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How to get rid of your checkride butterflies

Posted by on February 19, 2009 4 Comments Category : Flight Instructor Blog Tags :


What is your first thought when you hear that word? Excitement? Anxiety? Fear?

A checkride for many pilots can be a wave of varying emotions.  Excited by the prospect of another rating, anxious to perform well for the examiner and possible fear of the consequences of a failed maneuver or demonstration.

A CFI candidate named Franklin recently wrote me asking:

If I’m just going on a XC with a fellow student I’m relaxed and in charge but when I get in the plane with an examiner I just fall apart due to stress and nerves and the fear of the financial implications of busting another checkride.  I do fine in the Oral part. Any advice on how to get rid of the Checkride butterflies?

As a professional pilot, I’ve taken A LOT of checkrides.  Let’s see…private, instrument, multi-private, multi-commercial, single-commercial, CFI, CFII, MEI, ATP, and a plethora of type ratings and company line checks.  And yet after so many examinations, I can say that my nervousness has faded very little in the last 12 years.   I still get anxious before every major checkride.  So what’s the secret in transforming this natural nervousness into the quiet confidence needed to pass these examinations?

I asked my twitter followers this question and here are some of the responses I received:


Captain_Ron said: Relax. Do what you already know. Relax. YOU are the PIC! Relax. Do what is asked WHEN you are ready. Relax. Breathe

sfFderfler: Know the FAA Practical Test Standards! FAA publishes a detailed checklist. Know it cold and be confident in your knowledge

mattmatthammer Thing that helped me most with my checkride was recognizing all I had to do was what I’ve been doing all along. It’s just more of the same. 🙂

girlswithwingsGirlsWithWings: I’d be interested to know how to get rid of checkride butterflies. If someone has secret (other than being well prepared) pass along!

jenneferjenniferwhitley: I studied hard for my written and got good grades; I was very prepared for the oral. Think it predisposed my examiner to like me.

navynavyaircrewman: Being prepared is paramount. Mock checkrides help a lot as well. Feedback helps. Train like you fight and fight like you train

As I read through these responses (thanks by the way).  There are a couple of common denominators between these suggestions: confidence and preparedness.   I would argue that confidence comes from preparedness. Confidence is not to be confused with cockiness.  Cockiness is a fake confidence  which is easy to spot and examiners don’t like it at all.  True confidence however is sincere and grows as you prepare for your checkride by following some of the suggestions above:  knowing the PTS, knowing your subject matter, and practicing your maneuvers religiously and to perfect execution.

The attitude that I have on a checkride is, “I have done this maneuver so many times perfectly before, forget about who is watching and do it perfectly again.”  In fact, when the pressure starts mounting in the checkride, I like to force myself to forget about the examiner, just focusing on flying the airplane as you have been taught and have done in the past.  Tell yourself that “You are prepared, ready and know what your doing.”  If any of those things aren’t true, then reschedule the checkride until they are.

I hope this helps Franklin.  I can tell that you are hungry for aviation and that hunger is a great motivational tool for practice.  With practice comes preparedness.   And with preparedness comes confidence.  You can do it perfectly now because you’ve done it perfectly before.

Fly Safe (and confident!)

p.s. you can follow my twitter updates at http://www.twitter.com/askacfi


  1. Sylvia on Feb 20, 2009

    Preparedness is absolutely key and I really like the advice you’ve bolded: rescheduling the checkride may sound depressing but there’s no point in doing the checkride if you aren’t ready.

    I wrote about my checkride when I got my complex rating. I was competent but not confident.


  2. Patrick Flannigan on Feb 21, 2009

    I agree wholeheartedly that “confidence comes from preparedness”. Although I still tend to get a bit nervous before a checkride (I have a sim ride in a month and i’m already fretting about it), but I think that this is perfectly normal.

    I find that two things help me with checkride confidence. First is general preparedness. Know your maneuvers, systems, etc. inside and out. Second is an understanding of what is expected of you in the test. If you know what’s coming and you are prepared to handle it, then there is nothing to worry about.

  3. CFI-Dave on Feb 22, 2009

    Another option would be to do a “mock” checkride with the examiner, in which you do everything just like on the day of the real checkride, but at the end their is no pass or fail. This way you are getting comfortable flying with the person who will ultimately make the decision if you pass or not. And you will know what to expect from them.

    I work at a Part 141 school and we use the same examiner for their stage 1 and stage 2 checks as do the checkride. The students seem to be more comfortable on judgement day and do better. Hope it helps and good luck!

  4. Matt Kreps on Nov 19, 2009

    Read the entire PTS there is a lot of information about the way a checkered that a lot of people don’t know and may surprise you

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