Help me study for the Private Pilot oral exam

As some of you know, I’ve been pursuing a PP cert since September '10. I passed my school’s stage check yesterday, but just barely. I failed the mock oral exam pretty badly. I asked the, uh, “principal” if he were the examiner, if I’d be a pilot now. He said “Probably. But he’s nicer than I am. If it were up to me, we wouldn’t have even flown.”

He really beat me up. He asked what kind of engine it had, and I said “Lycoming O-320, 160hp, takes 100LL avgas. LL means ‘low lead’.” He asks “How many pistons does it have?” I didn’t know, so he failed me for that section. I also misstated cloud clearance in the B airspace as a 3/152 when it’s actually 3/clear, even though I knew that :frowning: I also failed when he asked me about the MOAs and Restricted areas. He asked about the continental shelf airspace and I couldn’t give him enough information about it to satisfy him.

But he cleared me anyway to schedule my checkride. So I need your help to make sure I pass it. I could just study the questions in the books, but I want practice at giving full and complete answers. So c’mon, ask me some questions.

When flying through a cloud bank, who has the right of way, you or the mountain goat?

Actually I’m toying with the idea of getting my license, so I’m curious about the questions.

Advice rather than random questions. Answer the question asked and only that question. (ie. What kind of engine? Lycoming O-320. If he wants more info, he’ll ask you)

Based on my experience as an instructor, the examiners seem to be interested in a group of broad subjects, here’s my recommendation on what to study…

  1. There is one and only one thing that causes a stall. Know this one well, and do not use the word “airspeed” when asked to explain it.

  2. Understand load factors and their effect on your aircraft. (You can use the “airspeed” word when answering this one)

  3. Know the difference between parasite and induced drag.

  4. Know all the airspeeds for your aircraft, but especially those which aren’t on the airspeed indicator.

  5. Understand maneuvering speed, and how it changes with gross weight.

  6. Know the airport marking signs well. Not just the “Black Square - You’re There, Yellow Ray - Points the Way, Red over White - Runway in Sight” rhyme.

  7. Know the currency requirements for your certificate/rating. Understand the difference between certificate and rating.

  8. Understand the difference between “category” and “class”

  9. Be able to explain ground effect without using the word “compress”.

  10. Know your airspace definitions and their respective requirements. Understand the diff between establishing contact and clearance.

  11. Know at a basic level, where to find info in your FAR/AIM. Understand whether the answer to a question is found in Part 61, Part 91, etc. If your book looks new, you will get a grueling oral exam. If it’s dog-eared, marked, tabbed, and looks like a beat-up old shoe, he will probably go easier on you. If your checkride is after the first of the year, take your new 2012 FAR/AIM to the exam, but make sure he sees your old battered 2011 version somehow. Seriously.

I’ve gotta go make breakfast, but I’ll be back with more when I get a chance.

Remember there are three people in this affair who want you to pass (usually). You, your CFI, and the examiner too. :slight_smile:

Let’s see how I can do with those:

  1. Angle of attack, and only angle of attack.

  2. Higher loads come from having a bank angle. Since a bank gives you a horizontal component of lift, there’s less vertical component. The ratio of the entire lift generated to your new vertical component is your load factor. This affects performance by requiring more angle of attack to remain at altitude, and thus causes a stall at a lower airspeed (but not angle of attack).

  3. Parasite drag is caused by an object, like a plane, passing through a fluid, like the air. It’s caused in part by the friction between the fluid and the object and in part by the displacement of the fluid. Induced drag, however, is a rearward component of lift. At low angles of attack, it’s not very much, but at higher angles, the lift vector is pointed more rearward and thus causes more induced drag.

  4. I have no idea. Va=89kts. Vx=67, Vy=75, best glide = 65. That’s all I’ve got and I’m not sure those are accurate within 5.

  5. Maneuvering speed is the highest airspeed at which one can safely fully deflect one control surface. The higher the gross weight, the higher the speed.

