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.
I've had several recent applicants show up missing the required endorsements and/or having the correct endorsements. The most common missing endorsement is the one required by 61.39. Its required for every check ride. The second missing/incorrect endorsement is the one required for an additional category and/or class rating. This is referenced in 61.63.
AC 61.65 H includes all the endorsements required in flight training. To make your life and the DPE's job easier, just copy the endorsements right out of the AC. You cant go wrong that way.
There are a variety of electronic log books out there. All of them have different options and pluses and minuses. I don't have a preference on any of them.
From a check ride prospective, a pilot examiner must determine the applicant meets the requirements for the certificate and/or rating applying for. Flight and ground training must be logged in a log book (or training record) with a description of the training and the signature and certificate number of the CFI.
I've had a couple of applicants show up with an electronic log book. Nothing wrong with that. However, the entries for the training flights did not include a description of the training and, in one case, missing the signature and certificate number of the instructor.
Also, ground instruction is required to be logged as well. I'm not sure how this can be logged in a electroic log but an examiner will be looking for that too.
Please clean the windshield. Its really hard to see traffic through bug guts and the glare of the sun.
Get a few DPEs together and we start telling war stories of past check rides and near death experiences. We are old and feeble and barely remember what we had for breakfast let alone what really happen three weeks ago but some elements of truth and commonality pop out in these stories.
Recent stories about entering and leaving towered and non tower traffic patterns have been making there rounds. Stuff like making right traffic at left traffic airports. calling in the wrong position in the pattern (or making the all to common call "turning left final runway XX), not following ATC instructions or telling ATC your east of the field when you are west, cutting off other aircraft in the pattern, landing downwind. The list goes on...
I can tell you to read and follow the regs and the advice in the AIM but I'll add a couple other thoughts.
1. Don't go near the airport until you are ready. Find the airport, get the ATIS or AWOS, figure out the active runway and the easiest way to enter the pattern. Take the time and THINK.
2. Double check your position from the airport before calling in. This is important! ATC needs to know your location to figure out how to sequence you into the pattern and keep you separated from others. At non towered airports, other aircraft need to develop the big picture too. Incorrectly announcing your position in relation to airport, runway or traffic pattern is a set up for a midair collision.
3. Keep your head on a swivel. You may be doing everything right but the other guy may not. If there is conflict in the air, its best to stay out of it.
A few years ago, an airliner got lost on an airport on a low IFR day. There was confusion on the frequency between the airliner and ATC. Thinking the Airliner was clear of the runway, ATC cleared another airplane for take-off. That pilot (hearing the confusion on the freq) declined the take-off clearance until ATC and the airliner knew where each other was at. Good thing this pilot declined the clearance. The airliner had made a wrong turn and was actually on the departure runway of the other aircraft. It would have been a disaster.
Most check rides start with a cross country. Why is it that the majority of applicants fail to set up and use their GPS (or other Navigation equipment) for that cross country?
My advice, do what you would do in real life. If you normally fly using that GPS, then use it for the check ride. Don't start yourself off with a disadvantage! If the examiner needs to see you navigate without it, he/she will fail it at some point.
I love all the new gadgets we have available to us. I recently added dual Garmin G5's and the G500 autopilot to my 182. Combined with ADSB In and Out, I now have traffic and various forms of weather products. Even if you're not flying a nicely equipped airplane, you can have the same features with Foreflight, WingX Pro, Garmin Pilot and some sort of ADSB receiver. All of this stuff is supposed to enhance situational awareness and safety. For the most part, it does but it can have a real negative effect on safety as well. People much smarter than me have written books on the subject. I would like to cover a couple of items that have played a major issue during check rides.
The first issue is not knowing how to use those gadgets. Lets take Foreflight or Garmin Pilot for example. Do you know where to find Hot Spots or how to determine the the altitudes of an MOA, Restricted or Prohibited Area? How did that App figure out that ground speed? Did you input that data for your airplane or did you select the basic (generic) profile? What power setting will achieve that TAS?
