How to make sure things go smoothly with your FAA designated pilot examiner.

Like most of us, DPEs have their pet peeves. But you can avoid triggering them with proper preparation and focus. Follow the suggestions below to remain in sync with your DPE on test day.

1 DON’T let nerves ruin your readiness. Almost everyone is nervous before a checkride, and DPEs understand this, says Randy Sharkey, FAA DPE and pilot check airman at Sweet Helicopters. Take steps to boost your confidence with thorough preparation: make sure your documentation is in order ahead of time and arrive early for your appointment. At the test site, walk around and familiarize yourself with the area. Calm your nerves before testing starts with simple relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or visualizing a successful checkride.

2 DO your homework. Know the material inside and out. Sharkey explains that the practical test will have no surprises: what shows up on your test is in the FAA’s Practical Test Standards, which are available online.

3 DON’T try to bluff the examiner. If you forget the answer to a question, be honest and let your DPE know. The examiner will let you check your notes or the book—as long as you don’t do so for every question.

4 DO take your time with the preflight checklist. After you’ve passed the oral portion of the test, tell your examiner you’d like to take a break before the checkride. Approach the preflight checklist in a slow and measured way before taking off—don’t rush this important safety practice.

5 DON’T blame the wind for your performance. If your checkride takes place on a windy or gusty day, don’t cite the conditions as the reason you were unable to conduct certain tasks. The DPE is evaluating your ability to fly in a variety of weather conditions.

Thanks to Randy Sharkey for the tips above, which are based on his presentation at the May 25, 2023, HAI@Work webinar, “DPE Pet Peeves.” To learn more about how to prepare for your practical test, watch the recording of the webinar at

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Andrew Parker

Andrew Parker

Andrew D. Parker is the copy editor at HAI. A professional editor and writer for more than 20 years, his previous experience includes serving as editor-in-chief of Rotor & Wing magazine, online editor of Vertical magazine, managing editor of Aviation Maintenance and Avionics magazines, and news editor of Professional Pilot magazine.