  6. I’m pretty sure I have all those down. Pretty sure…:frowning:

  7. Certificate is like “ATP”, “Commercial”, “Private”, etc. A rating is like “multi-engine”, “water”, etc. My currency requirements are to have a flight review within 24 months and have a medical cert within 5 years.

  8. Category is bigger than class is a broad grouping of aircraft with similar flight characteristics. A class is a smaller breakdown of a category.

  9. Ground effect is a “bonus” to lift that occurs because the downwash of a wing’s flow is being interfered with by the ground. Pressure is transferred upward to the wing similar to how a rollerskater would be pushed if pushing off of a wall instead of a fellow skater. Ground effect ends at roughly one wingspan above the ground.

  10. Easy. I’ll skip it here. The stage checker at the school beat me up over this. He failed me because I said Class D airspaces had a 5-mile radius, when it’s actually 4 miles. :rolleyes: I don’t think there is anything else he can ask.

  11. So you’re saying I should have one? Because I don’t. I’ve studied online, not from paper like some sort of heathen. Is that bad?

This, this, THIS!!!

I’m a CFI too, and I’ve seen many applicants hang themselves by trying to impress the examiner and over-answering the question. This ends up giving the examiner the rope to hang you.

One of their most effective tricks is to listen to your answer, then say nothing while glaring at you. This tempts you into continuing, perhaps at your peril. If the examiner does this, don’t say another word until you are specifically asked something else.

For both aircraft AND pilots - there’s a difference.

Again, this. You’re not expected to know everything. You are expected to be able to find the information. In my experience, it’s acceptable to to answer a question by saying, “I don’t know that from memory, but I do know where to find it,” and then look it up in the FARs. Probably not a good idea to do it on every question though. :smiley:

I’m not crazy about this answer. All drag is caused by an object passing through a fluid. Parasite drag is drag that doesn’t contribute to lift. It’s a hindrance, such as the landing gear, antennas, etc. Skin friction drag is a type of parasite drag.

Induced drag results from the production of lift. By putting a wing into the wind at an angle-of-attack you get lift, but also some drag that is unavoidable. Hard and fast rule of aerodynamics: When you create lift, you also create some drag.

Know the published stall speeds, while of course keeping in mind that stalls are caused by exceeding the critical angle-of-attack. Do you know under what weight condition the stall speeds are calculated?

How do you mean “safely”? One way of answering this question is to say that if a “full, abrupt control deflection” is made below Va, the aircraft will stall before it suffers a structural failure. A stall is safer than a structural failure, but not exactly “safe”.

Come to that, what are the structural load limits for a normal category aircraft?

How about passenger currency, both for day and night flight?

Can you accept payment for flying as a Private Pilot? If so, under what circumstances?

Will it always be 5 years on your medical?

Technically, ground effect results in a decrease in induced drag.

Typically, yes. But Class D airspace can be configured differently for terrain and to enclose instrument procedures. Another question you may get is the typical AGL ceilings of the different classes of airspace. The key here is again “typical”, because there is variation. Class D: 2500, Class C: 4000, Class B: 10,000. If they give you trouble on that, the New York Class B is an example of variety. It’s about 7000’ AGL.

I’ll try to think of some more questions for you.

Here are some more study questions for you:

What types of airspace do you need a clearance to enter?

Describe land and hold short operations (LAHSO). If a controller asks you to conduct a LAHSO operation, is it mandatory?

You are told by the control tower that you are #2 to land, following a large jet aircraft. What precaution can you take for wake turbulence? Suppose you are taking off just after a large jet has taken off?

What is meant by the “dewpoint”, and the temperature / dewpoint “spread”?

What is a microburst? What are some situations where you might encounter one?

Suppose you’re flying with a passenger, are not able to land soon and they begin to experience ear pain. What are some things you could have them do to relieve it? Same scenario, except they are hyperventilating?

What is the minimum safe altitudes over a congested area, a non-congested area, and anywhere?

Click here. What do the three hashmarks on the Wilmington airport indicate? How about the star at the 12:00 position?

Explain how to perform a forward slip. What are some reasons for using this maneuver?

