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How to prepare for your flight test

We can’t do your flight test for you – but we will do what we can to help you prepare for it and make the whole experience as low-stress as possible.

Getting Test Ready

Make sure that you know what’s required to attempt the test.

Your instructor will check and certify your logbook before putting you up for test, to make sure that you have all the minimum experience requirements, but you should know what they are as well. Do you have enough total flight hours? Is the right number of instrument flight time recorded in your logbook? Have you completed the required cross-country navigation flight for PPL/CPL? Is your medical in date?

Make sure you check things early – don’t wait until the last flight of your training program (or worse, the day of your test!) to realise something’s missing.

If you’re aware of what you need to do to be ready to test, you can make the whole process of the flight test smoother for you, your instructor, and the examiner.


A common misconception is that getting a pilot licence is all about the time you spend in the aircraft. Actually, about 60% of your training will be theory based. It doesn’t matter which licence you are aiming for, your flight test will start with a theory component. If that’s not up to scratch, you won’t even make it out to the aircraft to show off your flying skills.

For RPL or PPL, you will need to pass one theory exam (or two, if you do both licences!). For CPL, there are seven theory exams. Any questions that you get wrong in those exams will be summarised in a Knowledge Deficiency Report. You will then need to provide information about those items to prove you know those things. 

We like to do this by getting you to write a report providing information on each item and submitting that to your instructor (our blog post about how to do that is here). They can then assess if your knowledge is sufficient and sign off the KDR before putting you up for your flight test. The examiner can also ask you questions relating to each item. If you don’t do the report and get it signed off before your test, the examiner has to ask you about each item and if you don’t know the answer, that might be the end of your test.

Our biggest tip with theory is to study consistently. If you wait until you’re nearly at the end of the syllabus to sit the theory exam, you might end up extending the whole process by weeks or months if you don’t pass it first go. That can also cost you more, if you take an extended break from flying to study for and pass the exam, you’ll likely need more flight time to get back up to standard and be test ready.

In addition to the exam and KDR, your examiner will check your knowledge and understanding of certain items listed on the flight test form. This will include things like making sure you understand what you can and can’t do with your licence, your flight planning abilities, and your understanding of aircraft operation.

Below are some common items that students lack sufficient knowledge of when asked during the theory component by our examiners:

  • Know the basics so well, it’s second nature. You’ll come across as well prepared if you’re confident with the basics, and it’s when people struggle with the basics that the examiner knows to dig deeper – the product of that can be the end of the test.
  • Understand the scope of your licence. You will be asked about what privileges your licence gives you, like what aircraft you can fly, and where you can go… And why should you be issued a licence if you don’t know what you’re allowed to do with it?
  • Understand the practical application of regulations. For example, the application of the General Competency Rule (CASR 61.385).
  • Know your Flight Review requirements. You need to know when you’ll be due, and what might change that date. Read more about flight reviews in our blog post here.
  • VFR aircraft instrument requirements. Know the CASA regulations, as well as anything specific from the aircraft manufacturer in the AFM.
  • Emergency equipment requirements – when do you need to carry items such as life jackets, rafts, or ELTs?
  • If you’re testing for a CPL:
    • Know the difference between private and commercial operations.
    • Understand things like different types of commercial operations, and what’s applicable to the size and type of aircraft you’re testing in.
    • Know all operations, but in particular Part 135 and Part 138.
    • Know flight and duty requirements.
    • Know your aircraft and its systems – you may be asked in the theory component and during the walk around about things like the complex elements.

Time to fly

Once you have successfully made your way through the theory component, you will head out to the aircraft to complete the practical element of the flight test. Depending on the licence or rating you are testing for, this may be a short local flight, or a grueling navigation exercise to really prove your worth!

Some common pointers from examiner feedback regarding practical components include:

  • Fly the plane first! Don’t get distracted by unnecessary items.
  • Know the engine start sequence for your aircraft – for example, fuel injected vs carburettor.
  • Speed/Aspect control in the circuit, especially towards the end of the test. Don’t relax when you get home!
  • Communication with other aircraft – don’t be afraid to ask other aircraft for their position.
  • Thinking about the “small stuff” – this shows in a well prepared candidate.
    • Parking the aircraft into wind.
    • Controls in correct sense for wind.
    • Specific tendencies for the aircraft you are flying – does it need an extra prime to get it going?
    • Passenger comfort and adequate briefing of safety items.
    • Stay ahead of the aircraft.
    • Trim!
    • Follow your checklists for everything.
    • Show good airmanship.
  • Look after the aircraft – especially during a CPL test.
    • Think about how an employer would want you to treat the aircraft to minimise wear and to look after paying passengers.

