Passed Private Pilot Checkride (ACS vs PTS)

Discussion in 'Pilot Training' started by ClassAlpha, Nov 7, 2016.

  1. ClassAlpha

    ClassAlpha Filing Flight Plan

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2016
    Messages:
    8
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    ClassAlpha
    After almost 3 years of training (on and off) and just over 101 hours of flight time, I passed the Private Pilot ASEL checkride last week under the ACS! I read dozens of checkride stories on PoA and they helped prepare me prepare, so I am paying it forward by sharing my checkride experience. This will one of several posts about my experience. In this threat, I will share some thoughts on the difference between the Airman Certification Standards (ACS) and Practical Test Standards (PTS).

    I will skip to the bottom line here if you don’t want to read the details below – I don’t think there is a huge difference between the ACS and PTS and it shouldn’t really change your approach to studying. Let me start off by saying I was very concerned about the move from PTS and ACS, particularly from an oral exam perspective. Given that most of the checkride stories out there on the web are about the PTS and many videos readily available on youtube show PTS exams, there was some uncertainty going into the exam. In hindsight, I was overly concerned about the potential differences. In reality, my experience under the ACS was very similar to the PTS checkride videos/stories. I think the difference between PTS and ACS, if any, is how questions are worded to test your ability to USE the knowledge with a risk management mindset rather than simply regurgitating acronyms and mnemonics (i.e. TOMATO FLAMES).

    Actually TOMATO FLAMES is a good example of the POTENTIAL difference between how a PTS exam is conducted versus an ACS exam. Rather than the DPE asking “what equipment is required for VFR flight?” he gave me a scenario where one of my fuel gauges was showing empty but I could see I had a full tank for a short flight – “how would you handle this situation?” He was basically testing whether I knew working fuel gauges is required equipment and that a Special Permit would be required to fly it somewhere for maintenance. I think this would have been a perfectly fair (and common) question under the PTS. So, is there a difference? I think there are simply a higher percentage of "scenario based questions" than we’ve seen in the past. Having said that, many DPEs have incorporated scenarios into their questioning for years. In my case, I believe the oral exam would have been basically the same under PTS.
     
    Old97 and exncsurfer like this.
  2. ClassAlpha

    ClassAlpha Filing Flight Plan

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2016
    Messages:
    8
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    ClassAlpha
    Below are details from my oral exam. Disclaimer: I've included some of the responses to the oral exam questions; these may be inaccurate or imprecise, so do not rely on them.

    THE NIGHT BEFORE

    Tried to stop studying early. Tossed and turned in bed. Dreamed about every maneuver. Dreamed about passing. Did not wake up refreshed. I think this is pretty typical no matter how prepared you are.

    ORAL EXAM

    The DPE and I were scheduled to meet at 8 AM. I got to the airport about 45 minutes early to get my paperwork organized. The DPE also showed up 45 minutes early and he was ready to go! We spent the first 30 minutes or so on paperwork. He reviewed and made copies of my driver’s license, IACRA application, medical certificate, knowledge exam report, endorsements, etc. After knocking out the paperwork, the DPE briefed me on the exam process using his detailed Plan of Action. He informed me that the oral would be much like the knowledge exam and that he wasn’t expecting perfection – “if I ask 50 questions and you get 40 right, that would be passing with an 80%.” He also informed me that he wouldn’t tell me if I was right or wrong until the end of the day and would take notes throughout (and those notes are not necessarily a good thing or a bad thing).

    Oral Exam Topics:

    The oral portion of the exam took approximately 75 minutes. I should start off by saying he had approximately 10 pages of potential topics to cover, so I imagine every oral exam this guy delivers is going to be slightly different. It appeared he was randomly picking questions from the list. Having said that, the length of the paragraphs below is probably reflective of the importance of each topic to this examiner.