What is the emergency radio frequency? What are the three transponder codes used in emergency or abnormal situations?

What is density altitude? How does it affect the airplane’s performance?

Which direction does the prop rotate in? (You’d be surprised how many experienced pilots don’t know this!)

If you were to fly into instrument conditions, what should you do?

What would cause the airplane to enter a spin? In what real-world scenarios would a spin be more likely? What should you do if a spin occurs?

What is a weather “front”?

Can you as a pilot perform any maintenance on an aircraft?

You’re flying in Class E airspace during the day in good weather. The aircraft’s alternator fails. What effect would this have on the aircraft? Is this an emergency?

So what was wrong with my answer? The reason “putting a wing in the wind at an angle of attack” induces drag is because of the rearward component of lift, as seen in this diagram.

Where are those published speeds? I’ve looked in the POH and can’t find Vx or Vy. When I look it up online, I get answers that differ by as much as 5 kts.

2.5gs for deformity, 3.75gs for permanent damage.

3 landings within 90 days, once for day, once for night.

Yes. In the furtherance of a charity event or in payment for a pro rata share of a flight (I can’t pay less than my share). I can also fly in furtherance of a business if it’s incidental, so that might be called a form of payment if you’re picky.

No, after I turn forty, it’s two years.
I’ll answer your other questions in a bit…

Class A and B. C and D require contact. E and G require neither, unless you’re crossing the U.S. ADIZ, which is a valid question around here.

It’s when a controller requests that you land on a runway and stop before reaching the crossing runway, where there will presumably be other traffic. It is not mandatory, so if you’re unfamiliar with LAHSO, you should decline the clearance.

“Above and behind” is key here. If I’m #2 to land, I want to stay above his glide slope and well behind him. I want to land beyond his touchdown point. For takeoff, I want to rotate before the spot that he rotated and stay above his path. If this is not possible, I need to wait at least two minutes for the wake to dissipate.

Dewpoint is essentially a measure of humidity. It’s the temperature at which the current water volume would constitute complete saturation, aka 100% relative humidity. The temp/dewpoint spread gives a rough idea of how saturated the air is. These numbers converge at roughly 8C/1000m or roughly 4.5F/1000ft, and can be used to estimate the cloud base.

Hmm. Microbusts. Not going to look this one up, so I’ll go from memory. A microburst is a sudden change in the direction of the wind. It happens in unstable air, so it can be expected when thunderstorms are present. Sudden updrafts or downdrafts can be dangerous, especially on landing, as they can cause structural damage or sudden loss of lift.

I’m assuming the ear pain is from pressure differences. If possible, I’d descend. Hyperventilation causes CO2 levels to drop. Assuming that’s a bad thing (and unless they were jogging around the cockpit, it probably is), I’d try to calm them down and/or have them breath into a bag of some sort. Both techniques aim to normalize CO2 levels.

You got me. I can’t remember when it’s 1000 above the highest obstacle, when it’s just 1000 AGL, and when it’s 2,000 AGL. “Anywhere” is 500 AGL, I believe.

The star is a rotating beacon at night. The hashmarks denote “services available”, usually meaning fuel.

A forward slip uses full rudder deflection to one side and the ailerons in the opposite direction to maintain desired ground course. This is an uncoordinated condition, however, so airspeed needs to be maintained. This is done by lowering the nose. The maneuver is useful as kind of a speed brake. It can bring you down from high altitudes without raising the airspeed. It’s especially useful for capturing an overflown glide-slope when a go-around is not an option, such as an engine-out situation.

121.5. I’m especially familiar with that as it’s mandatory to monitor inside the DC SFRA. The XPDR codes are 7500, 7600, and 7700 for hijack, comms out, and emergency, respectively.

A measure of air density wrt a standard condition. The denser the air, the better my performance. High temps, humidity, or altitude lower the density and raise the density altitude.

From the cockpit’s perspective, clockwise, i.e. descending on the starboard side.