Some other general tips:

  • You’ll be asked about things immediately relevant, like the aircraft you’re flying for your test, but also hypothetical situations you might encounter in the future. Remember, you need to be able to apply the concepts you’ve learned, not just the specific information.
  • Trust yourself, and don’t do anything different to what you’d normally do in flight. Your usual instructor has obviously signed you off for the test, so they think what you’re doing is up to standard. Don’t try and get clever or try a new technique for your test, you’ll more than likely just end up making a mistake.
  • Arrive early. Don’t add extra stress to the situation by arriving just before your test starts. If your test starts at 10, arrive at 8 or earlier for a PPL/CPL. Give yourself plenty of time to settle in, double check your planning, check the weather, and preflight/refuel the plane.
  • If you’re not sure about something, ask. If the cloud looks a bit low, ask someone who’s been out for a flight already that day for their observations. Get someone else to check the forecast with you if no one’s been flying yet. Your examiner can’t tell you what to do (that’s the point of the test) but it doesn’t mean you can’t make use of other resources around you.
  • Get a good sleep. Like the night before an exam, you’re better off having a good rest than trying to cram some more information into your head at the last minute. You probably won’t remember it anyway, and you’ll be able to make better decisions in your test if you’ve had adequate sleep.
  • Eat something before your flight. Don’t rely on a cup of coffee to get you through. Most tests will take up at least half the day, and you don’t want to be thinking about your empty stomach while trying to make command decisions in flight.
  • Pack your bag the night before. Make sure you have all the required documents and equipment ready to go. You don’t want to arrive and realise you’ve left something important like your headset at home!
  • Breathe! It’s normal to be nervous, and your examiner understands that you will be. Take a moment for a deep breath when you can to help settle yourself.

Remember, your examiner knows you don’t know everything. Even if you’re testing for a CPL, you are still a fresh pilot! But you should know where to look for the answers – if you’ve got that, you’ll be ok.

Finally, if you’re going for the “big one” (CPL) we recommend doing the RPL flight test along the way. The RPL flight test is shorter and less complex than the CPL, so it’s a good way to get a taste of what a flight test is really like. You might even get the same examiner for both, so you’ll go into your CPL flight test with an existing relationship. Just another thing you can do to help calm the nerves and make the whole process a little easier for yourself.

Good luck!

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What is a Flight Review, anyway?

Whether you’ve had your licence for a while or you’ve just started training, you need to know about flight reviews.

What is a flight review?

Let’s talk about what a flight review is not. It’s not a test or exam. You can’t lose your licence from a flight review. It is possible, however, to fail one.

A flight review is meant to check your skills and knowledge are still up to date. It’s to make sure you can still fly safely. It is also a learning opportunity – there might have been a law change you missed completely, or something an instructor can help clarify for you.

The idea behind the introduction of flight reviews is simple: if you’re not regularly checked, your skills and knowledge can degrade over time. Everyone’s safety can be improved by checking that individual pilots – from the RPL holder out for a local joy flight to the ATPL holder flying hundreds of people across the globe, and everything in between – are all operating to the standard expected of them.

Who needs to do one?

If you have a pilot licence, you will need a flight review.

Student pilots also need to have regular checks. That might seem obvious and easy to manage, but when you get to the hour building phase of commercial pilot training, it can become a bit tricky if you’re unlicenced. Most of that part of training is solo flight time, but there are limits on to how much solo time you can do or how many days between dual flights. If you’re on an integrated course, you can only fly solo for 30 days without a dual check. For non-integrated training, there’s a limit of 3 hours of solo flight time as well as the 30 days since a dual check. That’s why we encourage our students to get a Recreational Pilot Licence along the way. We’ll still want to check your skills regularly, but it gives a bit more flexibility, legally.

Why do I need one?

Flight reviews are required by law, at least once every two years. You don’t have to wait for the last days of your previous one to be expiring to do one, but you can also still do one after the last one expired. Even if it’s been a few years since your last review expired, passing a flight review is all that’s needed to allow you to legally use your licence again.

A flight review is an opportunity to check your proficiency and knowledge are still where they need to be – and make some changes if necessary.

What's involved in a flight review?