    There were a lot of questions on the sectional and airspace. It is important you study every symbol on the sectional and have an idea of how it could impact your flight planning and execution. Rather than simply asking “what does this symbol mean?”, he came up with scenarios and asked how the symbols would impact my flight. We covered every symbol and every airspace along my planned cross-country flight. Some examples: TSRA (voluntary, good practice), obstructions/towers, MEL, MOA, restricted airspace, class bravo clearance requirements, class Charlie clearance, class delta clearance, blue (towered) vs magenta (non-towered airport symbols). Do you need to be in contact with Class Bravo if you are within the Mode C veil, but outside Class Bravo airspace? Knowing the VFR minimums on every inch of the sectional was necessary, as this topic was heavily tested.

    The DPE asked about my personal minimums early on in the oral exam (ceilings, max crosswind, max wind, shortest runway length for takeoff/landing, visibility). Fortunately, I had my minimums written down in the back of my logbook already and was prepared to list them off. He then tested whether I would stick to those minimums under several high pressure scenarios.

    There were a lot of questions on weight and balance. I came prepared with the weight and balance for the flight portion of the exam. He then gave me several scenarios requiring me to re-calculate weight and balance on the spot – identifying whether we were “inside the envelope,” how aft/forward CG impacts flight characteristics, and to re-balance the plane if plane is loaded forward or overweight (move heavier passengers to back and lighter passengers to front, reducing fuel load). I initially struggled with these questions because I tried doing the math in my head; found it easier after I started writing out all the scenarios/questions and taking my time with the math.

    We spent some time on my cross-country flight plan. Why did I choose specific checkpoints? Important to not go over 10nm between checkpoints (for the checkride!). Why did I choose 3500ft as cruising altitude? (hemispheric rules and well over the MELs along the route). Why not choose 5500ft or 7500ft? (too short of a flight, so less efficient…would consider 5500ft for the same flight at night to allow me more time to react in the event of a night emergency). How much fuel are you burning on the trip? What is the minimum fuel level you would land with? (30 minutes legally day VFR, but I have a personal minimum of 1 hour). How did you check the weather for this flight? (1-800-WXBRIEF is a great resource – you can plug in your route and get a standard briefing, abbreviated briefing, outlook briefing the night before, and then sign up for email updates up until whatever time you want). Other than that, we did not spend much time on weather or weather theory.

    There were a few questions on aircraft systems. How would you know if you lost a magneto in flight? (drop in RPMs, some engine roughness, test magnetos and one would obviously not work). Yes, the plane will still fly on one magento. Where is the battery located? (I had to look this one up in my POH; it is on the front left side of the firewall). Alternator voltage? Number of pistons? What does the elevator do? Is the plane equipped for icing? Would you fly the plane into icing conditions? What type of avionics are installed on the plane? What type of fuel? What do you look for when you check fuel before flight? (sediment, water, color)? What would you do in the middle of the winter, it is very cold outside, and you are unable to drain fuel through the sump? (potential icing blocking the drain ports – water in the fuel is a concern). Fuel capacity? Oil capacity? Any hydraulic systems on the plane? What gauges would you lose if your pitot-static system failed? What gauges would you use lose if your vacuum system failed?

    Scenario: your friend owns a Bonanza (retractable gear, high horsepower, constant speed propeller, etc) and will pay you to fly him somewhere, can you do it? This scenario tests your knowledge on a couple topics – (1) how can you legally fly a complex, high performance aircraft (with the proper training and endorsements) and (2) can your friend pay you to fly him (yes, as long as you pay no less than your pro rata share of the expenses).

    We reviewed the maintenance records. Be prepared to put your finger on the required maintenance (100 hr, annual which can also serve as the 100 hr, pitot-static, transponder, ELT). What are ADs? What are the ADs for this aircraft? Who is responsible for the maintenance? (owner/operator, but pilot needs to check prior to flight).

    Other questions:

    Currency requirements to carry passengers? Night vs day requirements?

    Flight review requirements and how much time is required for Flight Review? I later found out I missed this question – FAR 61.56(a) states that a flight review consists of a minimum of one hour of flight training and one hour of ground training.

    When do you have to notify the FAA if your address changes to maintain a valid certification? 30 days.

