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1/5 of FAA Checkride Applicants Are “Unqualified!”

When an applicant shows up for an FAA evaluation with a Desgnated Pilot Examiner (DPE), the first step is validating the applicant’s experience and endorsements; “qualification.” According to a gathering of 36 senior DPEs at Oshkosh, approximately 1/5th of scheduled flight tests never even start due to incorrect CFI preparation of the applicant.  A DPE cannot legally accept the IACRA 8710 and begin a certification activity, unless all the applicant’s experience and endorsements are correct and meet the regulatory standards. We are wasting 20% of checkride opportunities! We could boost availability dramatically by just getting the qualification part correct.

As a frustrated DPE, I wrote the SAFE Toolkit App 7 years ago, to address this exact problem. Continuously updated and expanded, the toolkit provides all the required pilot experience (landings/hours) necessary for all the FAA certificates and ratings. It also contains the FAA-approved 61.65 endorsements and  ACS and PTS test codes that need to be endorsed for every flight test (CFR 61.39 the “meta-endorsement”).

The real casualties of these errors are the scheduled test applicants preparing and suffering “test anxiety” but never getting an opportunity to demonstrate their abilities. Most DPEs (legitimately) charge for traveling and showing up (and wasting their time) so there is a financial hit to the applicants as well. One way to fix this problem is to download and use the SAFE Toolkit App.

Since many CFIs do not assiduously adhere to the FAA guidance or use the SAFE App (surprise me…), I subsequently added “Checkride Ready!™” to the app directed at pilot applicants so they can directly access the “DPE gouge” and avoid the common checkride problems. “Overcoming Flight Test Anxiety” is also linked in the app. Every good DPE really wants every applicant to be successful; just show up prepared and earn your certificate. The app also has lots of free articles from IFR Magazine and Aviation Safety and the weekly SAFEblog articles are usually also featured there. Give it a try here. Fly safe out there (and often)!


Get the SAFE Toolkit App  (FREE). This contains all the required pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smartphone or iPad. Join SAFE and receive other great benefits (1/3 off ForeFlight and CloudAhoy!) A discounted Flying Mag subscription which includes a free digital copy.

Our CFI insurance was developed by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business). Bind online or call/visit AIR-PROS.COM And get discounts by rating your flying with CloudAhoy on the Starrgate App.

Author: David St. George

SAFE Director, Master CFI (12X), FAA DPE, ATP (ME/SE) Currently jet charter captain.

7 thoughts on “1/5 of FAA Checkride Applicants Are “Unqualified!””

  1. What we need is CFIs to understand… this is lying to the federal government agents (yes, they could be criminally charged with a felony) and that in itself disqualifies them from ever applying for an ATP.
    It will end tomorrow.

  2. I have started requiring all checkride applicants to take photos of their logbook pages and endorsements and text or email them to me before I will agree to put them on my schedule. Yes, it does take time to go through everything in advance, but it also has substantially reduced the amount of unqualified applicants that show up on the day of the practical test.

    1. Thanks Aram. I think this is now becoming a standard procedure for most DPEs…we all have been disappointed too many times. Our FSDO is recommending this for all DPEs.

  3. Thanks David, you’re shining a light on the underlying issue. Case in point, I’m a student pilot & recently attended a 2-day knowledge exam prep course with about a dozen students. Toward the end of the first day, I asked the question “does anyone know what the ACS is?”. Nobody knew what I was taking about. Some students were “ready to book their checkride”. 🙁

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