Archive for August, 2012
Flight Instructors do a very good job teaching their students the intricacies of flight and good aeronautical decision making. These instructors spend countless hours analyzing how well their students are performing both in their knowledge of aviation and ability to perform with the practical standards. Only when the instructor feels the student is ready and all aeronautical experience requirements are met, will he allow them to apply for the practical test to earn their new privilege.
One of the keys to this preparation is the Practical Test Standards. If you haven’t seen this document yet while going through the preparation for the practical test, you need to take a look at it. This really is the cheat sheet on what the examiner is required to test on; everything from your aviation knowledge, to ability to fly the airplane, to other special areas of emphasis.
How many of the instructors have gone through the front sections of the PTS to show them what it means when a maneuver is acceptable to the examiner or when the examiner is forced to issue a notice of disapproval.
When I was going through my training back in the day, I wasn’t told about the boundaries the examiner has to stay within. I was under the impression, they could pass or fail a student for anything they wanted. I was on both the good end and the bad end of that. Thinking back, there were some maneuvers that I completed that were well within the PTS standards and the examiner failed me while some were not and he didn’t say anything. If I knew now back then, I would have had a leg to stand on when I disagreed with his decision.
Let’s take a look inside the PTS book to see what it says. In the Introduction section, one of the very first things it says is that “Adherence to the provisions of the regulations and the practical test standards is mandatory for the evaluation of private pilot applicants. On page six of the introduction, under the heading Use of the PTS tells the applicant they are required to be evaluated in ALL areas of the PTS, unless otherwise noted (the only PTS that allows this is the CFI PTS… that I know of).
Page nine lists the responsibilities of the flight instructor. If your instructor cannot give you the experience and aeronautical knowledge necessary in all areas of the PTS, it is time for a new instructor. They are required to emphasize your performance in effective visual scanning, collision avoidance procedures, manufacturers procedures and special emphasis areas.
Page ten lists the examiner responsibility during the practical test. They are required to determine if the applicant meets the acceptable standards of knowledge and skill of each task with in the PTS. If something goes wrong, the examiner may require the applicant to repeat the task in the interest of fairness although the examiner has the option to not allow a repeat of a task.
The heart of this blog is the next two sections.
Satisfactory performance is defined by five things.
- Perform the Tasks specified in the Areas of Operation for the certificate or rating sought within the approved standards
- Demonstrate mastery of the aircraft by performing each Task successfully
- Demonstrate satisfactory proficiency and competency within the approved standards
- Demonstrate sound judgment and exercises aeronautical decision making / risk management
- Demonstrate single pilot competence if the aircraft is type certificated for single pilot operations.
Unsatisfactory Performance is defined as these four things
- Any action or lack of action by the applicant that requires corrective intervention by the examiner to maintain safe flight
- Failure to use proper and effective visual scanning techniques to clear the area before and while performing maneuvers
- Consistently exceeding tolerances stated in the objectives
- Failure to take prompt corrective action when tolerances are exceeded
I really like number three and four. In the many practical tests that I have taken apart in, the examiners expect nerves to play a part in the applicant exceeding the tolerances. If the applicant exceeds them once and promptly corrects, it is not a failure. If it happens twice, probably not. Three times and you are starting to show consistent behavior to fly outside the standards and that would be unsatisfactory. Lets take steep turns as an example, you roll into a 45 degree bank and forget to pull back on the yoke, you descend fairly quickly 150 feet below your assigned altitude. If you stay there, it is a bust; but if you promptly correct and get back within standards it is OK. If it happens again, well you are starting to show consistency.
I’ve talked to many pilots who were stressed out over wondering what is acceptable or not to the examiner and what happens if they get outside of standards only once. The answer is nothing. The examiner will most likely pass you. The criteria used is consistency and a lack of prompt corrective action. The other good thing about the introduction to the PTS it clearly states that the tolerances are established for a good flying day. If there is a lot of turbulence, you won’t be held to the same standard as when the air is calm.
Hopefully this takes some of the pressure of making yourself perform at your best. That pressure may make you fly worse than before. My advice, relax you know what to expect from the examiner and treat them like your very first passenger.
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