    SCUBA diving before flight rules? See AIM 8.1.4(d). Interestingly enough, I am SCUBA diver and stumbled on this one. Basically assured the DPE that I understood the risks and would follow the guidelines carefully if/when I mix SCUBA diving and flying. That answer seemed sufficient for the DPE rather than regurgitating the exact rules.

    What does CFIT stand for? Controlled Flight into Terrain. How would this concept apply to a trip from Denver to Las Vegas through the Rocky Mountains? What other considerations would you need for this flight? (Service Ceiling).

    How would a SIGMET affect your plans to fly? How about a AIRMET? SIGMET is a red flag – you would ABSOLUTELY NOT fly with one as a ASEL private pilot. AIRMET would be a flag and MAY seriously impact your plans.

    If you experience wind shear on while coming in for landing, how would you report to ATC? What would they want to know? (PIREPS).

    What would you squawk in the event of an emergency? If you were not already talking to the tower, on what frequency would you transmit in the event of an emergency? 7700, 121.5.

    Does this plane have a MEL? No. FAR 91.213 can be tricky at first, so make sure you understand it. Apparently this topic is commonly misunderstood and examiners love to ask about it.

    Pressure altitude and density altitude. How does higher density altitude affect performance?
     
    James331 and StevieTimes like this.
  3. Walboy

    Walboy Cleared for Takeoff

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2014
    Messages:
    1,018
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Walboy
    Congrats!
     
  4. MAKG1

    MAKG1 Touchdown! Greaser!

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2012
    Messages:
    13,409
    Location:
    California central coast
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    MAKG
    Interesting.

    I had similar questions on my (PTS) oral. Like, the right side nav light is blown. Can you fly? What about the landing light?

    Similarly, he pulled out a sectional and said weather reports were 1400 OVC everywhere. Pointed to various airspaces and asked if (and how, in some cases) I could fly legally.
     
  5. frfly172

    frfly172 Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2008
    Messages:
    13,450
    Location:
    mass fla
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    ron keating
    Congrats,now get out there and fly.
     
  6. jspilot

    jspilot Cleared for Takeoff

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2011
    Messages:
    1,173
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    jspilot
    Great write up! I took my PPL checkride almost 6 years ago( still seems like yesterday honestly!) and your experience sounds almost identical to mine. Sounds like you did a great job!

    Regarding the fuel gauge question- while working fuel gauges are a requirement, you will often find that they are not accurate( sometimes the needles get stuck-- a simple flick on the glass can fix that.) Truth is, if you visually inspect the fuel tank, and remove the cap and see the fuel is filled, in reality a working fuel gauge on a short flight is essentially the most useless gauge on the plane. Now, if we are talking about a 400nm cross country then yes, I'd want those gauges to work!
     
  7. MAKG1

    MAKG1 Touchdown! Greaser!

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2012
    Messages:
    13,409
    Location:
    California central coast
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    MAKG
    FYI, a favorite oral trick question seems to be, "Does your aircraft have any anti-icing or de-icing equipment?" The answer is almost always yes, even if the airplane is not certified for known icing. Examples are alternate static, pitot heat, defroster, perhaps an alternate air door for the intake, and carb heat.

    We're not used to thinking of those bits in those terms, but that's what they are.
     
  8. azure

    azure Final Approach

    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2005
    Messages:
    7,878
    Location:
    Varmint Country
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    azure
    Congratulations!
     
  9. Vance Breese

    Vance Breese Line Up and Wait

    Joined:
    Oct 10, 2014
    Messages:
    836
    Location:
    Nipomo, CA
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Vance Breese
    Congratulations!
    Thank you for the thoughtful advice.
     
  10. HouTxPilot82

    HouTxPilot82 Pre-takeoff checklist

    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2014
    Messages:
    276
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    HouTxPilot82
    Congrats on passing the checkride! Enjoy that great feeling and get out there and use the rating! :)
     
  11. NealRomeoGolf

    NealRomeoGolf Cleared for Takeoff

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2016
    Messages:
    1,227
    Location:
    Illinois / Germany
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    NRG
    Congrats! Passed mine 2 weeks ago. 75 minutes on the oral portion seems really short to cover everything, but it varies by examiner. Mine took 2 hours and he said that was the fastest oral exam he had done for the PPL. I had a time crunch for finishing my exam (long story) so I was flying through answers, luckily all to his satisfaction.
     
