Private and Commercial
First the good news! Orals have been going pretty well. Where I have been seeing issues is with flight planing and performance. If you are going to use Foreflight or Garmin, you may want to know how things a calculated. I had one applicant show me 3 different flight plans. One from foreflight, one from Fltplan.com and one he did on his own. There was 20 minutes difference in the time enroute and 9 gallons difference in fuel burns. I ask why such a big difference and the applicant had no idea.
Now on to the flying. The number one issue with the private and commercial checkrides has been landings. We've been too high, too low, too fast and too slow. I've been bounced, porpoised and slammed on to the runway. Often times touching down sideways with no crosswind correction. Rather than re-write the Airplane Flying handbook, I'll just refer you to it. Review Chapter 8 and you may want to make note of the "Faulty Approaches and Landings" section.
Having a good year so far. The only hiccup was an applicant that failed to lower the collective at the start of an autorotation. Most helicopter POHs have you enter a practice autorotation by lowering the collective and then closing the throttle. NOT the other way around. When you close the throttle first, rotor RPM drops quickly. (Note, refer to your POH, there are some helicopters and some situations that require the pilot to slightly reduce throttle as you lower the collective.)
Instrument ratings and CFI-Instrument
Biggest problem has been altitude control. I blame most of this on distractions. Keeping a timely scan and not fixating on something too long should fix this. For example, when setting up an instrument approach and programing the GPS, some pilots spend too much time setting up the GPS and not scanning the flight instruments as often as required. This leads to sloppy flying and altitude, heading and/or course excursions.
The applicant is Pilot in Command during a checkride, and the DPE is really acting as a passenger and likewise can only help the applicant with stuff that a non-pilot passenger could do. The DPE "passenger" could look for traffic, hold a chart or iPad or maybe grab something from the backseat. However, the DPE "passenger" can't help with operation of aircraft systems, look up approach plates, teach/coach or help you fly the airplane.
In the eyes of the FAA, DPEs are observers. They are observing your actions and how they comply with the ACS. There are a few checkride exclusions that do happen. For example, the DPE may fly the airplane when the applicant is putting on a view limiting device or maneuver the aircraft around traffic when you are under the hood but that's about it.
Anytime a DPE intervenes for safety of flight issues, the DPE has to issue a Notice of Disapproval. For example, extending the Flaps above Vfe, trying to take-off with full flaps extended or has to recover the aircraft from a messed up maneuver. The DPE also can not allow an applicant to break any regulations. Examples would be, flying into Class B, C, or D without authorization, allow you to bust VFR requirements or land without a clearance.
Yes, It's been awhile since I've posted. I lost the password to this website. Oh well, I'm back.
I know most of you reading this are looking for the checkride gouge or what issues I'm seeing on checkrides. Here it goes.....
Private and Commercial ASEL: Take-offs: Lack of Crosswind control. Landings: crosswind control, unstable approaches (usually to fast), landing on the nose-wheel and failure to land on the desired touchdown point with in ACS requirements.
Instrument: Oral: Lost com procedures, DME arc procedures, and knowledge of your avionics. Flight: Busting DA or MDA have been big issues and failure to maintain course within 3/4 when inside the FAF.
Multi Engine: Failure to maintain aircraft control in either heading, altitude or airspeed. I've posted on this before so I recommend reading those other post. I had 4 commercial applicants violate airspace last year. This can only be attributed to a loss of Situational Awareness, most likely brought on by checkride stress. Relax, Breath and fly the airplane.
Helicopter: These rides have been doing pretty well lately. Some of the weak areas on both the Private and Commercial level have been Airspace, Weather and cross-country planning.
I'll post on the CFI ratings later.
Lately, I have been seeing a number of bad landings. Bouncing, porpoising, wheelbarrowing and hard landings. According to the AOPA Nall Report, landing accidents make up the largest category of pilot-related accidents. Fortunately, they have some of the fewest fatal accidents. Most of the land accidents can be solved by flying a stabilized final approach and then correctly executing the flare.
