Flight Test “Pilot Acronyms;” Good or Bad?

Flight test acronyms can be good reminders but must be backed up with a deeper understanding and context to be useful. Simple rote recitation (and forgetting what the acronym letters stand for) will drive your DPE nuts and reveal applicant ignorance rather than understanding.  With our accelerated training environment, the “oral” test portion is increasingly where PPL applicants “crash and burn.” Dig deeper for a thorough understanding. Hopefully, these examples might help.

“A-V-1-A-T-E” Acronym Confusion (Dig Deeper)

If the question is “What inspection(s) are required for VFR flight,” most of these items are not required.” Remember, at the VFR level, you could be testing in a Champ that someone owns. It is much better to start with most simple/basic requirements and layer on more detail based on airspace and operation (see below). This method reveals true understanding to your examiner. Acronyms demonstrate rote memorization that any DPE can see right through with a few questions. Demonstrate a thorough understanding of airworthiness instead of just spouting out everything that *might* be required or inspected. In AV1ATE, only the annual is a guaranteed requirement.

Reveal superior knowledge on a flight test by starting with the annual (required for every aircraft if not on a program). If this is not logged and valid, there is no need to go further, you are not going flying! If you own the plane, no 100 hour is required. The “V” (VOR check) is for IFR (and only if you are using the equipment). A pitot/static test or even a transponder is not necessarily required for VFR flight- nor is an ELT in certain cases: read CFR 91.207 to the end. Mentioning where “FAA legal” diverges from “safe and smart” and considering risk factors by contrast, will earn you big points here – relate risk factors to inop. equipment and your specific operation. Wouldn’t you rather have a two-way radio rather than a transponder anyway? You could at least get into a tower-controlled field.

To gain a deeper understanding of the required airworthiness items, spend a little time with a mechanic and really read the aircraft logbooks and POH (including the regulations cited in those endorsements). KOEL and MEL knowledge are in the ACS. Mentally place your plane in different airspace scenarios and think through what is *really* required. Go deeper than the “hangar flying drivel” everyone else parrots.

“A-R-R-O-W” Acronym Confusion (Dig Deeper)

The “O” in A-R-R-O-W (required documents) is *not necessarily* “Operating Handbook” as is often recited. It probably is required if the aircraft was put into service after the magic certification date of March 1st, 1979 (CFR 21.5, when the standard POH was required by regulation). Most older airplanes do not even have a POH, and are still airworthy (Champ/Cub again) . “O” in A-R-R-O-W would be better thought of as “Operating Limitations” and is often expressed in placards, markings on the gauges (green arc, white arc, redlines). Depending on OEM, an “Airplane Flying Handbook” might be required for older CAR 3 certificated airplanes. Check the Type Certificate Data Sheet (TCDS) for your airplane.

A simple weight and balance calculation (PA.I.F.K2e-f) is often pretty easy for applicants since it is a required knowledge test item, but pushing further to a correlation level and incorporating some aerodynamics (PA.I.F.K3) can quickly go beyond some pilot’s understanding. How many “Gs” is your plane rated for (limitations)? Are we in the normal or utility flight category? How do CG and weight affect Va (how does this change). One simple related question I ask that gets this conversation started seems to stump a lot of private (and  commercial/CFI) test applicants; “If an airplane can stall at *any* airspeed, how can we mark “stall speed(s)” on the ASI?”


The “required equipment” in CFR 91.205 is the historic heart of aviation acronyms (A-TOMATO-FLAMES) and this one works pretty well – if applicants can remember what the letters mean without writing it down. DPEs are required to require useful, *working* knowledge in aviation. I teach required equipment by “building the historic plane.” Have a look at an old Champ or Cub and see what equipment is onboard (we used to call these the “sacred seven”). The only flight instruments are the airspeed, altimeter, and compass, (no one seems to know this at the private level) the other four are for the engine. Seatbelts (no shoulder harness) are for the pilot/pax). Why is a stall indicator not required in CFR 91.205 and can we fly a C-150 without one? This is the start of how we progressively build the airplane. Shoulder harness, electrics, gear and MP guage are all added as your “historic airplane” gets more sophisticated; deeper uderstanding!

P-A-V-E: The Necessary (FAA) Acronym

Risk management is central to every ACS evaluation (PA.I.D.Rs/PA.II.A.Rs). Some old-school CFIs missed the memo here, but demonstrating pilot judgment (and PIC authority) is central to ACS flight test success (and your future safety)! Every applicant must be prepared to discuss their personal situation in detail, in terms of the FAA’s P-A-V-E paradigm and include a plan to mitigate these risks. Everyone’s performance suffers on test day, be ready to talk about that. Our “SAFE Checkride Ready!™” section of the SAFE Toolkit App has much more detailed information about the private, instrument, and commercial check rides. Fy safely out there (and often).

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Author: David St. George

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

One thought on “Flight Test “Pilot Acronyms;” Good or Bad?”

  1. I absolutely hate all acronyms for anything that involves a pilot doing anything on the ground.
    It shows a pilot is attempting to do things by memory vs a check list. A check list is the only safe way to conduct all preparation for any flight.
    ARROW was a terrible idea, as is every other acronym. They pilot is still on the ground. Go through a check list. Mine start the night before the flight, and continue through out the flight until I’m home.
    ForeFlight has the ability to make a check list for anything, down to making sure your iPad batteries are charged.

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