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5 Topics To Focus On Before Your Private Pilot Checkride

Identifying the key parts of your private pilot oral exam can help things go a lot better...

1) Regulations

Regulations are a topic that many student pilots get caught up in. Some students try to memorize the whole FAR/AIM, while others haven't even taken the plastic wrap off their book yet. If you're unsure where to start, most copies of the FAR/AIM have a suggested study list relating to the rating you are pursuing.

Regardless of where you stand, you should take some time to get to know regulations affecting your flying, but more importantly, you should understand their meaning and application. Your examiner is less likely to ask you to directly cite 14 CFR 91.205(b), compared to asking you "could legally fly with an inoperative airspeed indicator?"


2) Safety

Often times DPE's (Designated Pilot Examiner) see themselves as the last line of defense to make sure you're a safe pilot. Every examiner is different, but virtually all examiners want to see that you are taking the proper precautions. They want to see that you understand the risks associated with specific actions.

Briefing safety risks such as obstacles, airspace, or density altitude ahead of time helps your DPE know that you are aware of the potential risk and that you're able to mitigate it.


3) Systems

Similar to most pre-solo checkouts, an examiner wants to know that you feel confident discussing your aircraft in detail.

The most common systems that a DPE asks about are the fuel, vacuum, electrical, and oil systems. Some students prefer to draw out a diagram, or simply explain it from memory, but it's really up to you. If you are unsure about a specific system's layout, your POH (Pilot's Operating Handbook) most likely has a diagram and a short explanation

4) Decision Making (ADM)

Decision making is inherently tied into safety, but examiners want to see that you have a methodical approach to your decisions, regardless of the perceived importance.

The best thing to focus on before you checkride is developing a standardized briefing on the possible actions, risks, consequences, and then what actions you plan to take. This indicates to your examiner that you can 'Observe, Orient, Decide and Act' in a disciplined manner.


5) Emergency Scenarios

Emergency scenarios are most commonly associated with the flight exam, but often come up on the oral exam as well. You DPE will propose possible emergencies to test a combination of your safety, systems, and decision-making skills.

Before your oral exam review your memory items from the emergency procedure section of your POH. It's not uncommon to hear the phrase "are you sure?" as a test to see your confidence in your actions to mitigate an emergency.


Thinking about becoming a pilot? Get started with ATP Flight School, and find out how to start your aviation career here.

Nicolas Shelton

Nicolas is a private pilot from Southern California. He is currently studying at Purdue University, where he is working on advanced pilot ratings. You can reach him at

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