Regarding the Airplane itself. How do you determine if the data bases are current on your GPS? In a twin engine airplane, can we use the autopilot with an engine inop? If you're a private pilot pilot, do you even know how to use the autopilot. Do you know what the failure modes are for your MFD, PFD and how they present themselves? Can you fix them in flight or are you stuck with the backup instruments?
Those are knowledge areas we should have tucked safely in our brain just in case a bad situation presents itself. Imagine being a newly minted private pilot in an inadvertent IMC situation and not knowing how to use that autopilot.
The second issue that crops up is fixation on the equipment and not flying the airplane. Put yourself cruising along at 3500 feet when the engine suddenly runs rough or fails. What's the first thing you do? Is it go to Foreflight, go to Maps, then settings and then select "Glide Advisor" to On? Or is it select Nearest on the Garmin 430? I would certainly hope NOT! First and foremost, Fly the freaking Aircraft!
I've recently had a couple of private pilot applicants do just as described in the previous paragraph. While they focused their attention elsewhere, they failed to establish and maintain Best Glide, select and glide to a landing area and failed to trouble shoot the problem until they where to low to safely land.
In the past there use to be a saying "Don't drop the airplane to fly the mike." Pilots would get so involved with talking with ATC they would stop flying the airplane. Now it seems that we are dropping the airplane to fly the iPad (or what ever fancy fancy equipment the pilot is fixated on).
Now before I have a flood of folks saying Chris doesn't want you using this or that, I'll say this; We need to have a healthy balance on knowing how to use our fancy equipment and flying the airplane. That fancy equipment should enhance our performance as a pilot and not be a distraction.
I tend to ask a lot basic (or fundamental) questions on check rides. Stuff a pilot really should know. Lately, I've had several applicants fumble on a few basic flight planning questions. It hasn't just been private applicants but commercial and flight instructor applicant as well. So what are the questions? here they are .......
1. Explain to me how you determined your power setting and what true airspeed and fuel burn that will yield.
2. Is that with the mixture leaned? If so, How do you lean the mixture?
Commercial Pilot Applicants. Did you know that Area of Operations (AOO) VIII, Task B requires you to know about Pressurization? Remember an examiner has to test all the skills and at least one Knowledge and one Risk Management item? A basic question might be; Explain how a typical pressurization works. That question may lead into a scenario to test other Tasks with in AOO VIII
Multi Engine Check rides: Way to many applicants identifying and feathering the wrong failed engine. Slow Down and fly the airplane. You know what that means dont you?
Also when you experience and engine failure on departure you must maintain Vyse. In most situations, that means you must lower the nose to do that. When the engine fails, you will lose a lot of airspeed quickly. That will probably put you very close to Vmc and lead to a lose of directional control.
Engine failure during cruise: Maintain your altitude while you do the engine out drill until the airplane slows to Vyse. If you cant hold Vyse without losing altitude then let the airplane drift down at Vyse. Of course if you have enough power to maintain altitude and an airspeed at or above Vyse, then do so.
Engine out Instrument approaches: Set up your approach and get it stabilized! Fly it like you only got one chance at doing it right. In real life you may not be able to go around and try it again.
All check rides: I am still seeing to many applicant show up not qualified or lacking the proper endorsements for the check ride. This is purely the instructors fault. Why do I say that? In the Regulations the instructor signs off the student as meeting the requirements of the regulations and attest to giving the training required. The FAA doesn't make it any more clearer that that.
Acute fatigue: How you physically and mentally feel at the end of a long day.
Chronic fatigue: Long-term fatigue which has serious physiological and psychological effects.
Performance degradation due to acute fatigue can be correlated to blood alcohol level.
The longer a person is awake, the sleep urge and need becomes stronger. The pressure to sleep grows more intense as the day progresses, then dissipates when one sleeps at night.
As one extends wakefulness into routine sleep hours, the urge to sleep increases. The primary factor that affects alertness is the number of hours continuously awake. At about the 16 hour mark, sleepiness begins to affect performance of the average individual.
Studies show that after 18 hours of wakefulness, participants showed a 30% decrement in performance and problem-solving ability.
Chronic fatigue can be caused by multiple back-to-back long days with less than the required sleep each night. This leads to serious performance degradations. Performance degradations include the following: