real jerk." Instead say something such as, "Yes. I received a notice of disapproval for a botched short-field landing during my private pilot test. I had a real case of 'test jitters.' Everything else was within standard. I took the retest and made it through fine."
Generally speaking, a failure well in the past can be minimized. "You know, Ms. Recruiter, I had one fail back in 1987 during my private pilot check. I learned that I should never take an FAA test unless I am fully prepared. Thankfully, I passed every test since then, including my ATP last month."
Here is an interesting point. If a practical test is conducted by a designee, did you know the results can be appealed directly to the FAA? Be certain to document exactly how the conduct of the test was not consistent with the practical test standards. Contact the FAA inspector who oversees the designee program at the flight standards district office and request a retest conducted by an inspector.
What you've heard are mostly myths.All designees and inspectors conducting FAA practical tests must submit the airman's 8710 application form along with either a temporary airman certificate or notice of disapproval to the FAA Airman Certification Branch in Oklahoma City after the test. A pink slip is maintained in an airman's file indefinitely. You are referring to the expungment policy wherein FAA administrative enforcement actions are removed from an airman's file after two years. Hint: Be sure to request a copy of your FAA airman's file before any interview to see what the company will discover. They will look into that file. The last bit of interview advice: Always come clean and take responsibility!
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Wayne Phillips is an airline transport pilot with a Boeing 737 type rating. He is a B-737 instructor and operates the Airline Training Orientation Program in association with Continental Airlines. He is an aviation safety consultant in Michigan and speaker for the AOPA Air Safety Foundation.