Rule #1: Calm down. #2: Maintain control by trusting your instruments. #3 Exit the condition if you can easily determine a safe way to do so. #4 Talk with ATC and comply with their instructions. #5 Assuming you can’t reach ATC, know that turning around can be dangerous, as you may disorient yourself or collide with unseen aircraft or objects. But so is slamming into a mountain. So it’s time to exercise your judgment and knowledge of the scenario and make a wise, calm decision.

When both wings are stalled, but one is more than the other, and the aircraft is uncoordinated. In the real world, this happens all the time when pilots overshoot a turn to final and try to turn too sharply without maintaining airspeed and coordination. Stall + skid = spin, as they say. To recover, you neutralize ailerons, use outside rudder, lower the nose, and pull the power. In other words, get coordinated and break the stall.

A sharp pressure gradient in the atmosphere. Fronts cause most large weather phenomena like storms and blizzards.

Sure. Preventative maintenance procedures are in the back of the POH.

If the alternator goes, I should still have battery power, but not for long. I should discontinue the flight as soon as possible and turn off any unnecessary electrical loads like a second radio or perhaps a transponder. My engine will still run, however, as it’s self-sustaining after startup.
How’d I do, coach?

I didn’t say it was wrong, but if I was an examiner that’s not really the information I’d be looking for. I’d want to see that you understand the difference between parasitic and induced drag as a practical matter. The simple answer is induced drag is created as a consequence of lift. Parasite drag is created by aircraft structure that doesn’t contribute to lift. It’s the reason why some planes are made with retractable gear, flush riveting, etc.

Should be in the POH, unless you’re flying an older aircraft that didn’t come with one.

Not sure where you got those numbers. I was looking for 3.8 positive G’s and 1.52 negative G’s for a normal category aircraft.

Good. By “contact” I assume you mean two-way radio communications. When are two-way radio communications established?

If you can’t out-climb the aircraft taking off in front of you, it’s also possible to execute a short field takeoff and then turn away from its direction of travel, and out of it’s wake turbulence.

If I was the examiner, my next question would be: You’re monitoring the weather at your destination, and you see the temperature and dewpoint slowly but steadily converging. What is likely to happen there?

You’re describing wind shear. A microburst is a specific type of atmospheric disturbance that involves heavy wind shear. There are some good illustrations in the Jeppesen textbooks.

You could also show them how to do the Valsalva Maneuver. It’s good to know - look it up.

FAR 91.119
Congested area: 1000’ above the highest obstacle within a 2000’ radius
Non-congested area: 500’ from any person, vehicle or structure
Anywhere: An altitude allowing for an emergency landing in the event of a power failure.

All of those are excepting takeoff and landing, of course. The trick is that it’s hard to pin down the definitions of congested and non-congested.

Simple answer: density altitude is pressure altitude corrected for non-standard temperature. Humidity does affect it, but not much. It’s mostly temperature.

If I was the examiner, my next question would explore density altitude as a practical matter. Maybe I’d give you a scenario involving a fairly high aircraft weight, a short runway and a high density altitude.

Most of the books will give it in this order:

Power to idle
Neutralize ailerons
Full opposite rudder
Briskly pitch down to break the stall
Carefully pull out of the resulting dive

One important item they leave out is re-center the rudder when the spin stops. Also, look up the Beggs-Mueller technique.

winces Not wrong I guess, but a front is a boundary between two different air masses. This CAUSES a pressure gradient, but I don’t think I would use that as a definition. Maybe a meteorologist could set us both straight on this one.

So, not an emergency. Depending on what kind of plane you’re flying it can cause further complications. Most Cessnas have electrical flaps, while in most Cherokees they are hand actuated. Then there’s retractable gear. And what if you’re in Class E but intend to land at a towered airport? The examiner could then start asking about light gun signals.

Not bad. You’ve obviously read the books fairly well. But the better examiners tend to phrase things in scenarios rather than questions requiring rote knowledge.

As mentioned before, give concise answers and avoid the temptation to show off all you know. Another great piece of advice for taking any kind of test is RTFQ: Read the Freakin’ Question. Or in the case of the oral exam, answer the question that was asked. Don’t veer off.

