How to Fail Your CFI Check Ride. Twice.

How to bust a CFI check ride without really trying!

We’ve all heard about that guy, the one who failed their CFI check ride! You might have a friend or a friend of a friend that’s failed a check ride. As the urban legend has it, there might even be a person that’s failed a check ride multiple times! Can you imagine? If you’re like me, you probably have a picture in your head that looks something like this: A person that’s not the brightest bulb on the tree by a long shot! To boot, he should find something else to do other than teaching people how to fly. Maybe chess or full-contact knitting would endanger less people, but FLIGHT INSTRUCTOR? No way! The picture in your head is of a dim-witted, ham-fisted wanna-be instructor motoring down the final approach, throttle set in one of two positions: full on or full off, the examiner’s are fingernails cutting a permanent groove in the armrest, sweat puddling on their upper lip all the while our-wanna-be-instructor hero is claiming to have the chops to actually teach people how to fly! The bravado! The denial!

Good news my flunky brethren, statistics are here to help ease your pain and preserve your ego! As the legend has it, 99.99% of applicants fail their initial CFI check ride. This is an ego bolstering number no matter which side of this binary outcome you happen to be on. You’re either an extraordinarily gifted aviator if you’re part of the elite .1% or normally mediocre if you’re not. The truth here is that, as I understand it, we really don’t know what the pass rate is for the initial CFI. It doesn’t really matter and I’ll tell you why.

In the end, it really doesn’t matter that much!

It doesn’t matter what the pass/fail rate is because ultimately it boils down to you, your preparation and your examiner and the relationship between the three. I know this to a painful degree because I have failed my initial CFI check ride not once, but twice and I’m ok with that. I’m ok with that because each time I’ve come up short (both times on the oral portion of the exam) it’s forced me to go back and dig a little deeper into aviation. My failures have exposed a gap in my mastery that had an examiner not found it, a student certainly would have. I’ve made peace with this and I’m just simply moving on. The way I see it, as long as you don’t fail the portion of the practical test that you’re retesting on, you’re just that much closer to finishing the whole darn thing. Keep plucking along! Who really cares how many times you fail? You know what they call somebody who fails the CFI exam 8 times and passes on the 9th? A CFI!

I’m not going to go into a big “How to Pass Your Initial CFI Check Ride” monologue. There are plenty of articles already floating around about that. But I do want to give some general advice regarding a failed check ride. Regardless if it’s your initial CFI ride, your private pilot ride, instrument ride or whatever, don’t beat yourself up. But, and here’s the important thing: don’t give up! Don’t let the 60 days between retesting expire. You’ll regret it! You’ll curse yourself! You’ll poke needles into a voodoo doll facsimile of yourself. Instead, call your CFI, explain to him what you got wrong, get the remedial training and the fresh endorsements and go back out there and retest. It’s completely acceptable to mentally beat yourself up for no longer than 48 hours. Brood, yell at the dog, be generally cantankerous and grumpy but no longer than 48 hours! That’s the max. After that just get busy finishing what you started!

And in closing, how about some practical advice on how to deal with failure? 🙂

Happy testing,

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