Real Answers from Real Pilots

Checkride Failures

Hey guys,
So I was talking to a close friend who is currently a very senior captain at a large regional airline here in the US. I was telling him about the program (ATP), and he was impressed by the fast pace of the program. We started talking about check rides, as he was curious about how much time students had to prep for each one with it being so fast paced. He had actually failed some check rides in his past, I think two, and said it had never been a big deal to the airlines, but psychologically, it was tough to recover from.

My question is whether any of you mentors have had to experience a checkride failure and/or know somebody who has. I am highly driven and motivated to do as well as possible in flight school and breezed through my PPL check ride. However, I know there are so many variables involved in these tests, that one mere trip up can cost a pink-slip. When you guys had students, did you have any words of wisdom to those who received a failure? What percentage of ATP students would you say complete the program with a perfect record?

Jonah,

Failing a checkride is somewhat common in the industry, but I believe the majority of ATP students do get through without any. As you said there are many variables. I know many pilot’s who have had a single bust but I can’t agree that more than one won’t get the attention of the airlines. After the Colgan crash in BUF the govt went crazy (IMO) and starting passing new regs left and right (that’s when we got the 1500hr Rule). The Capt of that crash had experiences multiple checkride failures and that was the focus of much debate AND liability to the airline. In light of that (and based on my experience) I’d say 1 you’re fine. 2 ok BUT we have to talk about it, 3 things start getting dodgy (*Note, if you read ATP Requirements for the guaranteed Instructor position it clearly states no more than 2 checkride failures). Fortunately none of my students ever failed any but my experience is if the student is well prepared, it’s usually a single item that trips them up. Before they can retake the checkride they MUST receive training so TRAIN.

As long as we’re on the subject, that’s one of the unique features of ATP and one some students find “concerning”. At virtually every flight school you’ll study and train, at some point you and your instructor will agree you’re ready and you’ll take your checkride. ATPs program is modeled after the airlines, so when you start, basically all your checkrides will be scheduled. That means you’ve got a deadline and it’s up to you and your instructor to make sure you’re ready in time. What that also means is more times than not you won’t have the warm fuzzies going in for the checkride. Again this is a common concern and some students actually find it objectionable. But the idea again is to prepare you for the airlines and that’s exactly how it’s done there as well. Soooo if a student doesn’t think they can handle that pace (or pressure), what makes them think they can be an airline pilot? That is another reason ATP students get hired. The airlines know that they can.

Adam

Jonah,

I personally have never failed any checkrides, but I have known people that have and I had two students (out of several dozen) that did. When a student failed I carefully diagnosed what happened and really focused on making sure that they were brought up to speed on the deficient area. I found that making sure that they were really prepared for the retest was the best way to build their confidence.

I am not sure on an exact percentage of students that graduate with no failures, but I would imagine that it is pretty decent. My pass rate with my students was around 96%, if that helps.

I’m training at ATP in Tampa and checkride failures are all too common here. One of the examiners is very tough. We only use him if none of the other examiners has an opening in their schedule. Most of the instructors at my location failed their initial CFI checkride, which everyone I spoke to said is the toughest exam. Some may have had only one additional failure. They wouldn’t be instructing here if they had more than 2 failures. I asked a regional airline pilot who I met down here at ATP about checkride failures. He’s also involved in the hiring process at his airline. He said during the interview he will ask the applicant if he or she has had any failures besides the Private and CFI checks. Most of it comes down to what you learned from your failure and has it made you a better pilot. I’m no expert, but I definitely agree with Adam. More than 2 busts is pretty bad.

Erik brings up a VERY good point. I’d actually say MORE important than the bust is how you respond when queried regarding it. I’ve actually asked perspective pilots about a bust and their response was “oh that was BS, the examiner was a jerk, etc”. Should you suffer a bust you must OWN IT. Admit the error and hopefully what you learned from it (there’s ALWAYS something to learned). Do that and you’ll be fine. Want to try and blame the examiner? Good luck.

Adam

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Hi @E-Kopps,
Would you mind giving me a quick summary of how you like the Tampa ATP location? My boyfriend and I are moving to Florida later in the year, but aren’t sure of exactly which city yet. We are looking at ATP locations in Tampa and Fort Lauderdale.

Any insight you can give? Thanks in advance!

Hi @ElaineW,

I’m satisfied with the Tampa location. The facility is very organized and clean. The training center is open 24/7 so you can study and even train on their simulators anytime. The airport itself is fairly easy to navigate around compared to other ATP locations. There are a couple airlines that fly in and out of KPIE but the traffic is very manageable. The other ATP locations in Florida are a lot busier. I wouldn’t recommend Daytona if you’re starting ATP from zero time. It can be a nightmare. Embry Riddle’s main campus is located there so ATC is managing not only ATP aircraft, but a ton of Embry Riddle aircraft, other general aviation aircraft, and airliners. I’m not familiar with the Fort Lauderdale location, other than that it is also very busy. Jacksonville is where ATP is headquartered, so you will have to keep an extra clean professional look, as there are people who come and take photographs of ATP’s aircraft and training center. It’s also where CFI training is done. A location in Naples is coming at some point this year which is a beautiful location. I flew in there once and the airport is in pristine condition, but that’s all I know about it. If I had to choose where to train in Florida, I’d go with either Tampa or Naples. Let me know if there is anything else I can help you with.

@E-Kopps,
Thanks for the review, that was really helpful! One more follow-up question - do you think the busier airports allow instructors to gain hours more quickly? When you are a student, I would imagine that the less busy airports are a nicer environment, but do you think the opposite is true once you’re a CFI?

Thanks again.

Elaine,

There are many factors which will determine how many hours (how busy) an instructor will build. It could be argued the more students will want to train at a less busy airport and will therefore the location (while at a busy airport) will be less busy. The thing is ATP does a really good job keeping things level. If a location is busier (with students) it’ll have more instructors and visa versa. What I’m saying is I’d choice a location based on what works for you logistically. The hours will come regardless.

Adam

You’re very welcome. I was going to say that Adam or Chris would have a better answer for you on that one. I agree with Adam. Don’t worry about accumulating hours as quickly as possible based on location. Choose what is best for you.