When they respond with your callsign. “Last calling aircraft” doesn’t count.

Condensation. It’s either going to fog or rain. Either way, the cieling is coming down.

But what about national parks? I can’t find it in the FARs, but I thought there was a different minimum. 2000, I thought.

Thanks for your help, btw.

Not in the regs, but it appears in the AIM, section 7-4-6:

b. Pilots are requested to maintain a minimum altitude of 2,000 feet above the surface of the following: National Parks, Monuments, Seashores, Lakeshores, Recreation Areas and Scenic Riverways administered by the National Park Service, National Wildlife Refuges, Big Game Refuges, Game Ranges and Wildlife Ranges administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Wilderness and Primitive areas administered by the U.S. Forest Service.

Frankly, I don’t know what teeth this “request” has. Might be a good question for John Yodice, who writes the legal affairs column for AOPA.

No problem - let us know if you want to talk more or would like more practice questions.

One other thing occurred to me about your being stumped on the number of engine cylinders… Some examiners make a big emphasis on mechanical knowledge. You might want to review the 4-stroke cycle, how magnetos work (and related safety and failure issues), and review the workings of some of the flight instruments.

Great, imo. I think you’re very well prepared.

As far as the FARs (see what I did there?), I’d still recommend having the book with you for the oral. Examiners want to see that you know how to find information. They’ll usually ask an obscure question or two, just to see how you handle it. If you can find the answer reasonably quickly in the regs, they’re OK with it. We have several examiners around here who seem to base the duration of the oral on how dog-eared the FAR/AIM book appears. :stuck_out_tongue: If you were taking your checkride here, I’d advise you to tell the DE you did your studying online.

Based on your answers here, you seem very well prepared. Congrats! (and good luck on your checkride).

Well of course. I’ve got three days left til the checkride.

Ugh, the waiting is the hardest part (as Tom Petty says). My initial CFI checkride was scheduled for a Friday, and that morning it was postponed until Monday. Loooooong weekend.

Here are a few more practice questions for you to help you pass the time:

What is the required equipment for day and night VFR?

What is the procedure for flying an aircraft that has a non-required piece of equipment inoperative?

What is the difference between an AIRMET and a SIGMET?

Describe how Special VFR works, and give a scenario where it might be appropriate.

Under what circumstances would you need to use supplemental oxygen?

Once you receive your PPL, could you legally fly a Piper Arrow? Why or why not?

How is the attitude indicator powered?

Suppose you have a few drinks, then go to bed. 12 hours later your blood/alcohol content is .001 and you have a hangover. Can you legally fly?

Go to and enter a flight plan from KHZL to KCDW. Let’s say you want to land at KCDW without entering the NY Class B airspace. How would you do it? And in your airplane, how much fuel would you need to have on board?

This is a sidetrack, I know, but I know of two different explanations of induced drag, depending on the sources consulted, none of which states them both. Some sources don’t use either. I think they both are real and additive, though.

The aft-ward component of the wing’s lift vector is one explanation. The other, one I’ve seen more often, is the energy loss due to tip vortex generation. Higher lift means a higher average pressure differential from the lower to the upper surface, which means more air flowing around the wingtip. Winglets are effective in reducing induced drag because they block tip vortex, even though they bring an increase in weight and friction drag with them.

chessic, don’t worry about that, though. The examiner will give you by-the-book questions, and expect by-the-book answers in return, like Mach Tuck says. And ISTM you’re ready.

I’ve been waiting over a year. What’s one more week?

I don’t know, so I’ll guess. An altimeter, an airspeed indicator, and a compass. For night, you need an attitude indicator. Total guess, there. I know you don’t need a radio or transponder.

You must note it in the logbooks and place an “inoperative” sticker on the instrument.

Sigmets are for significant meteorological events, like thunderstorms or hail. Airmets are for weather conditions dangerous to small airplanes, like winds in excess of 30 knots or moderate turbulence.

