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Four Point Marking Scale - Pitfalls since the September 2019 Revision

In the past, the marking rules on a flight test in essence were the following:

  • "4" is good
  • "3" - minor mistakes
  • "2" - major mistakes, going outside tolerances, but correcting in a timely manner
  • "1" - critical mistakes, going outside tolerances without correcting, exceeding twice the tolerances
  • Outcome of the flight test: as long as you don't get any ones, it's a pass. More or less. 

The reality was that we were seeing a number of sloppy flight tests with a high number of "2"s, and yet the pilots were granted a license - to keep flying and now also putting their passengers in danger.

In commercial operations, e.g. PPCs, it had been a common practice that depending on the test and the position being tested - captain or FO, there was a certain specific and limited number of "2"s that a pilot could get. One more, and it's a full fail.

As of September 2019, this principle was implemented in the flight training world. The official reference is the Advisory Circular (AC) No. 408-002: https://www.tc.gc.ca/en/services/aviation/reference-centre/advisory-circulars/ac-408-002.html

Now candidates on a PPL flight test can get a maximum of 5 "1"s and "2"s combined, CPL flight test candidates are only allowed 4. What does that mean? Let's take a PPL flight test.

This would be the outcome of a flight test depending on the number of marks obtained. The scenarios in red are those that changed in comparison to the previous set of rules: 

"1"

"2"

"3"

"4"

Outcome of the flight test

0

0

any

any

Congrats, you passed!

0

1-5

any

any

You still passed

0

6 or more

any

any

Congrats, you get to retrain and not kill yourself and your passengers! (Full fail, full retest)

1

1-4

any

any

Fail, eligible for partial retest

1

5 or more

any

any

Full fail, full retest

2

1-3

any

any

Fail, eligible for partial retest

2

4 or more

any

any

Full fail, full retest

3 or more

any

any

any

Full fail, full retest

1 or more on any ground item

any

any

any

Full fail, full retest

 

"1"s were critical even in the past, and always triggered a flight test fail. What is important now is that ANY "2" can trigger a fail as well. If you already obtained 5 "2"s on a PPL flight test, and on the way from the practice area you forgot to double check the checklist at a tested emergency, that is another "2" automatically. And so far an almost successful flight test turns into a fully failed one. Because of a seemingly small thing? Not really. Because of 6 or more occurrences of major errors. Each of those is a real close call for a critical error with possibly worse consequences than a flight test failure - accident, injury or death.

So do we see a higher failure rate on the flight tests in the last months - for sure. Are the pilots who pass the test are actually better pilots, because they have been trained to a higher standard? I want to believe so.

So what can you do to succeed at your next PPL or CPL flight test? A few things:

  1. Know exactly what is expected of you. Read that Flight Test guide, take notes about details of exercise parameters and tolerances. Ask your instructor for clarifications on anything that might not be clear to you. Never assume.
  2. Be attentive to details. Nothing is too small or unimportant in aviation to be ignored. Flash cards, notes on the kneeboard, phone etc - anything that helps you to be organized and does not distract you. With few exceptions, you are allowed to use ALL available tools and notes on your flight test.
  3. Go an extra mile. Learning systems? Read the book "Aircraft Systems for Pilots" instead of just a chapter in "From The Ground Up". Learning weather? "Air Command Weather Manual". Practicing circuits? Aim to touch down on the center of the centerline instead of being satisfied with not going off the runway.
  4. Be well rested, focused and have a humble attitude "what is the next thing that is going to kill me?" to anticipate and prevent mistakes from happening. Never "it won't happen to me" attitude.
  5. Enjoy what you are doing. The better you get at something, the more you like it, the better you do it. It's a good upward spiral!

I hope this information and tips were helpful.

If you have any questions or you want to book a flight test, please contact Canadian Flight Centre's dispatch. We provide flight test services on a variety of school owned and private aircraft, towards your PPL, CPL, Multi and IFR.

And good luck on your next flight test!

Dr. Anna Serbinenko, Pilot Examiner

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Sunday, 17 October 2021

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