What your flight review requires will depend on a few things. The type of licence you hold is a key one, as well as any endorsements or ratings you have. One of the biggest things we find people don’t realise is that if you have a navigation endorsement or a PPL/CPL, the instructor conducting your flight review should want to see those skills – it’s not meant to be just a couple of circuits and away you go. Same goes for CTA/CTR knowledge – we can’t directly test that at Bacchus Marsh, so you’ll have to navigate somewhere to be able to check that off.

In particular, some safety-critical items must be checked. Things like how you manage engine failure and cross-wind conditions, and how you apply threat and error management knowledge. You will also need to demonstrate things like checking and applying proper weather information and NOTAMs, calculating weight and balance and aircraft performance, your use of checklists, and performing a daily inspection.

If it’s been a while since your last flight, you may like to book in a few flights to get back into things before actually attempting the flight review. We charge an additional fee for the flight review to cover the additional ground theory time, and the admin/paperwork time – you don’t want to pay that if you’re not sure you’re up to standard. The number of additional flights required will depend on the individual, so we recommend contacting us to set up a meeting with an instructor to discuss your past experience, what sort of flying you plan to do in the future, and work out a plan.

If you’re flying fairly regularly and you’re confident you won’t need any extra flights before the flight review, you just need to give us a call to book in. Make sure you let us know which licence you have so we can make sure to allocate enough time with the instructor and the aircraft. Your instructor will then get in touch with you to discuss what’s required for your particular review, and what route to plan for if they need to see navigation. Flight reviews can be done over multiple flights, if needed.

Once the instructor is satisfied, they can sign you off to use your licence for another two years.

So, how long will it take?

For flight reviews that don’t include navigation, CASA recommends at least two hours – one on the ground, one in the plane. We would typically book an hour and a half in the plane for these, to allow adequate time for preflight inspection, refueling, etc.

For those that do include navigation, CASA recommends an additional 1.5-2 hours in the plane. We generally allocate three hours in the plane in this case.

You should also allow at least half an hour after the flight for discussion with your instructor and to finalise the paperwork. You might also like to allow some extra time before your booking to come into the school, finish your plan, perhaps discuss with other pilots around the conditions on the day, and prepare the plane ahead of time.

It may seem like a lot, but one day every two years to ensure the safety of you and everyone you share the air with is priceless.

What aircraft will it be done in?

CASA recommends conducting a flight review in an aircraft type that you’re familiar with – and have flown most in recent flights.

If you fly both single-engine and multi-engine aircraft, CASA suggests you should do your flight review in a multi-engine aircraft as it is the more complex of the two.

You can view the options in the TVSA fleet here.

Can I log the flight time?

Yes, but it depends on what happens in the review as to how it should be logged. The assessor is the pilot-in-command for flight reviews. Most of the time you will receive some instruction, so you would log it as dual. CPL and ATPL holders may be able to log the time as PICUS, if all the relevant conditions are met.

Where can I do one?

A flight review can be done by an authorised instructor who has the relevant experience. At TVSA, all of our Grade 1 and Grade 2 instructors can conduct flight reviews.

You don’t have to go back to the same place that you did your flight training at, but it might help for the first couple after you get your licence. They’ll know who you are and your training history, so might be able to tailor a plan to what your weaknesses or bad habits as a student were – and make sure they’re not creeping back in!

If you’re regularly hiring an aircraft from somewhere that can do them, it’s probably going to be best to go there for similar reasons. You’ll be more familiar with the aircraft and the people, which should make the whole experience less stressful.

Of course, you might like to go somewhere new to get some fresh eyes on your techniques, and perhaps get more of an opportunity to learn something from someone else.

What if I did another flight test in the two years since I got my licence?

You may not need a flight review. If you’ve gone from an RPL to a PPL or CPL, that counts. It also counts if you’ve done conversion training from, for example, aeroplane to helicopter and the person who did your training was authorised to conduct a flight review. Some other proficiency checks and endorsements may also cover your flight review requirements.

What if I don’t pass my flight review?

Your assessor should provide guidance on next steps. If you are still within your two-year window, you can still act as PIC where qualified, but should keep in mind the safety of others and what skills you need to work on. Some training flights or ground theory sessions should be booked to help bring your skills back up to standard. If you are outside your two-year window, you cannot fly as PIC until a flight review has been passed. All subsequent flight time should be under instruction.per mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

Remember – your flight review isn’t meant to be a test. It’s a collaboration between you and the instructor. They’re checking you, but you should also leave having learnt something new.

To book a flight review with us, give us a call on (03) 5369 5162 and press 2 for Dispatch.

For more information, visit the CASA website.