After turning in a shaky performance on an FBO aircraft-rental checkout on a day with above-average winds, a novice pilot made a surprising admission: He had gotten hardly any experience flying in crosswinds during his training.
It was tempting to wonder how someone could have passed the practical test, given such an omission—but things sometimes slip through the cracks. Look no further than the airman certification standards for a possible explanation: “If a crosswind condition does not exist, the applicant’s knowledge of crosswind elements must be evaluated through oral testing,” it notes.
Learning ground reference maneuvers, for example, works best when a healthy wind is blowing as you practice flying a circle around an object, or a rectangular course, or S-turns. In cruise flight, some turbulence is a key ingredient for practicing altitude and heading control for your cross-country flights. Simulated emergencies teach you to look out for off-airport-landing places. Communicating with air traffic control develops your radio technique and can challenge your ability to think on your feet.
Speaking of your feet, performing gobs of slow flight and stall-series practice produces both comfort and confidence for the checkride and beyond—and if your rudder work is deft at neutralizing the drag that the ailerons are attempting to inflict on your aircraft control, your designated pilot examiner will notice and be ecstatic.
Lack of such skill, on the other hand, will make a bad first impression—because trust me, the DPE will not be looking forward to the prospect of sitting there for an hour or so while you slip and skid your way through the test tasks.
One of the finishing touches on your pilot training is to satisfy a requirement for “3 hours of flight training with an authorized instructor in a single-engine airplane in preparation for the practical test, which must have been performed within the preceding 2 calendar months from the month of the test.”
Before you run through the test material during those three (or more) hours of preparation, take an honest inventory of your readiness and focus extra attention where it’s needed, always striving to meet the certification standards for every task you could be asked to demonstrate.