I was arranging navigation resources in the cockpit of a complex single for the flight portion of a practical test when my FAA evaluator asked to inspect my well-worn New York sectional chart.
Maybe he was thinking, “Touché, this applicant has shown up with an expired chart and now he’s got some explaining to do.”
He handed back the manhandled map, grunted, and off we went for a tough-but-fair test that produced a happy outcome (and a new flight instructor).
On balance, a positive experience. The chart part proved a useful anecdote to share later with student pilots and other checkride applicants to remind them that attention to detail matters.
If this recollection got your attention, you’ll be well prepared for your private pilot practical test by diving deeply into the knowledge, skill, and risk-management requirements of the appropriate airman certification standards (ACS) publication—which of course means using the most recently updated edition. The ACS also explains the role of your designated pilot examiner (DPE), who before your appointment will create a plan of action involving “a scenario that evaluates as many of the required Areas of Operation and Tasks as possible.”
As the checkride scenario unfolds (like a chart), the examiner will introduce problems, emergencies, and even some distractions for you to manage—just like real-world flying might.
Naturally, student pilots are curious about the individual who administers the local practical tests and how that person was appointed. Read about the process on the DPE page on the FAA website. Many DPEs are working pilots of extensive experience—often familiar figures to local flight schools and instructors.
When speaking with DPEs from different areas, I like to ask what strengths and weaknesses they are observing in checkride applicants’ performances and report their comments to our membership.
If you fly in an area where word has it that DPEs are scarce or scheduling is difficult, DPE-system refinements are in the works, with AOPA chairing a key subcommittee.
And if you are fortunate to be scheduled for your checkride before November 22—and don't forget to bring an unexpired chart along—you can help by taking this AOPA survey that gives you the opportunity to share your thoughts about the experience.