I’ve forgotten the minimums, but it’s basically special permission to take off when weather is marginally below VFR minimums in controlled airspace. I believe the mins are 1sm visibility and 1,000 ft ceiling. The pilot must be IFR rated, which makes sense since he can very easily find himself IFR for an extended period of time.

When higher than 12,500 MSL for more than 30 minutes. If that’s not right, then amend that to 14,000 MSL.

No. It’s a different type. I fly a Cessna 172, so I’d need an Arrow checkride first.

Vacuum-driven gyroscope.

Depends on the severity of the hangover. The minimum wait time is 8 hours. Max alcohol % is .04, so you’re fine there. But the FARs say you can’t fly while under the influence of any drug, so if you’re hungover to the point of being influenced, then no, you can’t legally fly. If you aren’t influenced, then you’re fine. All that is aside from the point of whether it’s a good idea or not.

Go to and enter a flight plan from KHZL to KCDW. Let’s say you want to land at KCDW without entering the NY Class B airspace. How would you do it? And in your airplane, how much fuel would you need to have on board?

Max elevation on that route is 2,400 MSL. I’d therefor fly at 5,500 MSL. I’d use ground reference to fly between Stroudsburg and Bangor, and when I hit the 000 radial of the Broadway VOR, I’d descend to 3,500. At the road intersection before Dover, I’d descend to 1,500 in preparation for entering the 1,200 pattern. I’d call Essex tower at the same time and ask for landing clearance, reporting ten miles out.

Oh, and I’d need about 10 gallons of fuel. It’s 6 for the cruising, 3 for the takeoff, and 1 for taxiing…ish. I don’t have a POH handy, so I’m estimating.

Correct on the first three, but there’s more. See 91.205: Tachometer, oil pressure gauge, oil temperature gauge, fuel indicator. There’s more depending on type of aircraft.

For night VFR you do not need an attitude indicator. Or even a landing light, if it’s not an operation for hire, which surprised me when I found that out. You need a source of electricity, position lights, and anti-collision lights unless grandfathered.

And de-activate the item.

Implied in your answer is that SIGMETS apply to all aircraft, while AIRMETS generally apply to light aircraft.

This one could be important - it is always asked by the examiners in my area. Special VFR can be used for both takeoff and landing (although in my view it’s often foolish to use it for departure). During the day you need 1 mile of vis and remain clear of clouds. At night it’s the same, but the pilot and aircraft must be rated for instruments.

Some airports don’t allow it. On the sectional chart they are marked NO SVFR.

Most importantly, Special VFR must be pilot initiated. Controllers cannot offer this type of clearance to you, it must be requested. The examiners often ask about Special VFR in a scenario where the weather is deteriorating, and it’s a last option before declaring an emergency. They see it as an important piece of knowledge for safety.

Correct on the 12,500. Above 14,000 the pilot must use supplemental oxygen. Above 15,000 it must be provided to (though not necessarily used) everyone on board.

Has nothing to do with type. There’s no such thing as an Arrow checkride. An Arrow has retractable gear and flaps, and usually a 200 hp engine. This means you would need a complex aircraft endorsement, which involves training but no checkride. If the aircraft’s engine were OVER 200 hp, then you would need a high performance aircraft endorsement. Same for tailwheel. But in none of those instances would you need to take a checkride.

So once you have your PPL you can legally fly any single engine land aircraft, with tricycle gear, that is not complex, and has an engine rated not above 200 hp. Getting insurance to do so is another matter. :slight_smile:

(Apologies if my question wasn’t clear on account of your not being overly familiar with the Piper Arrow.)

If asked this question, I’d simply go with “no”. A hangover is considered under the influence, regardless of severity.

Chessic, is there some area(s) in particular you would like to be quizzed on?

Regulations. I try to read the FARs, but my eyes gloss over and I mentally fall asleep. This is good practice. I’m learning a lot from this thread.

BTW, looks like weather will suck on Wednesday. Under what conditions should I call off the flight? I’m not really afraid of precip, so if the winds are low, can I still go? Will he fail me outright just for attempting to fly?