The Private Pilot Practical Test: Survey Results From Designated Pilot Examiners and Newly Certificated Private Pilots

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) considers the reduction of general aviation (GA) accidents to be one of its highest priorities. Ensuring that pilot applicants receive complete and thorough practical examinations that are in full compliance with the appropriate practical test standards is one of the many safeguards in place to improve general aviation safety. Designated Pilot Examiners (DPEs), FAA aviation safety inspectors, and schools with examining authority operating under Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 141 serve as gatekeepers of aviation safety by ensuring that only pilot applicants that meet all of the regulatory certification requirements are issued pilot certificates. This study used two separate survey instruments to assess practical test examination practices nationally by soliciting feedback from DPEs and newly certificated GA pilots. The first instrument surveyed DPEs. We mailed 848 surveys to DPEs across the United States and screened returned surveys to include only those who had conducted at least one first-time private Pilot Airplane Single-Engine-Land (P-ASEL) practical test in the previous 12 months. Five hundred-forty respondents (64% response rate) met this criterion for inclusion in this paper. The final sample included experienced pilot examiners where over 64% indicated they had been an examiner for at least 11 years. Within the 12 months previous to completing the survey, pilot examiners conducted an average of 30 first-time private P-ASEL category and class rating tests, with 59% indicating that at least 81% of their first-time applicants passed. Nearly 99% of examiners reported using a written plan of action when conducting a practical test. The second instrument surveyed newly certificated GA pilots about their training and practical testing experiences. We mailed 4,216 surveys to pilots who were newly certificated on or after August 1, 2005 for the P-ASEL category and class rating. Returned surveys were screened to include only pilots who were tested by an examiner (includes ASIs, designated pilot examiners, and those tested by both a final phase check and examiner) and to include only those who had no previous private P-ASEL category and class rating practical test failures. This left 1,112 surveys (26% response rate) for reporting purposes. The average amount of time between the certification date and survey completion was less than three months (M=2.7 months; N=986). Source of training for pilots was split across pilot schools (Part 141 and non-Part 141: 43%), and independent flight instructors (57%). The majority of pilots were positive about the quality of flight instruction they received, with more than 80% giving high marks. When commenting upon their practical test experience, more than 95% reported that they were tested on stalls (power-on and power-off), spin awareness (82%), aeronautical decision-making (85%), and in-flight collision avoidance (82%).

  • Record URL:
  • Record URL:
  • Supplemental Notes:
    • Work was accomplished under approved task AM-B-06-HRR-521.
  • Corporate Authors:

    Federal Aviation Administration

    Civil Aerospace Medical Institute, P.O. Box 25082
    Oklahoma City, OK  United States  73125

    Xyant Technology, Incorporated

    6500 S. MacArthur Blvd.
    Oklahoma City, OK  United States  73125

    Federal Aviation Administration

    Flight Standards Technical Division
    Oklahoma City, OK  United States  73125

    Federal Aviation Administration

    Flight Standards
    Fort Worth, TX  United States  76137

    Federal Aviation Administration

    Office of Air Traffic Services, 800 Independence Avenue, SW
    Washington, DC  United States  20591
  • Authors:
    • Hackworth, Carla A
    • King, S Janine
    • Cruz, Crystal
    • Thomas, Suzanne
    • Roberts, Carrie
    • Bates, Cristina
    • Moore, Roger
  • Publication Date: 2007-6


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Print
  • Edition: Final Report
  • Features: Appendices; Figures; References;
  • Pagination: 27p

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01056028
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Report/Paper Numbers: DOT/FAA/AM-07/17
  • Files: NTL, TRIS, USDOT
  • Created Date: Aug 27 2007 5:46PM