Reflections and Tips from Recent Practical Tests

I would like to share a few reflections and tips from recent practical tests I have given. In most cases, the tests I have given are proof of fantastic candidates who are dedicated to learning and progressing as pilots, but there are also moments that just leave me wondering about some of the basic preparation things that an applicant could do to make their time with me so much easier. So here are a few things I would offer:

  • Yes you should bring an FAR/AIM with you (unless somehow you have memorized it all) and yes it should be a current one. Too many times applicants either don’t have a FAR/AIM with them or one that is current. I’m not certain which is worse to be honest. Not having one is bad, having an old one just shows an applicant doesn’t care to have current information.
  • It is a really good idea to have a copy (digital pdf on your ipad is fine) of the Practical Test Standards for the test your are taking (and yes it should be current also). This is the menu the examiner will use on the practical test. Know it and have one. You can find these at

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Ok, so the GPS Was Doing What it was “Supposed” to Do, Just Not What I “Would Want” it To Do

Well, the GPS was working properly after all on the flight from the previous post (Normally when a pilot had a depiction of 3.9 nautical DME miles from a Class D airport and hadn’t talked with the tower on a practical test, I would have failed them….but…). After some more digging, we found it was doing exactly what it was programmed to do. It just isn’t programmed to do quite what I might think I would like it to do in such a situation.

The GPS wasn’t actually telling us the distance to the station that we had put into the FMS, it wasn’t “distance to the desired waypoint” from the present position of the aircraft to that what was programmed into the FMS that was being shown, it was in fact “distance to current waypoint along a track.”  More precisely, it’s the remaining distance along the path assuming the aircraft were on the path. It doesn’t’ matter if you are on the actual track that was programmed, or parallel to it. On it, 5 miles to one side, or 1000 miles to one side, it is going to track the distance along the parallel track to the perpendicular point of the originally set FMS point.

Confused yet?

So was I. So we made the system do it again.

It’s not an error if it does the same thing each time do the same thing right?

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Normally when a pilot had a depiction of 3.9 nautical DME miles from a Class D airport and hadn’t talked with the tower on a practical test, I would have failed them….but…

In this case, things weren’t exactly as they seemed, and a little more detail is required, and it brought up a very interesting question. What if your GPS data is not depicting correctly.

1If you look at the first picture to the right, you can see a track (from a screen shot I took on my iPad with my charting software) that shows us approaching the KBTL Class D airspace ring. On a practical test, I will always stop an applicant from “getting us in trouble” and doing something such as breaking airspace. You can see our track on the screen shot was taking us very close to the KBTL airport.

In this case, we were navigating visually (not using the GPS to get to a point west of KBTL that is used as a common entry point to the airspace (a gate – high density training environment) and staying a little further north than we normally might to avoid some rain showers that were in the area. As we approached the area, I got a bit more sensitive to the proximity to the airspace as the applicant visually navigated using a chart and referenced the ground. I did the same, but also had my charting application running and shot this screen shot as we got closer to the airport. Continue reading

Solving the Pilot Shortage – New Solutions Developing As the Shortage Develops

The question of a pilot shortage continues to draw comments from all sides of the discussion, showing that interests instead of fact may be what are gaining media press, clouding the real situation from real analysis.

The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) contends that there is, “There’s no pilot shortage. It’s a pilot PAY shortage!” If you think this is a factual representation, it is worth remembering that it is the job of ALPA to represent pilot interests and to push for an increase in pay. If I was doing the job there, I would say the same thing. But that doesn’t mean the statement wouldn’t be biased, serving of the interests of a specific constituency, or even self serving of the Union itself. I also can’t say I disagree that some levels of pilots to need to get paid better. (Listen to a recent discussion with ALPA representatives here – Continue reading