Tag: flight training

Designated Pilot Examiner Hot Spots: Where Applicants Struggle

Designated Pilot Examiner Hot Spots: Where Applicants Struggle

I often get asked on what areas do I see people struggle the most. While performance can vary greatly from geographic region to flight schools to airplanes, I do see some common themes that make the exams more challenging for the applicants, and have even resulted in notices of disapproval. I am creating a blog to highlight some “hot spots” where applicants struggle.

  1. The #1 issue that I see comes from EFBs. Most of my applicants use an EFB. They often flight plan their cross country on it, and use it for the oral exam when I ask questions. However, while most of them can navigate to a point, often times the applicant doesn’t know how to use functions other than looking up frequencies or navigating. For example, when someone plans a cross country on their EFB through a restricted area or MOA, I often ask them the altitudes and hours of the airspace, in addition to any requirements to fly through it. This has often stumped the applicant, not realizing that holding their finger on it will give them the answer most of the time. Often times I see them revert back to paper charts in this instance. Additionally, locating the AF/D, locating weather charts on the EFB and layers to show SIGMET/AIRMET, and finding regulations are some of the other top areas that people struggle with. The DPE recommendation: If you plan to use an EFB, know how to use it!
  2. Another top issue that I see comes from only having a rote understanding of a topic. The ACS is specifically designed to be scenario based. Most people can answer a question when asked directly, such as how many landings do you need to be current. However, when presented with a scenario, they struggle to come up with the answer. While the published oral exam guides are great, insist that your CFI (or if you are a CFI) ask you scenario based questions instead of just asking for a regulatory answer.
  3. Understanding maintenance and PIC responsibility. Most applicants can answer questions such as what inspections are required, but there seems to be a general lack of understanding that while PIC, you are responsible for airworthiness. Sometimes the applicant has never seen an airplane logbook until the day of the test. An FAA Safety Briefing put it so elegantly: “Who is responsible for the airworthiness of an aircraft? It is tempting to say it’s the mechanic who worked on the airplane, but in fact, 14 CFR 91.403(a) says the owner/operator is primarily responsible for maintaining the aircraft in an airworthy condition. This includes Airworthiness Directive (AD) compliance, and 14 CFR section 91.7 says no person may operate a civil aircraft unless it is in an airworthy condition.”

These are just a few trends that I’ve seen from oral exams, and I will publish more on the flight portion shortly. One of the biggest ways to impress your examiner and set the mood for the exam is to come prepared and follow all instructions on what to do/bring! Chasing down paperwork or showing up without a flight plan completed are ways to show that you’re not ready for a practical exam!

Sarah is currently a Designated Pilot Examiner, FAA Safety Team Lead Representative, NAFI Master Instructor, Gold Seal flight instructor, and 737 pilot for a Major U.S. airline. Sarah holds an ATP, CFI, CFII, MEI and has flown over 7300 hours. She holds a pilot license in 4 different countries (USA, Canada, Belize and Iceland – EASA) and has flown over 150 different types of airplanes in 25 different countries including oceanic crossings in small aircraft. She continues to stay involved in general aviation through her leadership roles and volunteering for different aviation organizations. Although much of her flying is now professional in nature, she enjoys flying her Super Cub, Patches, on her days off. As a regular attendee of Oshkosh and local fly-ins, she enjoys the company and camaraderie that general aviation brings and is passionate about aviation safety and flight training.

“What If I Don’t Want to Instruct to build time?”

“What If I Don’t Want to Instruct to build time?”

By Sarah Rovner, Master CFI / FAASTeam Lead Representative

“What if I don’t want to instruct?”

Those words, when uttered, generally bring on a slew of bitter old pilot responses on how new pilots should be “putting in their time.” After all, most of the pilots that have come before us in the past decade have only had instructing as an option as they attempted to build time in an industry where pilots were plenty and jobs were few. The aviation industry is on the rise, and we are at a time where expansion is outgrowing the pool of pilots available, bringing many opportunities for pilots of all experience levels.

If we think back to our training days, I’m sure we can all remember a distinct instance where we had an issue with an instructor. That issue could have ranged from poor communication, lack of ability, or complete disinterest in teaching. I have had many people reach out to me with these issues, and the students often change instructors. Not everyone is cut out to be an instructor, and in my opinion we shouldn’t force people to be an instructor I they don’t want to. It doesn’t do anybody any good to have an instructor who doesn’t care to be an instructor. Students, instructors, and the industry suffer as a whole when that happens.