Most of the problems I'm seeing is the approach being flown to high and to fast. This leads into floating down the runway. Rather than doing a go-around, some people have been forcing the airplane on to the runway. And that's where the excitement begins. Usually it starts with a bounce followed by a push on the yoke witch results with a landing on the nose wheel, followed by some porpoising action.
Another issue is that some instructors have been emphasizing hitting the desired touchdown spot at all cost. So imagine a nice, mostly stabilized, approach but it looks like we will miss the desired touchdown spot by maybe 100 or so feet. So what does the pilot do? He doesn't flare and we hit the ground in a level pitch attitude on all whee wheels, usually pretty hard. Some pilots even shove the nose forward to be sure to hit the spot. Sure we hit the spot but is this an acceptable way to land an airplane?
A number of landing accident have occurred from what I have described above. (just go to YouTube for some wonderful videos) May I offer the following help. Number one, if it doesn't look or feel right, go around. Number two, never force the airplane on to the runway. Number three, if you do bounce or porpoise and can't fix it correctly immediately, go around. Number four, fly a stabilized approach. Number five, flare correctly with the power off and touch down on the main wheels first. Hold the nose up as long as aerodynamically possible.
Flight Instructors. Start with teaching a stabilized approach and correctly exicuting the round out and flare attitude. The nose wheel should should be a good foot or two off the runway when the main wheels touch down. After this has been mastered, then put more emphasis on the touch down point.
Last comment on landings. What is the difference between the short field landing and the soft field landing? Technically, two things. One, on the soft field landing we add power in the flare (provided everything else is correct) to basically transition to slow flight. This will reduce the descent rate and allow us to touch down on the main wheels with the nose high at a minimum airspeed and rate of descent. Two, don't use the brakes. You will note in the ACS, there is no touch down spot or accuracy requirements for the soft field landing. From a realistic standpoint (not an ACS requirement), I teach to touch down within the first third of the runway when doing a soft field landing.
The CFI-Instrument is a pretty straight forward check ride. You don't have to go through all the FOI stuff like you did for the initial and there are only a few required Area of Operations and Task to hit. Take a look at page 20 of the PTS. Yes, we are still using the PTS for CFI check rides.
A short word about the the PTS. I like to call the CFI PTS the teaching document. It tell us that we should be able to show instructional knowledge, demonstrate and simultaneously explain, and analyze and correct common errors. What the PTS does not tell us is to what standards we must perform to while flying. For example: Max 3/4 deflection of the Glidepath or Course guidance or +/- 100 feet of the assigned altitude. For those standards we must look to the Instrument ACS. I call the ACS the performance document for the CFI-I check ride. It tells us to what standards we must adhere to while simultaneously demonstrating and explaining any Tasks.
One of the biggest issues I see during the oral is Area Of Operations III, Task B; Cross-Country Flight Planning. Its a required Task and applicants flounder with it. I don't know why. Here's what I suggest. Take the CFII PTS and the Instrument ACS (Area of Operation I, Task C; Cross-Country Flight Planning) and place them side by side. Now make a lesson plan from the two documents. It doesn't need to be a text book lesson plan but something as simple as a checklist for you to go through that covers all the material in a logical manner.
Another weakness found during the Oral is the lack of knowledge in Alternate Minimums, IAP, DME Arcs and GPS. Since we may not be near a DME arc to shoot one, we have to ask how to you would teach it to a student (Note, the DME Arc is required. Reference CFII PTS page 1-20, see Note). If you have a G1000 equipped aircraft, how would you teach the Arc using that equipment. I can think of 2 legal methods. I'd use the easiest and least confusing.
A little bit about the flight portion. If there is going to be problems, they are usually the same we encounter with regular Instrument check rides, like busting altitudes, pegging the glide path or course needles. Usually these errors can be prevent by flying a few more hours under the hood from the right seat. By the way, did you know that you do not have to fly the entire check ride under the hood? Check out the comments in bold at the top of page 7 of the PTS. Some DPEs may require you to fly the whole thing under the hood but the minimum they are required to see is listed there.
