Top Letters And Comments, March 18, 2022


Overcoming Multiple Checkride Failures

At the end of my career as a DPE I retested and passed a woman who had endured exactly this kind of behavior on her first try for PP. That DPE was not removed, and I subsequently heard that his behavior toward female applicants is well known in the region. I heard too many times about similar unfair behavior in other regions directed at women and non-white applicants. Attitudes that were current 50 years ago persist in aviation, while other industries have made great strides in eliminating them. It’s a pity aviation is still in the dark ages.

On the other hand, I tested many initial CFI applicants in accelerated program schools who were woefully unprepared, and an uncomfortable proportion of applicants for other ratings who simply were deficient. The training department in my former airline was absolutely professional in every way, so it is possible to establish and maintain high standards and also possible to enforce them rigorously and fairly.

The problem starts with GA. The FAA must figure out a better way to observe and scrutinize the behavior of its designees.


The article states: “The initial CFI checkride reportedly has the highest failure rate: 50 percent.” From what I’ve seen via a 10 minute googling session, that’s just not true. A 2018 AOPA article from Jason Blair (recently interviewed on AVweb, DPE and expert on pilot training) stated that “the pass rates (including those conducted by DPEs and FAA inspectors) have averaged somewhere near 70 percent over the past decade and aren’t changing significantly. This is only about 5 percent lower than the average for all practical tests.” And, the Blair article stated that in the most recent year for which data was available (2017), the initial CFI pass rate for DPEs was nearly 68% while the pass rate with FAA inspectors was 73.5% (if you can get them to do the free practical tests, I also take issue with the statement in the article that many CFI checkrides are given by FSDO inspectors, I think that’s largely old and outdated news and at best a small minority).

The thrust of the article is clear and good: multiple checkride failures are not good for hiring, even in this environment of pilot scarcity: there have been enough NTSB investigations of accidents where the pilot under scrutiny busted multiple checkrides or company training events. More source checking on the factual details might be helpful here when authors stray from hard facts.

Scott Dyer

OP wasn’t suggesting that someone with a single checkride failure should reconsider their career path. Anyone can have a bad day. It’s when that bad day turns into groundhog day that there’s a problem. I’ve seen posters on other forums ask about their chances of landing that sweet airline gig when they’ve literally never passed a checkride on their first attempt. I usually tell them that some soul searching is in order.

Race and gender play more of a role than we like to think. I don’t jump to that conclusion when someone fails a ride but it does happen. The vast majority of pilots would never fail someone for those reasons but I’ve also met some remarkable Neanderthals in my time who would have no problem doing that. It’s a real thing.

What a lot of pilots don’t realize is that until you get that interview, it’s likely a human being has never seen your application. They use computer algorithms to sort through applications and decide which ones a further look. So if certain flags in the algorithm are tripped (like greater than X number of checkride failures), then the app never even sees the light of day. There are ways around this, but it takes a lot more legwork to get that application in front of a decision maker.

I’m an outlier. I got hired at a legacy with 4 checkride failures (CFI 3x and CMEL 1x). But those checkrides were 25 years ago when I was younger and much dumber. It was part luck with the current hiring frenzy. Even so I had to work hard to compensate for those failures. I’ve been on double secret probation my entire life. A single incident/accident/violation, or a more recent checkride failure, or a DUI probably would have torpedoed my chances for good. It’s not a comfortable situation in which to be.


Mars Helicopter Mission Extended

This is why I think that the Ingenuity team deserves this year’s Collier Trophy. For such a significant achievement (flight on another planet) under such crushing constraints (the known ones were daunting, the unknown ones still numerous) the design, construction, and operation of this “little chopper that could” is a triumph of aerospace engineering.

Chip Davis

20 Seconds To Save It

Typical light airplanes don’t have enough performance to allow instructors to demonstrate somatographic illusions. They simply can’t accelerate fast enough to generate the illusion.

What they can demonstrate is the insidious nature of the “leans.” All you have to do is get the student to close their eyes and describe what they think the airplane is doing. The instructor then smoothly and slowly rolls the airplane into a medium turn. Eventually the student will say the airplane is now flying straight and level. When they open their eyes, they will be momentarily disoriented. It is a powerful demonstration of why you have to disregard your senses and trust the instruments.

With respect to the demonstrated incompetence of the accident pilot, I would suggest the questioning should start with the instructor who signed them off for their commercial pilot flight test. In my opinion it would have been obvious that this person did not have the qualities necessary to be a successful professional pilot. The reality however is that anyone can eventually pass the flight test if they spend enough money. Flight schools and instructors generally won’t tell students they are unlikely to succeed as long as they are spending money at the school.

David Gagliardi

I did some training in a CAP Cessna 182 with a Garmin G1000 that was equipped with a “go around” button. I thought it was a recipe for disaster for an inexperienced pilot since it only set the FMS and autopilot. It didn’t automatically change the throttle or flap settings. In my opinion that would have led to a stall on a go around since it pitched the aircraft up but did not add power or reduce drag without pilot input. I shared my concerns with the instructor but he really couldn’t do anything about it since CAP had decided to equip many of the 182s in their fleet with this button.

There wasn’t any discussion of how much training in automatic go around mode the FO had received in this accident. Most of the GA fleet doesn’t have this capability so it’s hard to train on it. It’s logical to infer that most GA instructors aren’t familiar with it either since it’s so rare. If an aircraft is equipped with this feature, then it should be mandatory that the instructor be familiar with it and train student pilots thoroughly in it’s operation.

The NTSB focused on the pilot’s poor performance history, which is important, but they didn’t dive deeply into his training history according to what was presented in the report. I think this accident could have been prevented if the FO had been more thoroughly trained in the use of the automated go around.

Andrew M.

Poll: Have You Ever Busted A Checkride?

  • Sure, but I also passed a whole bunch of them on the first try! Some of the checkrides were more stressful than others, but were mostly fair. I made mistakes and sometimes the examiner made mistakes. Judging human performance will never be as objective as we might like for it to be. However, with that said, the process of checking exists for good reason and most examiners make an effort to comply with the standards to the maximum degree they are capable of. But they are as human as the rest of us and to err is human. To learn from error and improve performance as a result is also human.
  • Yes, instrument ride due to VOR failure and flag didn’t come down until the instructor tapped the glass.
  • No; but a DPE signed me off, then filed a failure, then a retake and success that never happened.
  • First examiner claimed my long cross country for the private didn’t qualify, and refused to give me the checkride. He was wrong, and the second examiner accepted it and passed me.
  • Almost, but managed the examiner’s misplaced bluster.
  • The examiner nearly got us killed, I was yelling at him to keep his hands off the controls. Landed the aircraft taxied to the FBO and told him to get out!!!
  • No, but I bounced my first landing upon PPL ride nerves and was allowed to make three more good ones to show I could land well.
  • Yes, during a “phase trials” of airline training program, which do not count as “failures” in FAA sense. Both “failures” were check airman misconduct.
  • I don’t want to say because I’m afraid I might jinx myself.

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