Our Aviation Library contains aviation information and resources needed to become a licensed pilot, including the Practical Test Standards (PTS) and Pilot Medical Requirements. Already licensed pilots will find other useful aeronautical information as well.

Airmen Practical Test Standards (PTS)

The FAA Practical Test Standards are designed by the FAA to help pilots reach the level of skill and competency required to fly an aircraft. The knowledge contained within the PTS must be demonstrated to an FAA licensed examiner before someone can be issued a pilot's certificate. The Practical Test Standards will certainly be a big portion of any student's checkride or flight test, and they will be quizzed on the PTS during the oral portion of their flight exam as well.

To prepare for your checkride, you should know the PTS for your rating inside and out. You should be prepared to demonstrate any of the flight maneuvers while the airplane is in flight, and you should know at which altitudes to perform them. Understand why these maneuvers are important and what aspects of flying they are used for. Be ready to no only explain these definitions, but to also apply them to situational questions your FAA examiner may ask of you.

For various aircraft type ratings, the FAA dictated PTS for pilots can be found here:

Pilot Practical Test Standards

More specifically, private pilot airplane test standards would use this document:

Private Pilot Airplane Test Standards

Your checkride is important, and you're going to want to ace it. When reviewing the practical standards, don't skim over them. There are minimum and maximum requirements for altitude, airspeed, and all sorts of other factors during the maneuvers portion of your flight test. Know what they are and try to stay within them. There are also opportunities for automatic failure - a point at which the FAA examiner cannot allow you to continue the test with a passing grade. Understand these danger zones and how to avoid them. The more familiarized you get with the PTS, the less you'll have to think about during your checkride... allowing you to focus on your flying.

Airmen Certificate 8710 Form

Before taking your private pilot test, you'll first have to fill out your airmen's application. FAA Form 8710-1 is what you need, and you should be able to get one from your flight school or instructor. It's also available online, and can be downloaded here:

Airmen Certificate/Rating Application 8710 Form

Before downloading, you need to know that Form 8710 must be printed on both sides. Make sure your printer is capable of double-sided printing, and that it prints a nice, legible, dark, high-quality print. The FAA is extremely finicky about how this form is filled out (I cannot stress this point enough!) If you make any errors on your 8710 airmen's application, toss it and print a new one. Don't scribble, cross out, or white out any portions of it. Did I mention that the FAA is fussy? Yah. Get used to that.

Read the instructions provided before filling out each portion of the form. Do NOT stray from those instructions. Use dashes for the date (ex. 08-22-2006) and not slashes '/'. Use four digits for the year, and not two. Read carefully. Get one thing wrong, and re-do it. Remember that your FAA designated examiner probably rejects half the forms that come in the door... by walking in with a neatly and 100% properly filled out 8710 form, you've just made a good first impression. Also make certain your flight instructor has filled out and signed off on all the required ratings in your log book.

Pilot Medical Requirements

There are three different classes of pilot medical exams, class one, two, and three. Each has it's own set of requirements, based upon the type of flying that pilot will be doing on a regular basis. You can ask for a medical certificate of a higher class that you need, but the reverse of course, is not true. When issued, Airman Medical Certificates are white in color. Student Pilot Medical Certificates are yellow.

First Class Medical Certificate - Required for airline transport pilots.
Second Class Medical Certificate - Required for commercial pilots of all types.
Third Class Medical Certificate - Required for private pilots.

A great synopsis of FAA Medical Standards, including a complete breakdown of examination points, can be found here:

Pilot FAA Medical Requirements

A complete list of FAA-approved AME's (Aviation Medical Examiners), searchable by state and zip code, can be accessed here:

AME Locator

When acquiring an FAA medical, be sure to bring your health history and list of prescribed medications. Also be sure to bring your glasses or contact lenses, as you'll be required to read sectional charts held literally inches away from your face! Other than that the airmen's medical exam is pretty straightforward, and any reasonably healthy person should have no trouble passing it.

Aviation Accident Database - NTSB

Of all professions and hobbies, few require the same constant thirst for new knowledge that being a pilot does. To fly a plane safely, a pilot must always be learning as well as constantly retaining the knowledge that they already have. Oddly enough, the best way to learn is through making mistakes... and since mistakes in aviation can often be catastrophic, we're required to learn by studying the mistakes already made - the mistakes of others.

When an accident happens in the world of aviation, the National Transportation & Safety Board (NTSB) does a wonderful job of studying and compiling all possible information about that accident into very concise, detailed reports. These reports are made public, for the good and for the study of all pilots, so that the same types of aviation accidents can be prevented in the future:

NTSB Aviation Accident Database

Reviewing accidents on such a large scale gives a very detailed picture of how other pilots are operating their aircraft. Sadly, the most easily-learned lessons here are what not to do. Reading the accounts of aircraft stalls during final approach, engine failure on takeoff, and countless other aeronautical emergencies gives a sense of important information you'll never find in your pilot's handbook. Studying the causes of these accidents, according to NTSB determinations, also educates pilots on things to avoid during these scenarios.

Live Air Traffic Control Feeds

Working the radio is probably one of the most stressful learning curves for a student pilot. Up until now there was really no substitution for actual experience. These days however, new pilots can become familiar with air traffic control phraseology and jargon by listening to actual ATC transmissions from class B, C, and D airports. Live ATC broadcasts can be streamed right to your computer from the following location:

Live Air Traffic Feeds

This brilliant tool is invaluable for those who are having trouble listening to and understanding air traffic controller transmissions. More detailed information on ATC terminology can also be found on our Air Terms page.