Test Preparation


Flight Thirteen is your opportunity to review the skills you have developed in preparation for your practical test and also introduces skills needed to recover from unusual flight attitudes.

Flight Thirteen is in effect a mock check ride in that it is a review of everything you can expect to encounter during your practical test. During this flight you determine if you can perform the required procedures and maneuvers in accordance with the Practical Test Standards (PTS) and you will become familiar with what to expect during your check ride.

The FAA requires that you spend at least three hours flying with an instructor in preparation for the test within 90 days of the date of your check ride. Having flown Flight Thirteen with your instructor depending on your performance you may be assigned additional solo practice flights to work on certain maneuvers or your remaining check ride preparation may be dual. It really depends on exactly what you need to work on. Some maneuvers can be improved by solo practice while others are better worked on with an instructor. In any case at least three hours of preparation with an instructor need to be logged.

To get the most out of this flight you need to be familiar with the contents of the Practical Test Standards. These specify the tasks you must perform and the minimum standards required in order to pass the practical test. Be sure to read the PTS before this flight.

Click here to access complete private pilot airplane single engine practical test standards

Like the actual practical test Flight Thirteen starts with an oral review of your knowledge to be followed by a flight. You will be given a destination to which to plan a cross country flight. This forms a basis for discussion and will also be used to evaluate your flight planning skills. Having been given the destination in advance you generally put together your flight plan in advance so you show up for the practical test with complete weather information and a completed navigation log and flight plan form.

In this example you are assigned the task of planning a cross country flight from Oakland to South Lake Tahoe. Typically you will be asked to plan a flight to a destination that you have not visited as part of your training and which may be challenging in terms of terrain or airspace. Often the destination chosen is close to the maximum range of your airplane.

Start by putting together a flight plan using the techniques learned in Flight Eight. Pay special attention to the airspace along your proposed route and the terrain. In the case of destinations in mountainous areas you should review the Mountain Flying Clinic.

The oral part of the practical test involves a discussion of your flight plan and a thorough review of the charts used as well as a selection of questions designed to evaluate your understanding of the knowledge areas specified in the PTS. Plan on spending several hours studying for the oral and having your instructor will quiz you extensively to verify that you have the required knowledge before they sign you off.

Every examiner has their own personal way of approaching the oral and it is a good idea to go over some of their individual points of emphasis with an instructor who has sent previous students to the same examiner. Chatting with other pilots who have taken a check ride with the same examiner can also provide useful insights into their own way of interpreting the PTS.

In preparation for the oral print the FirstFlight oral preparation list of questions and take some time to write sample answers. These questions are designed to make you think about a variety of subjects and you should develop your own answers by researching the FARs , AIM, local charts and the flight manual for the airplane you intend to fly.

The actual practical test will start with a review of your paperwork which on the day of the test will consist of a review of your completed Form 8710 and your logbook including all the required endorsements and your medical and student pilot certificate (these are usually combined for student pilots). Also be prepared to go over the airplane documentation including the maintenance logs. It’s very important you go over these items in detail with your instructor prior to the practical test to be absolutely sure you are in compliance with all the practical test prerequisites in terms of flight time and endorsements. One of the best ways to antagonize a Designated Examiner is to show up for a practical test with inaccurate or incomplete paperwork.

Assuming your paperwork is ok you will then get to discuss the weather and your flight plan in the context of which you will also be quizzed on the other knowledge areas specified in the PTS. There is no formal division between the knowledge and skill portions of the practical test so oral questioning becomes an ongoing process throughout the test in addition to time devoted to oral questioning before the flight commences.

It will then be time to go out to the airplane and perform a preflight inspection according to the procedure specified in the pilots operating handbook for the airplane you will be flying. You can expect additional questions about the airplane and it’s systems during the preflight. Make sure you are familiar with the correct names and functions of all the components you inspect during then preflight.

Your flight will commence as if you were flying cross country to your planned destination. Using the techniques learnt in Flight Nine depart for your planned destination per your plan. Having established the airplane on course check your groundspeed as described in Flight Nine. Be prepared to be told to initiate a diversion shortly after having established yourself on course. To do so use the techniques described in Flight Twelve. On arrival at the diversion destination you can expect to be asked to demonstrate the various types of take offs and landings described in Flight Seven . You can also expect to be asked to make a short approach and landing as part of an engine failure simulation initiated by the examiner or reducing the power to idle and informing you that your engine has failed. You will be expected to pitch for best glide speed, do a rapid troubleshoot using a flow pattern such as that described in Flight Four, announce your intentions, and secure and land the airplane. The examiner may specify a specific place on the runway where you should touchdown.

Developing proficiency at the various types of landings should be a key part of your check ride preparation.

Whilst at the airport also be prepared to demonstrate a Go Around.