The number of Initial CFI rides has increased lately. Here are some of the common weak areas:
1. AOO I, Task G: Risk Management. A lot of applicants have really struggled with this Task. I find this interesting since the majority of initial CFI applicants have been trained and tested under the ACS. One of the principle features of the ACS is "Risk Management". Why are we having trouble with it on the initial CFI practical test?
2. AOO II, Task B: Runway Incursion Avoidance. This is a required item on the initial CFI checkride so it shouldn't be a surprise when it comes up. I have seen a few awesome presentations and some that definitely fall short of meeting the PTS requirements. Please don't try and make something up on the spot. You should have a lesson plan and maybe even a scenerio already put together, feel free to use them. And PLEASE, don't read me the AC and think that will cover it!
3. AOO II, Task F: Weight and Balance and AOO III, Task D: Performance and Limitations. I'll be blunt here, I've had Sport and Private pilot applicants demonstrate more knowledge than a few initial CFI applicants. I'm guessing that some recommending instructors figure their candidate has been doing Weight and Balance calculations for some time now and thus gloss over the subject.
4. AOO II, Task M: Logbook Entries and Certificate Endorsements and AOO III, Task A: Certificate and Documents. Task M is a required Task and Task A goes hand in hand with it. These two Tasks are also the number one reason pilot applicants get sent home before the check ride has begun.
5. The good news is most applicants do well on the flight portion of the checkride. If there is ever an issue it is usually because the applicant failed to fly a maneuver in accordance with the Airplane Flying Handbook, the ACS and/or the aircraft POH. Another popular area for busting the flight is busting an FAR. For example doing 8s-on-pylons over a congested area or doing Chandelles way to close to those clouds.
I hope this helps. Good luck!
I took about 4 weeks off from doing checkrides during this Covid-19 outbreak but I'm ready to get back at it. In the interest of keeping everyone healthy, I've come up with a few precautions.
1. Please call me the night before for a few health related questions. I'll just be asking if you are feeling healthy, no fever, cough, or headache. Have you been around anyone that is sick? Basically, If you're not 100%, don't show up. I'll do the same for you.
2. Bring a mask for yourself. We will definitely wear them in the aircraft. I haven't had any problems with headsets. Depending on the room we use for the oral, we may wear them in there as well.
3. As part of the preflight, please wipe down the cockpit with a clorox wipe of some sort (don't touch the avionics with the wipes. It may damage them).
4. I've been doing the majority of the check rides in my office. The main reason is I can keep the amount of foot traffic down to a minimum and be able to clean the area pretty well. If we do the ride at your facility, please pick a room that is large enough that we can be at least 6 feet apart.
I don't want either of us to get sick and I'm hoping these are just temporary measures. If you have any questions, comments or concerns, please feel free to call text or email.
Here's a couple of areas to hit on before your Instrument or CFI-I checkride. I've posted on these in the past but they sure keep cropping up as problem areas:
1. Basic Weather knowledge: The ACS is pretty clear on weather knowledge in Areas of Operations I. Being able to recognize Cold and Warm fronts and what conditions could lead to thunderstorms or icing is pretty much essential.
2. Alternate planing: When is an alternate required? Believe it or not, it's more than just the 1,2,3 and the 600x2 or 800x2 rule. First of all, you destination must have an IAP. If it does then you can apply the 1,2,3 rule. If the weather fails the 1,2,3 rule you must pick an alternate. You may pick an alternate airport that does not have an IAP but the weather must be such that you can descend from the MEA to the surface under Basic VFR requirements. If the weather isn't that good you must pick an alternate airport but first look at each IAP at that airport. If it s got an A in a triangle with an NA next to it, you can not consider that IAP for alternate planning purposes. If the IAP just has an A in a triangle that means non-standard alternate minimums apply. You must look in the Terminal Procedures Supplement to see what the restrictions are. The restrictions could raise the weather requirements or may make the approach not available when the tower is closed. If you look at the IAP does have alternate minimum requirements then you may apply the 600x2 to precision approach or 800x2 to non-precision approaches.
