Practical Test Standards



  • Standardizes the conduct and performance of FAA inspectors and Designated Examiners
  • Standards are not minimums

General Information:

  • The Flight Standards Service of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has developed these practical test standards as the standard that shall be used by FAA examiners when conducting Practical Tests
    • Instructors are expected to use these practical test standards (PTS) when preparing applicants for practical tests
    • Applicants should be familiar with this PTS and refer to these standards during their training
  • Applicants for a combined private pilot certificate with instrument rating, in accordance with 14 CFR part 61, section 61.65 (a) and (g), must pass all areas designated in the Private Pilot PTS and the Instrument Rating PTS. Examiners need not duplicate tasks
    • For example, only one preflight demonstration would be required; however, the Preflight Task from the Instrument Rating PTS may be more extensive than the Preflight Task from the Private Pilot PTS to ensure readiness for IFR flight
  • A combined checkride should be treated as one practical test, requiring only one application and resulting in only one temporary certificate, disapproval notice, or letter of discontinuance, as applicable. Failure of any task will result in a failure of the entire test and application. Therefore, even if the deficient maneuver was instrument related and the performance of all VFR tasks was determined to be satisfactory, the applicant will receive a notice of disapproval
  • Information considered directive in nature is described in this PTS in terms, such as "shall" and "must" indicating the actions are mandatory
    • Guidance information is described in terms, such as "should" and "may" indicating the actions are desirable or permissive, but not mandatory
  • The FAA gratefully acknowledges the valuable assistance provided by many individuals and organizations throughout the aviation community who contributed their time and talent in assisting with the revision of these practical test standards
  • The PTS may be purchased from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO), Washington, DC 20402-9325, or from This PTS is also available for download, in pdf format, from This PTS is published by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration, Airman Testing Standards Branch, AFS-630, P.O. Box 25082, Oklahoma City, OK 73125. Comments regarding this handbook should be sent, in e-mail form, to

Use of the Practical Test Standards:

the following is taken directly from the first few pages of the PTS

  • The FAA requires that all private pilot practical tests be conducted in accordance with the appropriate private practical test standards and the policies set forth in the Introduction
  • Applicants shall be evaluated in ALL Tasks included in each Area of Operation of the appropriate practical test standard, unless otherwise noted
  • An applicant, who holds at least a private pilot certificate seeking an additional airplane category rating and/or class rating at the private pilot level, shall be evaluated in the Areas of Operation and Tasks listed in the Additional Rating Task Table
  • At the discretion of the examiner, an evaluation of the applicant's competence in the remaining Areas of Operation and Task s may be conducted
  • If the applicant holds two or more category or class ratings at least at the private level, and the ratings table indicates differing required Tasks, the "least restrictive" entry applies
    • For example, if "ALL" and "NONE" are indicated for one Area of Operation, the "NONE" entry applies
    • If "B" and "B, C" are indicated, the "B" entry applies
  • In preparation for each practical test, the examiner shall develop a written "plan of action" for each practical test
  • The "plan of action" is a tool, for the sole use of the examiner, to be used in evaluating the applicant
  • The plan of action need not be grammatically correct or in any formal format. The plan of action must contain all of the required Areas of Operation and Tasks and any optional Tasks selected by the examiner
  • The plan of action will include a scenario that allows the evaluation of as many required Areas of Operation and Tasks as possible without disruption
  • During the mission, the examiner interjects problems and emergencies which the applicant must manage
  • It should be structured so that most of the Areas of Operation and Tasks are accomplished within the mission
  • The examiner is afforded the flexibility to change the plan to accommodate unexpected situations as they arise
  • Some tasks (e.g., unusual attitudes) are not normally done during routine flight operations or may not fit into the scenario
  • These maneuvers still must be demonstrated. It is preferable that these maneuvers be demonstrated after the scenario is completed
  • A practical test scenario can be suspended to do maneuvers, and then resumed if time and efficiency of the practical test so dictates