People often ask me about whether or not they should pursue a CFI rating. Many university programs offer this even if the student doesn’t plan to instruct for the school upon graduation. My answer to this is yes, even if you don’t plan on teaching full time. When I was a new CFI, I had many opportunities to fly with plane owners to do BFRs, IPCs, and other occasional training events. I tagged along on Angel Flights, long cross countries, and was able to get experience flying in a variety of airplanes, many of which I could log PIC time as dual given because I had a flight instructor certificate. The networking opportunities were endless. I was introduced as the local CFI in EAA meetings, FAASTeam seminars, and other events. I never instructed full time, and yet I was able to gain opportunities just having the license and giving occasional dual in some amazing, rare airplanes that I would have never gotten to fly otherwise. Additionally, I was able to log just about every flight I took in the right seat because a CFI can log PIC while giving dual instruction, circumventing the rules regarding splitting flight time. Having the rating and being a Master CFI continues to make me more competitive for other jobs and sets me aside from my peers.

There are many opportunities in aviation in which many qualified pilots are applying for the same job. When you want to set yourself apart, the best way to do that is through differentiation. There is absolutely nothing wrong with instructing – it will give you a skillset and insight to flying that will make you a more knowledgeable pilot. However, the best way to differentiate yourself from your peers is to get involved in other aspects of the industry. Being a CFI can help you network and gain these opportunities.

I would never fault a pilot for declining to instruct when they don’t want to. I agree that we all have to do things we don’t want to in order to progress in our careers. But the last thing that aviation needs are instructors who don’t want to instruct as they do a horrible disservice to their students. My advice is to networking as much as you can, fly as many planes as you can, and volunteer your time as much as you can. These three things will take you farther in aviation than you would have ever thought of. And when the time comes, those things will make you stand out amongst your peers.

FullThrottle Aviation Scholarship Winners Announced

2017 is the first year of the scholarship program, and the winners have been selected. We would like to congratulate 3 outstanding individuals on this award and hope that the scholarship provides them a unique opportunity to expand their skillset and knowledge as a pilot on their way to a career in aviation.

Skills Enhancement Scholarship Winners (2)

Lisa Katzke Pic

Lisa Katze

Lisa began her aviation journey in late 2015 after a chance encounter with an airline pilot on the train during her evening commute. Her discovery flight reignited the fascination with aviation she’d had as a child, and she knew from the moment they leveled off that a career change was in her future. She achieved her private pilot certificate, instrument rating, and tailwheel endorsement in 2016 while balancing a full-time career.  She started her professional aviation career as a CFI this fall, transitioning from a 12-year career in retail inventory management. She is genuinely excited about everything she has to learn from teaching as well as the opportunities it will provide her to make a difference for her students. From that very first pilot to all of those who have since taken the time to offer their advice, experience, and sofas, Lisa has been consistently amazed and humbled by the spirit of mentorship and giving back that is pervasive in the aviation community. It is this spirit that she hopes to embody as she continues her growth as an aviator. With this scholarship opportunity provided by the generosity of FullThrottle Aviation, LLC, she will be starting her commercial multiengine rating, an important next step towards her ultimate goal of the airlines.


Elizabeth Keller

Elizabeth was born and raised in East Tennessee. She grew up and worked on her family farm and knew by the time she was twelve that she wanted to fly. Her college search included several reputable schools, but she made her decision when she was selected for Middle Tennessee State University’s highest academic award, The Buchanan Fellowship. She spent the summer after graduation earning her private pilot certificate, and by 20 years old, she had also earned her instrument, commercial, and CFI. She is currently a CFI at the University Flight school, and plans to use the scholarship to pursue her multi-engine rating.

Airline Training and Orientation Program (ATOP) Scholarship (1)

Nathan Dailing

Nathan Dailing

Nathan is an aspiring pilot from Wisconsin.  His father was an aircraft mechanic and introduced him to aviation at a young age. He prides himself on the fact that he has been to every EAA Airventure in Oshkosh since he was three years old.  When Nathan was 17 years old, he obtained his private pilot certificate and has continued to gain ratings, obtaining his flight instructor certificate as well. Nathan is currently building hours to pursue a career in the airlines. He will use the ATOP scholarship to further my education and diversify his to be an exceptional pilot candidate for the airlines.