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My Top 10 Pet Peeves as a DPE

Safety Check

Last year I did a 10-part video series titled, “My Top 10 Pet Peeves as a DPE”. I created the series to help pilots pass their practical test or what is more commonly known as the dreaded “check ride.” Check rides can be very stressful, especially for private applicants. Please keep in mind the comments are based on my own observations. It is important to note that the following are by no means mandated by the FAA. They are in no particular order.

  1. The winds are much stronger than I am used to.”  Man, if I had a dime for every time that I have heard that statement used by an applicant as a reason for their poor performance. I would encourage you to fly with your instructor on those windy and gusty days. Just because it is windy doesn’t mean that your examiner will extend you grace.
  2. Sorry, I’m late sir.”  Well, you are off to a bad start already and we haven’t even begun yet! Arriving on time demonstrates that you are prepared and organized. If your appointment for the check ride is 9AM doesn’t mean you are walking in the door at that time. Give yourself extra time to arrive early enough to get settled in the meeting room. Get to know your surroundings if it’s an unfamiliar airport, i.e., airport frequencies, active runway etc. If you are rushed this will only add to an already stressful situation.
  3. Life is a Beach. This is not the day to wear a muscle shirt with shorts and flip-flops. True story. However, it’s not necessary to wear your Sunday best either. One of Roger Sharkey’s favorite sayings is, “you can’t buy a second first impression.” Good advice in this case.
  4. Know your aircraft. Some of the best applicants I’ve seen are those that are really familiar with the rotorcraft flight manual (RFM). It is important to thoroughly know the limitation and emergency sections. Make sure you can explain the pilot’s corrective action when a warning caution light illuminates. In the event of an actual emergency, you will not have time to refer to the RFM for guidance. Certain sections need to be memorized for the benefit of passing the oral portion of the test but more importantly, it could save your life someday.
  5. The instructor calls to make the appointment and follows up with “what areas should I have my student study for?” It is NO secret. Rotorcraft are still using the “PTS.” Examiners are required to prepare a Plan of Action (POA) for the practical test. The POA will include questions that were missed on the knowledge test so make sure that your instructor has gone over each question with you and that you have a better understanding of the topic.
  6. I can’t seem to find my password for IACRA.”  This rates in my Top three frustrations. Part of the pretest protocols is for the applicant to log in to the IACRA website and electronically sign the 8710 form when asked by the examiner. After 3 failed attempts the website will lock you out and the fun begins by having to call the FAA 800 number to reset it. Have your IACRA login and password written down somewhere or saved on your phone. This is just another helpful hint that will help reduce stress.
  7. Do I need to bring the maintenance logbooks to the check ride?” Absolutely. The examiner is required to verify that he or she has an airworthy aircraft to conduct the test. Some flight schools will use different color tabs to highlight the 100-hour/annual inspections. I am fine with tabs however it is best that the applicant has a basic knowledge of the maintenance logbooks, i.e., what is the difference between a 100-hour inspection and an annual inspection? Another maintenance-related question might be to explain the difference between service bulletins (SB’s) and airworthiness directives (AD’s). 
  8. Can I use my iPad in place of paper?” You bet. However, don’t let an electronic device become your own worst enemy. An airplane DPE colleague told me his applicant’s iPad froze during a simulated ILS approach and the applicant didn’t have a backup. When the examiner asked him to execute the missed approach procedure the applicant also froze. I had an applicant use his iPad for the weight and balance calculations only to discover that he was using incorrect starting numbers for the empty weight and moment. Again, electronic devices are permissible for the practical test. Just make sure you have some sort of backup plan and most certainly have a clear understanding of how to do a weight and balance by long hand like we had to before the invention of iPads.
  9. Where are ALL of your endorsements?”  This is your flight instructor’s responsibility to assure all of the proper endorsements have been signed with the corresponding FAR. A good source is Advisory Circular 61-65H dated August 2018 or search FAA pilot endorsements. It is also not a bad idea to tab out the requirements in Part 61. This will help the examiner verify you meet the requirements per 61.109.
  10. I’m sorry I am so nervous.” Undoubtedly this is the biggest obstacle to overcome on check ride day. Here are a couple of ideas that have been successful for me. Arrive early and get everything organized on the table in front of you. Then sit back and relax. Make small talk with the examiner. Don’t tell everyone you know the date of your check ride. That way if the results aren’t exactly what you wanted you don’t have to let anyone know. If a question is asked that you have no clue about, simply say, “Is it ok if I take a minute to check my resources?” Have the attitude of I am here to do my best – that is all I can do. 

If you are already a licensed pilot, I would encourage you to consider seeking an additional rating. It will not only make you a safer pilot the insurance underwriters will take notice and hopefully provide you with a better rate. I hope you found these tips helpful. Another Safety Check is coming next month. Until then…fly safe.

Randy Sharkey

Randy is a dual rated Airline Transport Pilot with 13,000 flight hours in airplanes and helicopters. He has type ratings in the BE400 and CE500. Randy has been a rotorcraft Designated Pilot Examiner representing the Grand Rapids FSDO since 2014. Currently he works for Sweet Helicopters, a northern Indiana Part 135 air carrier operator and serves as the Airport Manager of the Goshen Municipal Airport.

About Enstrom Helicopter

From Rudy Enstrom’s early designs in 1943 to initial testing in a Michigan Quarry in 1957 to aircraft operating on six continents, Enstrom Helicopter Corporation has maintained a reputation for safety, value and performance. Based in Menominee, Michigan and proudly made in the United States, Enstrom has a rich history for design innovation. The goal is to provide helicopters to the customer’s exact specification and deliver support and maintenance worldwide.