Planning Your Check Ride

Even seasoned pilots may feel daunted by the prospect of a check ride, and it can be even more nerve-wracking for first-timers. Thankfully, a wealth of information is available to aid in your preparation, and being well-prepared is your strongest asset.


The Federal Aviation Commission (FAA) published an insightful article by James Williams titled “Know the Score: What to Know Before Your Check Ride,” which serves as an excellent starting point.

Additional FAA resources can be accessed via this link:

We recommend reviewing the provided information thoroughly and consulting with your Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) before planning your check ride.

Most Designated Pilot Examiners (DPEs) employ a plan of action (POA) that uses the FAA’s Airman Certification Standards (ACS) and the “I’M SAFE” checklist to present real-world scenarios based on your planned cross-country flight.


Before your check ride, you need to pass a written exam, or “Knowledge Test.” Successful completion of this test qualifies you to take the check ride or “practical test.” The written exam results are valid for 2 years. You will also receive check ride preparation instruction from your CFI, requiring a minimum of 3 hours within the 60 days leading up to your check ride.

Additionally, you must file your FAA Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application (IACRA) to generate your FAA 8710-1, Airman Certification And/or Rating Application. Make sure to print and bring this document with you.

Typically, your instructor or flight school will schedule the check ride, although you have the option to arrange it yourself. To begin, select an available date and submit a request here. We will confirm your appointment via email and provide you with details, including the DPE’s weight and recommendations for cross-country planning.

What to Expect

Once confirmed, you’ll meet your DPE at the designated airport, date, and time. If you need to cancel or reschedule, please notify us at least one day in advance.

Your CFI will not be allowed to observe or accompany you during the examination.

The check ride can take between three and six hours, comprising two parts: the oral exam or “ground” portion, and the flight exam. Typically, you’ll complete the oral exam first, followed by the flight. However, you might finish the oral exam one day and the flight another day, for instance, if weather conditions require discontinuation.

The Oral Exam

You’ll begin by verifying your eligibility and ensuring your IACRA is filed. Then, you’ll review your logbook before proceeding with the oral examination.

Expect to have planned a cross-country flight, including a weight and balance calculation using the DPE’s weight and possibly incorporating one or more fuel stops. You’ll be asked to explain your decision-making process for aspects like the planned course, proposed altitudes, and route waypoints.

The Flight Exam

After the oral exam, you’ll update your weather briefing, conduct a preflight inspection, and initiate your cross-country flight. The DPE will likely want to review your aircraft maintenance logs, so have that information prepared.

You probably won’t need to complete the entire cross-country flight. You’ll likely pass through one or two waypoints and may even be asked to divert. The exam will cover all required maneuvers, such as stalls, steep turns, slips, slow flight, ground reference maneuvers, and basic instrument maneuvers.

Upon completion, you’ll return to the airport to demonstrate your landing skills, which may include a go-around, normal landing, short-field landing, and soft-field landing.

If the DPE has to fail you, they’ll inform you right after the failed maneuver. You’ll likely be given the option to complete the remaining maneuvers, reducing the number you’ll need to perform when retaking the check ride.


If you pass, the DPE will complete the necessary paperwork, sign your logbook, and issue a temporary certificate valid for 120 days.

If you discontinue the examination, the DPE will provide a letter of credit, valid for 60 days, for the completed portion of the exam.

If you fail any task, the DPE will review the exam with you and offer guidance on areas to improve before retaking the check ride. You’ll receive a letter detailing the specific tasks you’ll need to redo to pass, and you’ll have 60 days to retake the failed tasks.

Remember, your DPE wants you to succeed as much as you do. More importantly, they want to ensure you’re qualified to fly your friends and family safely. So, if you’re ready, let’s get started.