Common Mistakes & Tips

In this section you will find the most common mistakes for each exercise on the PPL/CPL flight tests.

Exercise 2D – Pre-Flight Inspection

  • Rushing the passenger briefing or omitting an item.
  • Rushing the walk around
  • Not visually checking fuel


  • Begin the process of the passenger briefing before even stepping out the door. Tell them to stick with you and not run into any propellors. Show them the entrance and exits from outside the plane. No point in telling your examiner how to get in/out, buckle the seatbelt and use a headset when they’re already in the plane!
  • Follow the pre-flight inspection as per the POH.
  • Know all the vents, antennas and tubes sticking out of the plane.

Exercise 2E – Engine Start/Run-Up/Check List

  • Missing checklist items
  • Over revving the engine and not looking outside on start


  • Learn to properly start the engine in warm and really cold conditions!

Exercise 2F – Operation of A/C Systems

  • Not leaning the engine above 3000ft AGL.
  • Not using the carb heat properly.
  • Failing to recognize the signs of carb ice.


  • Know how to use all available ancillary controls.
  • Consult the POH when in doubt.
  • If there is an autopilot in your aircraft, know how to use it! Don’t be afraid to use it either in cruise etc,.


  • Taxiing too fast
  • Not applying wind correction
  • Having power applied to the engine while trying to stop
  • Not doing the instrument checks


  • Try and keep your heels on the floor while taxiing. Only after the power is idle should you slide your feet up and press on the brakes when needed.
  • Do not taxi faster than a jogging pace.
  • Check the instruments as soon as possible after beginning the taxi, never in a congested area though.
  • Pointing to the instruments or announcing that you are doing the instrument checks lets the examiner know they are complete.


Exercise 9 – Steep Turns

  • Not maintaining altitude throughout the turn. Mainly due to incorrect nose up/down attitude.
  • Not looking outside during the turn!! Fixating inside.
  • Airspeed to limits during turn, heading to limits on recovery.


  • Clearing turns are not required to do a steep turn. Looking outside before and during the turn are!
  • Use an outside reference point, this will help keep your head outside
  • Through 30 degrees, smoothly pitch back and add a bit of power.
  • If you maintain the proper attitudes outside, all should remain constant and good

Exercise 11 – Slow Flight

  • Not doing a HASEL check
  • Not maintaining altitude or constant airspeed while in slow flight
  • Not having enough rudder during the manoeuvre.
  • Off heading on recovery of a turn
  • Incorrect flap retraction schedule (flaps up all at once, or too late) 


  • Take your time getting into slow flight
  • Try practicing slow flight with all instruments covered with an instructor.
  • Keep your eyes outside and review the procedure to enter/exit slow flight on the ground with the engine off. Couch fly!

Exercise 12 – Stalls

  • When recovering, not returning carb heat to cold
  • Recovering when the aircraft is not fully stalled
  • Excessive loss of altitude
  • Improper recovery when a wing “drops”


  • Full power, nose down, (flaps?), and rudder to prevent an incipient spin.
  • Once the aircraft is no longer stalled, feel free to use ailerons to level the wings.
  • Avoid a large loss of altitude, if speed is sufficient with the wings level, pitch to cruise or slight nose up.
  • Anticipate a wing drop in a climbing turning stall.
  • Practice recoveries on the ground before going flying.


Exercise 14 – Spiral Dive

  • Pulling out with wings not level
  • Not doing a coordinated roll to wings level and/or not being aggressive enough with aileron input
  • Not ensuring power is idle


  • The examiner may try and surprise you! Anticipate it.
  • Power idle! Wings level (aileron and rudder)! Pull out to nose slightly up! Full power to regain lost altitude once airspeed is safe.

Exercise 15 – Slipping

  • Not using full rudder in a forward slip
  • Not slowing down before entering a forward slip
  • Aggressive recovery from slip
  • Improper sideslip technique on crosswind landing


  • Review the purposes and procedures for various slips.
  • If conducting a forward slip, confirm power idle first.
  • Don’t set up a side slip too early on final. Try a crab until 200ft, then side slip.
  • This may be assessed during a forced approach.

Exercise 16 -Take-off


  • Not performing an effective passenger take-off briefing.
  • Not confirming take-off power during the initial take-off roll.
  • Not having correct crosswind correction.
  • Allowing the aircraft to drift on/after take-off.
  • Omitting the climb checks.


  • Not doing the takeoff on the roll
  • Late applying full power
  • Using brakes


  • Not using every single inch of runway
  • Specifying a completely inaccurate go/no-go point even though a realistic one has been calculated
  • Having the incorrect flap setting for the given scenario.


  • Tell your passengers to be quiet until you say so, which will be at a safe altitude. That will usually suffice for a passenger takeoff brief. Do not tell them where the exits are etc,. That should have already been covered in your pax briefing, right?
  • For example, you have have calculated a go/no-go point of 800ft for your short field takeoff. Why is your go/no-go point 2000ft down the runway when conducting the short field technique? Use accurate go/no-go points?
  • Practice correct attitude control on soft field take-offs. The nose wheel should be slightly above the ground. Too much and you are creating lots of aerodynamic drag.

Exercise 17 – The Circuit

  • Failing to fly a proper track in the circuit. Not compensating for wind.
  • Not conducting a safe lookout
  • Missed calls on the radio or missed calls from other traffic/ATC
  • Not maintaining altitude


  • The circuit may be judged at another airport following a diversion and precautionary landing.
  • If at another uncontrolled airport, always ask for an advisory inbound if able.
  • If you need time before joining the circuit, climb, circle and figure it out.
  • Make sure you are at the correct altitudes when around the aerodrome circuit.
  • Consult the CFS for circuit directions and altitudes.