  12. eetrojan

    eetrojan Pattern Altitude

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2012
    Messages:
    1,527
    Location:
    Orange County, CA
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    eetrojan
    Congrats to ClassAlpha and NRG!
     
  13. exncsurfer

    exncsurfer Pattern Altitude

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2014
    Messages:
    1,848
    Location:
    NC
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    exncsurfer
    Congrats! Nice write-up.

    First post? Well welcome to POA(I assume you've been lurking for a while). :) I only lasted a few months as a lurker.
     
  14. jordane93

    jordane93 Final Approach

    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2013
    Messages:
    8,996
    Location:
    Long Island, NY
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Jordan
    Congrats!
     
  15. mjburian

    mjburian Cleared for Takeoff

    Joined:
    Nov 28, 2007
    Messages:
    1,273
    Location:
    Milwaukee, WI
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Marty
    Congratulations! Great write-up and it sounds like you did well on the oral portion. How did the flying go?

    Who will be your first passenger?
     
  16. denverpilot

    denverpilot Taxi to Parking

    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2009
    Messages:
    49,329
    Location:
    Denver, CO
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    DenverPilot
    My DPE for my CFI ride (and apparently FAA, because he says they have a "soft push" on issues surrounding pilots not knowing when an aircraft is airworthy right now...) pointed out that TOMATO FLAMES is stupid. He asks people who regurgitate it to immediately grab a pencil or pen and write all of the items on a piece of paper, and it's really rare that someone gets them all, UNLESS they JUST took a checkride. And even then, for many aircraft it's just flat WRONG.

    He points out that all anyone ACTUALLY needs to remember for Part 91 is 91.213, (usually starting at 91.213(d)) . It will literally walk you through every possible scenario. He points out... "Do you want to remember TOMATO FLAMES" or just remember "91.213"?

    He also points out that there's a well done Advisory Circular to teach/follow from if anyone needs less "lawyerese" than the FAR... or pictures, since it's complete with flowcharts:
    AC 91-67:
    https://www.faa.gov/regulations_pol....cfm/go/document.information/documentID/22435
     
  17. MAKG1

    MAKG1 Touchdown! Greaser!

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2012
    Messages:
    13,409
    Location:
    California central coast
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    MAKG
    I've found that I need to refer to the kinds of operation limits chart rather frequently if something is inop.

    An example where (A) TOMATO FLAMES will get you in trouble is if the strobes on a restart Cessna are blown. The beacon does not count as an anticollision light for these aircraft, as it ordinarily does. Strobes only. That's reflected in the POH, but not in anything else.
     
  18. Skywalker

    Skywalker Line Up and Wait

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2010
    Messages:
    933
    Location:
    Novi, MI
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Skywalker
    Congratulations! Now go out and have fun. :)
     
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2016
  19. MAKG1

    MAKG1 Touchdown! Greaser!

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2012
    Messages:
    13,409
    Location:
    California central coast
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    MAKG
    Now go out and HAVE fun. Though most of us would like to go out having fun, I'd think he'd prefer to have another flight afterward.... :D
     
  20. Skywalker

    Skywalker Line Up and Wait

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2010
    Messages:
    933
    Location:
    Novi, MI
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Skywalker
    Changed.
     
  21. ClassAlpha

    ClassAlpha Filing Flight Plan

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2016
    Messages:
    8
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    ClassAlpha
    Yes, I have been lurking for several months. PoA has been a great resource.
     
    denverpilot and exncsurfer like this.
  22. ClassAlpha

    ClassAlpha Filing Flight Plan

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2016
    Messages:
    8
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    ClassAlpha
    First passenger was my wife. We went up for a quick flight a couple days later. She is a bit scared of flying in smaller planes, but she had a blast!
     
    mjburian likes this.
  23. ClassAlpha

    ClassAlpha Filing Flight Plan

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2016
    Messages:
    8
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    ClassAlpha
    mjburian likes this.