The practical test standards outline all of the required and recommended items for every check ride you will take in the span of your flying career. Each contain specific tasks and elements that cater to whatever certificate or rating your being tested for, however they all contain essentially the same special emphasis areas. The special emphasis areas are the catch all for general practices and techniques not specifically called for in the tasks and area of operation. Often they are overlooked in check ride preparation, yet can be just as devastating to a successful check ride as a failed task.
Often times applicants don’t even know that the special emphasis areas exist until pointed out by the examiner. It’s often an excellent idea to begin a students new phase of training with a thorough discussion of the elements of the PTS. Included in this discussion should be a review of the special emphasis areas common to all practical tests, as well as any new or different ones the student may not be familiar with.
Collision avoidance is a popular complaint among examiners for many different reasons. Students failing to properly clear the training area prior to beginning maneuvers can create collision hazards. Unreasonable focus inside the aircraft at primary instruments or other cockpit distractions lead to loss of positive aircraft control, and sometimes unusual attitudes.
Spin awareness has always been an area of focus for flight instructors to teach and examiners to test. It’s imperative to teach the student to the correlation level of learning in regards to spin awareness. Often times students are able to define what a spin is and how it occurs, yet they can’t connect the concepts they’ve learned to scenarios in which they could encounter a spin. The fated base to final turn over shoot is the most common and should be an easy connection for any student. Ensure they have the knowledge of the aerodynamics, yet emphasize the stick and rudder of a spin. It’s always best for a student to experience the incipient and even fully developed spin if you have an aircraft and equipment for it.
Runway incursion avoidance has statistically been the leading cause of pilot deviations for years. The FAA has put intense emphasis on this subject in an effort to decrease this, however, it remains to be an issue with pilots of all experience levels. The easiest way to decrease your susceptibility to runway incursions is to practice sterile cockpit below 10,000 feet for turbine aircraft, and anytime the aircraft is below the planned cruise altitude for light airplanes. Recently the FAA changed the way you will get taxi clearance to cross runways. You will no longer receive a taxi clearance to cross more than one runway, active or not. Hopefully this will help decrease confusion over a crossing clearance.
Remember that each rating or certificate contains specific and sometimes different items on the special emphasis area. It’s important to review them for each practical exam you’re preparing a student for. Examiners are impressed upon to test these special emphasis areas throughout the practical exam, and often times they will use distractions of some sort to incite them. It’s imperative to create scenarios that adequately test and train these skills. It is almost guaranteed that a student will get a scenario as described on a practical exam.