After demonstrating takeoffs, landings and a go-around you will probably proceed to a practice area where you will be asked to demonstrate the ground reference maneuvers described in Flight Four. Next expect to be asked to climb to an altitude at which you can demonstrate slow flight, stalls and steep turns as described in Flight Three . Prior to demonstrating any maneuvers be sure to make clearing turns and establish that you are clear of traffic.

At any point be prepared to demonstrate emergency procedures. It is quite possible you will be presented with more than one emergency scenario during the check ride so make sure you are totally familiar with all the emergency check lists and understand the procedures.

If it was not already covered as part of your outbound navigation prior to the diversion you will be asked to demonstrate your VOR navigation skills. You may be asked to home to a VOR station and/or to track a particular radial inbound and/or outbound using the techniques covered in Flight Ten. You should be prepared to show you can use any of the navigational equipment installed in your airplane.

Your basic instrument skills will also be evaluated and using the techniques described in Flight Two you will be expected to demonstrate straight and level flight, constant airspeed climbs and descents and turns to headings solely by reference to instruments. Your radio navigation may also be evaluated while you are flying by reference to instruments.

Recovery from Unusual Flight Attitudes

Recovery from unusual attitudes practical test standards

You can also expect to be asked to demonstrate your ability to recover from unusual flight attitudes whilst flying by reference to instruments. To develop this skill your instructor will take control of the airplane and ask you to close your eyes and touch your shoulder with your chin. Having cleared the area your instructor will then put the airplane in an unusual attitude and have you open your eyes and reestablish control of the airplane solely by reference to instruments. You will need to reference the attitude indicator to determine the airplane’s attitude and to cross check your conclusion with the other instruments. Having verified the airplanes attitude you then initiate the appropriate control inputs to return to normal flight.

Nose Low Unusual Attitude

A nose low unusual attitude will result in rapid loss of altitude and rapidly increasing airspeed. The attitude indicator will show the airplane below the horizon and the airspeed indicator will show an increase while the altimeter shows decreasing altitude. The vertical speed indicator will show a descent and the turn coordinator will indicate any turn.

Having verified that the airplane is in a nose low attitude recover by simultaneously leveling the wings, reducing the power to idle and then very gradually bringing the nose up to a straight and level attitude. It’s very important to level the wings before raising the nose and to pitch up slowly to avoid overstressing the airplane when pulling out of the dive and to avoid bring the nose up so fast that the angle of attack reaches the critical angle resulting in a stall.

Nose High Unusual Attitude

A nose high unusual attitude will result in loss of airspeed and may lead to an excessively nose high attitude that could result in a stall. The attitude indicator will show the airplane above the horizon and the airspeed indicator will show a decrease. The altimeter may initially show an increase and the vertical speed indicator will initially show a climb. The turn coordinator will indicate any turn.

Having verified the airplane is in a nose high attitude recover by simultaneously lowering the nose and adding full power and then leveling the wings. Since the main danger in a nose high attitude is a stall the first priority is to lower the nose to reduce the angle of attack. However do not lower the nose so much that you initiate a dive that results in significant loss of altitude. Using the attitude indicator try to avoid lowering the nose below the horizon. If you pitch for an airspeed between Vx and Vy you should be able to stabilize the airplane with minimum loss of altitude.

Following the unusual attitude recoveries be sure to reset your compass and directional gyro as the unusual attitudes will precess your gyros. The resulting discrepancy between you directional gyro and the compass can result in navigational confusion.

Following the unusual attitude recoveries some examiners ask you to identify your position and return to your home base. This may be a challenge if you are disorientated and it will be particularly difficult if you forget to reset your compass and directional gyro. This is an appropriate time if requested or if necessary for practical reasons to demonstrate your lost procedures per Flight Twelve.

If at any point things do not go as well as you would like them to having done your best move on to the next maneuver without letting previous difficulties detract from subsequent procedures.

Because most check rides are conducted during the day you will probably not have to demonstrate your night flight skills. However be prepared to talk about night flight.

When you have demonstrated all the required tasks you will be asked to make your may back to your home base to conclude the flight. Be sure to follow all standard procedures until the airplane is parked and tied down. In your relief to be back on the ground do not overlook items like after landing or shutdown check lists. Throughout the flight fundamental skills such as scanning and collision avoidance, stall/spin awareness, runway incursion avoidance and check list use will be evaluated as well as determining if you have an understanding of wake turbulence avoidance and low level wind shear. Overall you need to demonstrate competency and sound judgment.

A thorough debriefing to review the areas that need more work and to establish a plan for you final check ride preparation concludes Flight Thirteen.

You have now completed the FirstFlight online private pilot course. You’ve come a long way since your “FirstFlight” and if you study hard and fly with a good local instructor it will not be long before you obtain your private pilot certificate.