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Should an instructor or examiner distract the student or checkride candidate?

Reading the last US AOPA mag, I saw this snippet

I have had some pretty bad cases of this, as a deliberate thing, in the distant past. In one case I terminated the checkride and did the 2nd part the following day That examiner was well known for his revenue generation tactic; he got USD 500 twice

Should a certain amount of distraction be used?

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

I would say that it’s fair, and perhaps even a good lesson, but only once the examiner has already decided that you’ve passed. So no harm to be done.

Students are already nervous enough without the examiner making them more nervous.

And let’s be honest. It’s far easier tell a friend along for the ride, to be quiet for a few minutes, than it is to tell an examiner asking relevant questions to test your situational awareness. For example, an examiner asking you where the traffic is, is a relevant exam question. But if they ask it at a critical stage, do you tell them “Please keep quite. This is a critical stage of flight” and leave them thinking that you didn’t know where the traffic was, or just answer the question to show you were situationally aware but risk that you get distracted at a bad time? Not an easy choice and probably not fair of the examiner unless they’ve already decided that you’ve passed.

EIWT Weston

The FAA philosophy is to simulate un briefed emergencies, while in EASA everything is choreographed so you know precisely when you will encounter, and what type of emergency you will be expected to deal with. In the event there is a real emergency the candidate would be expected to deal with the situation.

The MPL (multi pilot) course does have un briefed abnormal operations which arguably is a good thing. These cover a range of problems, from power plant or systems failures to control restrictions.

The problem with the FAA approach is that some examiners might just keep piling on the scenarios – although there is guidance to be realistic.

Enstone (EGTN), Oxford (EGTK)

It’s totally unprofessional and has no place in modern examining. The UK Flight Examiner Handbook specifically prohibits examiner setting “traps” or distracting the candidate.

Now retired from forums best wishes

Of course they should, to a point.

It’s talked about in both the FAA practical test standards and in the Flight Instructor handbook on how and why distractions should be employed during assessment. I would be surprised if it wasn’t in the skill test criteria when I did the EASA tests.

On the FAA commerical checkride my examiner was the type to constantly talk/critique throughout the flight (I did part 141 so I had had stage checks with him previously) so about 3/4 of the way through I told him that if he didn’t stop critiquing (it was causing me to make some mistakes) that I was going to request a discontinuance.

Now he is required by the practical test standards to make sure you handle distractions appropriately but this was his personality and what he was doing was not part of the PTS.

You need to know how to prioritize and task switch. You also need to demonstrate being pilot IN COMMAND and tell your passengers to can-it when they ignore your briefing about the sterile cockpit.

If they (pax or examiners) ask a complex question during a critical stage then it is on you to say “ask me that again when we get on the ground/when we are in cruise/ect.”


It’s totally unprofessional and has no place in modern examining.

What simulate an un briefed emergency? for example smoke in the cabin which is a typical FAA scenario? Piling on scenarios which stretch the laws of probability is not professional, but un briefed scenarios seems a perfectly acceptable and professional practice.

Difficult to establish whether FAA practice contributes to the world class safety standard of Part 121 operations or not, my vote is that it does.

Enstone (EGTN), Oxford (EGTK)

It certainly is part of any FAA checkride and also of a well conducted BFR. I can’t see anything wrong with it, as long as it’s within reason (all mine were). The further up the food chain you go, the DPE will also want to see your acting as PIC, so perhaps tell him/her to shut up.

I remember on one MEP revalidation the examiner started to say something during the take off roll. As I had been taught and as I had briefed,I shouted abort whilst closing the throttles and braking. When the aircraft had fully come to a halt I turned and asked if there was a problem. He gave me a strange look before suggesting I request a 180 and backtrack to the threshold. In the debriefing afterwards he said nothing just ticked the appropriate boxes and signed me off as apt.


@RobertL18C – I believe the thread is talking about examiners inducing distractions, not practice emergencies – which I agree are entirely different and warranted. Having said that there is a professional way in which to simulate emergencies, not idiot examiners turning off fuel cocks etc

@gallois – if that was via a school I’d be refusing to pay for that part of the flight

I honestly believe bad practice in examining needs calling out and shouldn’t be tolerated, any well past it characters still around deserve to lose their business

Now retired from forums best wishes

I have mixed feelings about it. I got a lot of stress from the late senior examiner of our CAA on three (!) attempts to renew a lapsed IR, but in the end, I learned a lot from him and must admit he was right on every occasion. The man certainly knew all the holes in the Swiss cheese by heart, which explains why he was such a wrathful stickler in the cockpit. He yelled for every trifle because they weren’t trifles to him. His flying biography included gliding (FAI gold badge), aerobatics (competition prizes), the flag carrier (737 captain), CAA (examiner of examiners), plus possibly more episodes I don’t know about. On one occasion, he was in Germany at some aerobatic event, and one of the organisers said: “I always thought we Germans were the most pedantic people, but Mr. Š. is a notch above.” Two weeks ago, his erstwhile instructor from the flying club times, now a frail but merry old man, was examining me for a class rating and, seeing his stamp in my logbook, said matter-of-factly it must have been quite an experience. I agree.

LKBU near Prague, Czech Republic
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