3. A benefit of having WAAS: If you have WAAS installed on your aircraft, you may use a destination and select an alternate of which both just have RNAV approaches. No ground based approaches are required.
4. Are RNAV approaches with LPV minimums a Precision approach?: No. What does that mean for alternate planning? It means that the 800x2 weather requirements apply when using an RNAV approach at your alternate (unless non-standard alternate minimums apply).
5. Identifying the MAP: How do you know you're at the MAP on a VOR, LOC, LOC BC, or RNAV approach? If you have a GPS there are usually 2 or 3 ways to do this. Many applicants struggle with naming one.
6. IAP notes: I call them the notes that can kill. Why? because they can (and do). When you do your approach brief, how will those notes on the IAP effect you? Can you use the altitmeter from that airport 30 miles away? If the approach lights are out how will it effect my ceiling and visibility? Can I use that VDP on the LPV?
7. Flight planning: (big one for CFI-I) What things should you consider when planning a route? Prefered IFR routes, SID, ODP, STARS, Airspace, terrain, Weather. If I back up 4 years ago before Foreflight and Garmin Pilot these where a 5 minute discussion. Now most applicants pick the most common route from thier iPad app and use it. Don't get lazy!
8. Fuel planning: Do you consider the time it take to shoot an IAP at your destination and alternate into your fuel burns? Should you? Are you required to? I'll let you in on this.... You are required to consider those fuel burns in your flight planning by legal interpretation.
9. NOTAMS: Are there any NOTAMS that will effect todays flight? There have been several applicants that have busted MDA or DA and didn't even know it. Some have flown the wrong miss approach procedure because of missing a NOTAM.
10. Lost Com procedure: MEA and AVE-F are often quoted by rarely put to use. There will be a scenario where the rule will be put to use. There have been several people that have told me stuff that directly contradicts the rule. Since this is an emergency, I have the rule on my Lost Com check list.
If you read a bunch of the aviation websites or blogs you're bound to come up on a post bashing DPE's. Its a popular subject especially when a check ride goes south.
Some of the discussions talk about DPEs not following FAA policy or making up wild questions designed to trick the applicant. There are even stories of DPEs yelling, swearing or making inappropriate comments. Heck, I recently heard of a couple of stories where an examiner slept through the flight portion of a ride and another where the examiner got out of the airplane with the engine running and took a pee next to the airplane, in full view of the pilot and others.
Some of the stories about DPE are based on a lack of knowledge of what the really DPE does. According to the FAA, the DPE is is responsible for determining that the applicant meets the established standards of aeronautical knowledge, skills (flight proficiency), and risk management for the Tasks in the appropriate ACS. This responsibility also includes verifying the experience requirements specified for a certificate or rating.
So lets break this down a little.
1. Before a DPE can start the test, he/she must determine the applicant meets the FAA requirements for the specific certificate and/or rating. This is done with a review of the applicant logbook and a deep knowledge and understanding of the FAA regulation and in some cases FAA legal interpretations. The DPE is not allowed to start the test, not even the oral, if the applicant isn't qualified. If an examiner issues a certificate to an applicant who isn't qualified, the repercussions are huge!
2. The examiner must determine the applicant has aeronautical knowledge appropriate to the certificate/rating being issued. They do this by reviewing the knowledge test and through asking questions during the oral portion of the check-ride. The DPE is supposed to test to the correlation level. I find this best done though scenario based questioning. You have noticed that there are several subject in the ACS that are the same for both the private and commercial check rides. It shouldn't come as a surprise that a commercial applicants should demonstrate a higher level of knowledge and understanding than a private applicant. The DPE must also review ALL the knowledge test questions that the applicant got wrong on knowledge test.
