Private Pilot Checkride Tips and Tricks

If you have a checkride coming up in the near future, be prepared for some of the tricks your examiner may try to use to throw you off. Some of these will result in an instant failure. Some flight schools will point these tricks out, but yours may not. So, let’s go over them now:

Dropped my Pen/Pencil

This one is used often. As you’re flying along, maybe doing a clearing turn or other maneuver, the examiner suddenly drops his/her pen or pencil. A quick “oops, can you get that for me” could result in you failing your checkride. Never take your eyes off of your task at hand. The best advice is for you to be very prepared and have an extra pen or pencil on your kneeboard. Tell your DE that you can not get the pen and then say “but, I have an extra one you can use right here”.

Dead Batteries

If you have an electronic E6B, do NOT leave the ground without plenty of extra batteries. I keep about 20 extras in my flight bag. Just as your being diverted to a new airport (this WILL happen) you whip out the electronic E6B and start to calculate your current ground speed and time to the new airport. Suddenly the DE looks over and say “oh man, your battery just died. Now what are you going to do?” If you don’t have a backup set of batteries, you’ll be stuck fiddling with that clunky wheel you hate so much. Do you even remember how to use that? Make sure stay sharp on it. You could drop something on your E6B and crack the screen. Stranger things have happened.

Tied Down Tail

Our FBO very rarely tied down the tails of the aircraft. For some reason it was tied down the day I did my checkride. I didn’t know it until I was checking my pitot tube, almost down with my pre-flight. I looked past the pitot and saw that rope securely fastened. How embarrasing would that have been when I tried to taxi off and couldn’t get anywhere. Don’t let it happen to you. Check EVERYTHING on the list. Even the stuff you know has never been an issue in the past.


You’re pilot-in-command. Get that in your head. Your examiner is a passenger and under your command. Accept that and own that. They want to see you take on the role of PIC. Often a DE will get in the aircraft and not put on his/her seatbelt. You’re so busy with the pre-flight you don’t even notice. This could be an instant failure on your checkride. While you’re at it, make sure you give your DE the proper pre-flight briefing. How the seatbelt works, where the fire extinguisher is located, how the door opens and what they should do in the event of an emergency. Oh yeah, this one is fun. Tell them to keep their hands and feet clear of the controls. That’s fun!

Check Those Brakes

The first thing you need to do once you’ve started your taxi is to check the break. As you start to roll, push those breaks forward and make sure you stop. No need to slam his/her face into the yoke with a quick stop. If you’re taking off and not thinking about the inevitable landing ahead, you’ll fail that checkride.

Landing Strip Just Behind You

When you’re flying you should always be looking at where you would put the plane down in the event of an engine out emergency. Your DE may give you an engine out just after passing a beautiful little dirt strip. If you weren’t paying attention you may have missed the perfect spot to put the plane down. Make sure you always take a glance behind you when you get that engine out. Of course, follow your checklist first.

I hope this helps you get ready for that awesome day. Remember, everyone I’ve talked to said the checkride was easier than they thought it would be. Prepare for it to be difficult, but RELAX, knowing your as prepared as you can be.

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