Exercise 18 – Approach and Landing


  • Omitting crosswind aileron inputs on roll out
  • Not maintaining correct airspeed on final.
  • Firm touchdown
  • Not maintaining runway center line on approach/landing roll out


  • Not maintaining backpressure on column, not retracting flaps.
  • Landing after predetermined touchdown point
  • Skidding the brakes
  • Improper airspeed control on final


  • Firm touchdown
  • Nosewheel not kept off the ground as long as possible
  • Forgetting crosswind inputs
  • Failing to maintain a small amount of power in flare and touchdown


  • Control the approach and airspeed properly
  • Look at the end of the runway in the flare.
  • Always land on main wheels.
  • Don’t allow aircraft to drift while in flare.
  • Only raise flaps on short field once the aircraft is stabilized on the ground and fully under control.

Exercise 21 – Precautionary Landing

  • This exercise may be conducted following a diversion to another airport
  • Failure to advise ATC/FSS of changes to flight plan
  • Picking key points too close together or too close to the field.
  • Not flying a correct circuit pattern around airport/field.
  • Choosing an unsuitable field
  • If at an airport, not going as low as safely possible on low pass.


  • Always picture a circuit pattern around your airport/field and fly it! KISS
  • Remember your 3Ps, Pan Pan (if req’d), Pax briefing, Pre-landing checklist
  • If at an airport joining the circuit overhead mid-downwind, that counts as an overhead inspection.
  • Under certain scenarios, omit the high/low pass. Example: Low fuel, sick passenger, night.

Exercise 22 – Forced Approach

  • Most failures are because of overshooting the field
  • Crowding the field and not flying to key points
  • Approaching the field too fast
  • Not knowing both methods (CPL!)
  • Not flying the aircraft, excessive bank


  • You can make the field, survive, do one cockpit check and still pass the exercise or do all cockpit checks and die.
  • Learn both methods to increase chance of survival
  • Practice at home and couch fly. Use each 500ft engine warm as cue to the next item or as a reminder to do something.
  • Too high? Slip. Too low? Cut in early. Always fly the plane?
  • Regardless of the method used, a base turn is usually done at 1000ft AGL.
  • Turn final early or late depending on wind.

Exercise 23 – Navigation

Departure Procedure

  • Altitude deviation due to focusing on other stuff.
  • Fail to set heading indicator and fly planned heading.
  • Failure to open flight plan (simulated) or lack of knowledge on how to do so.


  • Do as much preparation on the ground as possible.
  • Use cue marks on your map to cue you when to do certain things.

En Route Procedures

  • Failure to maintain heading/altitude
  • Incorrect course correction technique used
  • Unable to use flight computer properly.
  • Unable to give accurate revised ETA
  • Making arbitrary and random heading corrections.


  • When in doubt visually navigate to things.
  • Practice using E6B or other flight computers on the ground.
  • Review track correction procedures and when to use them.
  • When off track, confirm your heading indicator is set correctly.
  • Keep your Nav log clean. Avoid writing unnecessary things on the sheet, have a devoted space for random note writing.


  • Not setting heading before setting off on diversion
  • Not flying correct heading while flying diversion
  • If diverting to an airport, not preparing for the arrival early enough
  • Not leaning mixture if req’d, advising FSS of diversion
  • Inability to give an accurate ETA due to inability to use E6B


  • Unfortunately this flight test exercise is very procedural, use this to your advantage. Make a checklist!
  • Have the cardinal points on a nearby VOR highlights with long lines. This will help determine a magnetic track quickly.
  • Determine how many miles wide your finger is on the map beforehand to easily determine distance.
  • Circle, Circle, Line, Line, Heading, Distance, Time.
  • Circle where you are and where you want to go. Draw a line between and a halfway line. Figure out the rest.
  • If diverting to an airport, prepare the CFS. Ask the examiner to open to a certain page for you.

Exercise 24 – Instrument Flying, Unusual Attitude

By the time flight test comes around, students are fairly proficient at conducting the full panel exercise to flight test standards. Therefore it has been excluded from this article.

  • In nose down, not reducing power to idle
  • In nose high, not adding full power available.


  • Take a moment to assess what the plane is doing. The airplane will not break apart if you do react immediately.
  • The power will either go full, or idle. There is no in between.
  • Always level the wings and return to cruise.
  • Always assess using the airspeed indicator.

Exercise 29 – Emergencies

  • Can be conducted at any time
  • Most procedural ones are done well, anything with a bit of thought is done poorly normally
  • Com failure in control zone
  • Door ajar in flight
  • Sick passenger


  • Fly the plane
  • Think through your emergency. An open door in flight is not a reason to divert (most times).
  • Use the checklist when in doubt.
  • Apply your drills to hypothetical situations. Ask your instructor for some.
  • Please read the Emergency Procedure notes. They are here.

Exercise 30 – Radio Communications

  • Improper volume set on the radio or intercom.
  • Mumbling or speaking too quickly
  • Not asking someone to “Say Again” when needed.
  • Communicating too much on a certain frequency.
  • Saying CONFLICTING TRAFFIC PLEASE ADVISE. Never say that. Please!


  • Never say what is in bold above.
  • Speak slowly.
  • On a cross country plan, have points with frequencies written on your map to act as cues.
  • If unsure, Say again.
  • Use proper phraseology.

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