  • Section 1 - Forward: Explains the purpose of the PTS, which is to establish the standards for certification practical tests for the different categories and classes
    • The Private Pilot-Airplane Practical Test Standards (PTS) book has been published by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to establish the standards for private pilot certification practical tests for the airplane category, single-engine land and sea; and multiengine land and sea classes. FAA inspectors and designated pilot examiners shall conduct practical tests in compliance with these standards. Flight instructors and applicants should find these standards helpful during training and when preparing for the practical test
      • /s/ David Gilliom 10/31/2011
  • Section 2 - Record of Changes: Explains what changes were made from previous editions with their reason
  • Section 3 - Major Enhancements: Similar to Section 2 but more broad, explaining changes that require more attention
  • Section 4 - Table of Contents: Same as any table of contents
  • Section 5 - General Information: Explains the technicals of the book, explaining what terms mean as they pertain to the PTS
  • Section 6 - Practical Test Standards Concept: Explains why the PTS is laid out the way it is
  • Section 7 - Practical Test Book Description: Explains the contents of the book with a list of references
  • Section 8 - Abbreviations: A list of abbreviations used within the book
  • Section 9 - Use of the Practical Test Standards Book: Explains how an applicant will be evaluated and how the examiner will accomplish this
  • Section 10 - Special Emphasis Areas: Notes area where examiners shall place special emphasis upon areas of aircraft operation considered critical to flight safety
  • Section 11 - Private Pilot-Rotorcraft Practical Test Prerequisites:
  • Section 12 - Aircraft and Equipment Required for the Practical Test:
  • Section 13 - Flight Instructor Responsibility:
  • Section 14 - Examiner Responsibility:
  • Section 15 - Satisfactory Performance:
  • Section 16 - Unsatisfactory Performance:
  • Section 17 - Letter of Discontinuance:
  • Section 18 - Aeronautical Decision-Making and Risk Management:
  • Section 19 - Single-pilot Resource Management:
  • Section 20 - Applicant's Use of Checklists:
  • Section 21 - Use of Distractions During Practical Tests:
  • Section 22 - Positive Exchange of Flight Controls:
  • Next is a definition of CRM, and a description of the examiner's responsibility during the practical test
  • The applicant's practical test checklist also is available in the PTS publication for your student to confirm they have everything ready for their check ride
  • PTS for aeronautical certificates and ratings
  • Areas of operations define phases of the practical test arranged in a logical sequence within each standard
  • Tasks are knowledge areas; within each task are references to the applicable regulations or publications

Additional Rating Task Table
Figure 1: Additional Rating Task Table

Additional Rating Task Table:

  • When adding a rating onto an already existing certificate, it may not be required to perform all of the tasks associated with the new rating
    • For example, if adding a glider rating onto an existing private pilot certificate, tasks such as "Certificates and Documents" will not change whereas "Takeoffs, Landings, and Go-Arounds" will
  • At first glance the table [Figure 1] can seem quite intimidating or confusing but it is actually very straight forward once familiar with how to read it
  • To determine tasks required, open to the Additional Rating Task Table found toward the front of the Practical Test Standards (see table of contents)
    • On the left column you will see the "Areas of Operation" while on the top row you see the "Ratings Held"
    • Acronyms are spelled out either below the chart or in the abbreviations section toward the front of the PTS
  • Find the rating you already and go down that column
  • For each Area of Operation, Tasks required will be listed
    • This can range from ALL, to a few (maybe just B, and C)
  • Now that we have a list of Tasks required we can continue on into the PTS to read the Objective and sub-steps associated with each Task
  • Always be sure you are referencing the most current standards as they do change!

Special Emphasis Areas:

  • Examiners shall place special emphasis upon areas of aircraft operations considered critical to flight safety
  • Among these are:
    1. Positive aircraft control,
    2. Positive exchange of the flight controls procedure,
    3. Stall/spin awareness,
    4. Collision avoidance,
    5. Wake turbulence avoidance,
    6. LAHSO,
    7. Runway incursion avoidance,
    8. CFIT,
    9. Aeronautical Decision Making (ADM) and risk management,
    10. Wire strike avoidance,
    11. Checklist usage,
    12. Temporary flight restrictions (TFRs),
    13. Special use airspace (SUA),
    14. Aviation security,
    15. Single-Pilot Resource Management (SRM), and
    16. Other areas deemed appropriate to any phase of the practical test
  • A given special emphasis area may not be specifically addressed under a given Task
  • All areas are essential to flight and will be evaluated during the practice test