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The First 15 Seconds: Making A Good Impression On Your Check Ride

Primary Nicolas Shelton

Al Palmer is a Designated Pilot Examiner at the University of North Dakota. He is qualified to give private, instrument, commercial, and Airline Transport Pilot check rides, and has given nearly 1,000 check rides throughout his career.

As the saying goes, "You never get a second chance to make a good first impression." It's especially true for check rides, where making a good first impression can set the tone for your oral and flight exam.

Al Palmer, a Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE), has been giving check rides since 1987. His advice on making a good first impression, as well as showing up prepared and focused, helps set a positive tone for your check ride.

1) Dress For Success

It sounds cliche, but dressing for success really works. "You make your first impression within 15 seconds," says Palmer. He goes on to say that if an applicant is well dressed and looks put together, his first impression is that the applicant is prepared for their check ride.

So what should you wear? "Something that looks professional" says Palmer. Wearing a tie and sport coat is one example that he gives. But what if it's sweltering hot outside and you don't want to wear a tie in a 100+ degree airplane? Simple. Wear the tie during the oral exam, and take it off prior to hopping in the plane.

2) Paperwork, Paperwork, Paperwork

Now that you have your clothes in order, what's next? "Paperwork is always an issue. It's always nice to have your paperwork consolidated" says Palmer. What does he suggest? "Place all of your paperwork on the endorsement page of your logbook." By keeping things in the same place, it makes life easier for everyone. What items should you include in your logbook?

  • 8710 application form
  • Medical certificate
  • Pilot certificate
  • Picture ID
  • Written test results
  • Any other paperwork related to your check ride

Another suggestion Palmer makes is having your flight instructor present at the beginning of the check ride, if possible. "It's always nice to have your instructor there, just in case you forgot to sign something."

3) Is Your Plane Airworthy?

In addition to check ride paperwork, you need to prove the airplane is airworthy. "In my plan of action, certificates and documents are one of the first things we talk about" Palmer says. "If the airplane isn't can't get to the flight." By ensuring you have all the required aircraft documents and logbooks on hand, you'll be able to prove the airplane is ready to hit the sky for the flight portion of the exam.

4) Be Cool, Calm and Collected

With paperwork out of the way, the exam is ready to start. Palmer says the first few questions are usually a good barometer to the student's preparation. As a DPE, Palmer understands that the student is nervous. He wants them to perform to the best of their ability, so he starts with easier questions like 'explain the currency requirements for you to carry passengers.' "If they're stumbling on those types of questions, its a warning sign" says Palmer. However, he says that if the applicant can stay relaxed and answer the first few questions with ease, it's typically a sign that the rest of the exam is going to go well.

5) Make It An Awesome Day

Professional clothing, orderly paperwork, and a calm demeanor are three keys to making a good first impression on your check ride. Do all three, and you'll start out on the path to a successful day, as well as a new certificate in your hand.

Sample Pilot License FAA

Colin Cutler

Colin Cutler

Colin is a Boldmethod co-founder and lifelong pilot. He's been a flight instructor at the University of North Dakota, an airline pilot on the CRJ-200, and has directed the development of numerous commercial and military training systems. You can reach him at

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