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Training Tip: It's your ride

"I’m not thinking about my checkride yet," said a student pilot who was diligently working through private pilot training. "That’s in the future, and there are plenty of goals to focus on before that."

That’s a positive approach to flight training that lets you savor each milestone. And although it may be premature to be marking a checkride date on your calendar, it’s not too soon to identify elements that will make your flight-test experience enjoyable and stress-free.

The way to do that, as with any other flight, is to pay attention to details.

Different student pilots will face different decisions. If you have flown the same aircraft throughout training, its flight characteristics, ground handling, systems, useful load, and any "bugs" may be well known before flight-test day.

A student pilot who flies multiple aircraft, even of the same type, may prefer one to another and should plan ahead to secure it for the ride. (But be ready to handle any surprise like a last-minute maintenance "squawk" that puts the aircraft out of service.)

Whichever aircraft you fly, review its AROW documents ahead of time (airworthiness, aircraft registration, operating limitations, and weight and balance). Rides have been called off because paperwork wasn’t in order. 

After solo, you enter the training stage where the practical test standards become the benchmark for assessing your demonstrations of maneuvers and knowledge. A hard copy of the PTS, or a link to it, should be in your flight bag or on your electronic device—and you should refer to it often.

Many student pilots take the required knowledge test at this point in training, when practical experience reinforces the learning derived from ground study. Don’t regard this as a mere administrative exercise; a high score is evidence of motivation, and makes a great impression on your designated examiner before you ever say a word on test day. (He or she will review your paperwork before the exam begins.)

Does your flight school or instructor have a standardized or typical method of sending trainees along for checkrides? Does that method work for you? Some student pilots are comfortable announcing to the world, sometimes on social media, that "Tomorrow is the big day! Wish me luck!"  Others prefer the restrained approach to relieve any pressure.

It’s your ride, so take command of it by stating how you want to handle the proceedings. With the stage thus set, you’ll feel free to fly your best!

Prepare for your checkride in advance to help make it stree-free.
Dan Namowitz
Dan Namowitz
Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 35-year AOPA member.
Topics: Flight School, Aviation Industry, Training and Safety

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