3. The DPE must also evaluate the flight skills and risk management skills in accordance with the ACS. The DPE is basically a passenger during this flight. The DPE is not allowed to teach, or assist the applicant in any other way other that what a non-pilot passenger would be capable of. Any intervention from the DPE results in a Notice of Disapproval. If the DPE has to take the controls, call for a go-around from an unsafe approach, stop an applicant from breaking a reg or aircraft limitation are all grounds for the Notice of Disapproval. If an applicant screws up a maneuver, can the applicant request to do it over again? The only time a DPE may allow an applicant to repeat a maneuver is when a Task is incomplete, or the outcome is uncertain.
What is Satisfactory performance?
Satisfactory performance requires that the applicant:
•demonstrate the Tasks specified in the Areas of Operation for the certificate or rating sought within the established standards;
•demonstrate mastery of the aircraft by performing each Task successfully;
•demonstrate proficiency and competency in accordance with the approved standards;
•demonstrate sound judgment and exercise aeronautical decision-making/risk management; and
•demonstrate competence in crew resource management in aircraft certificated for more than one required pilot crewmember, or single-pilot competence in an airplane that is certificated for single-pilot operations.
What is Unsatisfactory performance?
Typical areas of unsatisfactory performance and grounds for disqualification include:
•Any action or lack of action by the applicant that requires corrective intervention by the evaluator to maintain safe flight.
•Failure to use proper and effective visual scanning techniques to clear the area before and while performing maneuvers.
•Consistently exceeding tolerances stated in the skill elements of the Task.
•Failure to take prompt corrective action when tolerances are exceeded.
•Failure to exercise risk management.
So how does this fit together? Lets look at an example or two or three.
So lets say during the flight portion of the test, an applicant comes in for a landing too high and too fast and elects to do a go-around early in the approach. In this example, the task is both incomplete and the outcome uncertain. The applicant showed good judgement and went around early (good risk management). This could be a good example of allowing the applicant to repeat the landing. If the applicant makes the next approach and landing in accordance with the ACS, that task could be considered satisfactory.
How about different pilot applicant conducting a short field approach comes in too high and too fast but continues to land 1/2 down the 3000 foot runway (and 1000 feet deyound the desired touch down point)? In this case the applicant failed to fly in accordance with the ACS standards, failed to take corrective actions and failed to exercise risk management skills. This would be an example of unsatisfactory performance.
Let's take an example during the oral. During the a discussion on stalls and spins the applicants states that adding power is more important during the stall recovery because it gets the air flying over the wing faster. When asked how to recover from a spin the applicant states "I don't need to know that because I have a chute". Would you find these answers acceptable under the ACS?
Pilot Examiners go through extensive training before doing their first flight test. Usually the first several test are under the watchful eye of an FAA inspector. DPE are all current CFIs with extensive backgrounds in aviation. The DPE wants you to pass and will do everything allowable within the ACS and FAA guidance to do so.
There are a few bad apple DPEs out there. If you come across one, document what happen on the check-ride and talk with your local FSDO. The FAA takes the matter of DPE conduct very seriously. Sometimes applicants are just pissed off at the DPE because of a failure. However there may be a serious issue that the FAA must remedy. It may take some time, but the FAA will weed out these bad apples.
According to 14 CFR 61.51(h) Logging training time.....
1. A person may log training time when that person receives training from an authorized instructor in an aircraft , full flight simulator, flight training device, or aviation training device.
2. The training time must be logged in a logbook and must:
(i) Be endorsed in a legible manner by the authorized instructor; and
(ii) Include a description of the training given, the length of the training lesson, and the authorized instructor's signature, certificate number, and certification expiration date.
Oddly enough, I have had several applicants show up for check rides missing the items described in 2 (ii). It is part of the DPEs job to insure the applicant meets the training requirements of Part 61. Without a legible description of the training given along with the CFI signature, cert number and expiration date, they can't verify the training has been done. The DPE can't do the check ride until this is fixed.