What will your flight look like?
First as you walk around the aircraft together after your oral is complete, the examiner will ask you some questions about the systems, antennas, documents, and other things about your airplane now that he is looking at it with you. You’ll hop in the plane and give the DPE a full passenger safety briefing on the required items (seatbelts, doors, and anything else you feel is pertinent).
As you taxi out, the DPE will be looking for how you handle hotspots, communicating with ATC (if applicable), using taxi diagrams and briefing the taxi before moving, and not be distracted or “heads down” trying to set anything up while the aircraft is moving. The DPE will also be looking for proper use of checklists and not just during the run-up, but throughout the entire flight.
Takeoff + Cross Country
You’ll take off on a simulated cross-country flight to a place the examiner has already determined for you, and he’ll evaluate your ability to hit your checkpoints at the times you estimated and stay on course. Expect to fly 10-20 miles from the airport where you will then discontinue the cross-country flight and start doing the required maneuvers. Don’t be surprised during the takeoff roll or shortly thereafter if the DPE tries to distract you with something (i.e. unlatching a door, opening a window, saying they smell smoke, etc.). If they do any of these things you will have to judge the severity of the situation and whether or not you should continue with the takeoff or abort it and stay on the ground. Simple things like a window popping open on takeoff should be ignored and dealt with at a safe altitude after takeoff. DO NOT try to close a door or window while in a critical phase of flight, either reject the takeoff and stay on the ground if it occurs early enough, or deal with it later in flight. Run the scenarios in your head and be prepared for what does and does not deserve your attention.
There is no specific order the DPE will ask for the maneuvers in, however you are required to complete all of the maneuvers. Just as on your Private Pilot checkride, you must visually clear the area before each maneuver and perform clearing turns unless instructed otherwise by the DPE. The maneuvers you will have to perform out in the “practice area” will be:
- Steep Turns
- Lazy 8’s
- Stalls (power on, power off, accelerated)
- Slow Flight
- Emergency Descent (usually followed up with you lining up to land in a field and then going around) Now that you are down low, the low altitude maneuvers generally begin
- Eights on Pylons
- Lost procedure and find your way back to the airport
Now that the DPE got you “lost” doing all those maneuvers far from the airport and got you down low where your line of sight was limited, you’ll now proceed back to the airport for the pattern work. This whole time from takeoff through all those maneuvers, and now going back to the airport the DPE has been evaluating you on airspace, safe altitudes, etc. Make sure you take all of this into account as the wind is making you drift off into unfamiliar airspace out there and you select a safe altitude to proceed back to the airport at. Approaching the airport you’ll do the following maneuvers/landings (no particular order, but this is the order I often see used by DPEs with little variation):
- Climb above the pattern and do a steep spiral back down to join the pattern (either ending in a Go Around or power off 180 depending on how good it looks to you and the DPE)
- Short Field Landing (depending on runway length it will be a full stop taxi back or stop and go)
- Short Field Takeoff
- Soft Field Landing and Soft Field Takeoff (often performed as a touch and go combined maneuver)
- Power Off 180 landing (if you haven’t already done so)
The DPE needs to see at least one Go Around while you are flying in the pattern. If everything is going great, he may all of a sudden call out Go Around during an approach. If at any point you do not feel you will be able to perform a landing to Commercial Standards, execute a Go Around, and that will take care of the DPE needing to see one executed, as well as keep you from landing well of center-line, past the intended point of touchdown, etc.
Use the same care taxiing back in with the taxi diagram out and briefing the taxi back to the FBO just as you did when you started the flight. Ensure you use proper checklists, secure the airplane properly, and report any discrepancies with the airplane to the flight school or FBO you rented it from. (do not blow your checkride on messing up postflight procedures!)