The following information is not intended to replace or contradict what your instructor teaches you. It is a compilation of the errors I see as a DPE and intended to assist your preparation.


The single biggest problem I see as a DPE is that students are not familiar with the ACS applicable for their checkride. It is imperative that you have looked at each maneuver you will be tested on in the ACS. For each maneuver, I am required to evaluate you on one of the knowledge elements and one of the risk elements during your oral or flight, and all the skill elements during the flight portion. Prior to training for a maneuver, you should review that portion of the ACS with your instructor and make sure that when you execute this maneuver nothing is left out.


No matter what rating you are training for, the following example is relevant, so read on. I use private task IV B (Normal landing) as a guide.

Knowledge element: any one of the three elements is fair game. If I select PA.IV.B.K3, you must demonstrate an understanding of “Wind correction techniques on approach and landing”. If you don’t you risk failing your checkride, plain and simple.

Risk element: any one of the thirteen elements is fair game. If I select PA.IV.B.R2d, you must be able to identify, assess and mitigate the risks of wake turbulence. Again, if you don’t can’t do that, you probably won’t pass.

Skill elements: the twelve skills are clearly spelled out. Your instructor will teach you a particular technique that he/she feels is best for performing this maneuver. Some details of this technique may not be in the ACS, which is fine as long as they are safe and don’t disagree with the airplane’s flight manual. However, any requirement listed the skills section is mandatory, such as touching down at a proper pitch attitude, within 400 feet beyond or on the specified point, with no side drift, and with the airplane’s longitudinal axis aligned with and over the runway center/landing path. Among other things, this means that if the runway centerline is not between the main gears when you touch down, the maneuver is unsatisfactory.


I hope these few paragraphs alert you to how important the standards are. There is a lot to learn in order to be ready for any FAA checkride, but regardless, you must incorporate a detailed study of the ACS into your training if you expect to walk away with a temporary certificate.

  • Oral portion

    • Lack of knowledge or awareness of 14 CFR 91.103 “Preflight Action”.

    • Failure to check NOTAMs.

    • Insufficient aeronautical knowledge. A ground school graduation certificate, passing grade on the knowledge test, and review of missed questions with your instructor may not be sufficient preparation for the oral exam. Have your instructor regularly quiz you in depth on your aeronautical knowledge in order to identify areas where your knowledge may be lacking.

    • Lack of knowledge regarding weather information, inability to read a METAR, limitation of a TAF, MOS, and understanding of other weather products. This is especially important if you use Foreflight, because you must be able to identify the weather products available in the “Imagery” section. Regardless of the weather source you use, you are responsible for understanding the available products.

    • Unfamiliarity with the aircraft’s AFM, to include inability to find information and systems knowledge. At a minimum, you must know the limitations of your airplane (section 2).

    • V speeds. Not knowing what they are for your airplane, and what they mean.

  • Flight portion

    • Clearing turns. The “two ninety degree turns” method is acceptable, but commonly misunderstood. Heading north, for example, applicants turn west (first ninety), then back to north, and count that as the second ninety. This is incorrect, as it leaves the east-to-south quadrant uncleared. The first ninety with return to north needs to be followed by a second ninety degree turn to the east, with or without return to north; at that point all quadrants have been cleared. 

    • Checklists. The first skill element of many maneuvers specifies "complete the appropriate checklist". You must understand when and how to use a checklist in the airplane, and use if it exists.

    • V-speeds. Knowledge of the various speeds is occasionally inaccurate, and V speeds are sometimes not followed. For example, an applicant understands what Vy is and what the speed is for that airplane, but on a normal takeoff does not climb at that speed – or at the “manufacturer’s recommended speed”. Instead, the applicant flies the speed of a given flight school or instructor; that is not one of the two options offered by the ACS (PA.IV.A.S12, for example).

    • Automation. I am required to test you on all systems installed in the airplane, to include the autopilot. If you are taking your checkride in a TAA (with Garmin 1000, for example), you must know how to use all of its features.​​