Dan Tannas  Pilot Examiner
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test procedure
Once your training is completed, the next step is to make arrangements to take your Practical Test, commonly called the "flight check," or "checkride."  You should know that almost all flight tests in the United States are done by Designated Pilot Examiners. If you need a special flight test--because of a medical problem ,for instance--an FAA Inspector is required to do the test.

Pilot Examiners are not FAA employees. They charge for their services, and often do their testing as a part-time job. Most are professional pilots, and all are experienced flight instructors. Each Examiner is only allowed to operate in his own FAA District. FAA Districts do not always correspond with state lines; for instance, several counties in northwest Indiana are in the DuPage County Illinois District. Examiners are sometimes authorized to test outside their district if their particular authorization is needed.

An important point is that the applicant taking the test can go anywhere he wants to take his test. All your training records, instructor endorsements, and logbook records are portable. If you move, go on an extended vacation, or simply go where the weather is better, you just take your materials with you and schedule with an Examiner at the new location. Trainees in extremely congested and busy areas often go to more isolated locations for their test; on the other hand, trainees at airports with limited facilities may elect to go to a larger airport to take a test.

All certifications are now normally done using IACRA, the FAA on-line certification process. This system allows the applicant to enter all personal data and flight times using an on-line system. The applicant fills out the application, then the recommending instructor signs it electronically. This also allows the Examiner to check the flight records ahead of time via the internet. On test day, the Examiner can again access the application, check the applicant's identification, and  complete his certification on-line. At the end of your test, you will get a paper temporary certificate. The permanent pilot certificate is then mailed to you, usually in a few weeks.

Exact procedure, costs, and some test procedures may vary locally. It is important that your recommending instructor make the initial contact with a Pilot Examiner. Once that takes place, it is wise to use any resources or information the Examiner may provide. Some do telephone briefings, others have different means of giving briefings and assigning the details of any given test. In any case, the Examiner is required to have and use the appropriate Practical Test Standard and a written Plan of Action.
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