The oral portion of the checkride starts with Preflight Preparation and the applicant is expected to demonstrate an understanding of certification requirements, recency of experience, and recordkeeping.
The first part applies to anyone flying an airplane. Do you have a current flight review and medical? Are you endorsed for the aircraft? Tailwheel, high-performance, complex?
For day flights with passengers you need to have three take-offs and landings in the same category and class of aircraft—to a full stop for night flight. Where night is 1 hour after sunset to 1 hour before sunrise.
For flight under IFR, you need 6 approaches, tracking courses, and holding patterns in the previous six months.
Just because you are legal to fly doesn’t mean you should. The FAA loves acronyms and one of them is IMSAFE.
- Illness—Am I sick? Illness is an obvious pilot risk.
- Medication—Am I taking any medicines that might affect my judgment or make me drowsy?
- Stress—Stress causes concentration and performance problems. While the regulations list medical conditions that require grounding, stress is not among them.
- Alcohol—Have I been drinking within 8 hours? Within 24 hours?
- Fatigue—Am I tired and not adequately rested? Fatigue continues to be one of the most insidious hazards to flight safety, as it may not be apparent to a pilot until serious errors are made.
- Emotions-A pilot who experiences an emotionally upsetting event should refrain from flying until the pilot has satisfactorily recovered.
Right now I am night current, having flown three takeoffs and landings at night two months ago in my Cherokee. But my last cross-country night flight was two and a half years ago with an instructor. While it would be legal to fly with passengers on a cross-country flight in a Piper Arrow that I have flown a couple of times, it wouldn’t be prudent.
I’m finishing up my IFR rating and would be comfortable popping through the marine layer in my Cherokee to go somewhere the day after I get my rating. It doesn’t have an autopilot or GPS so I wouldn’t want to fly very long or to minimums in it. I only have a few minutes of actual in my logbook, so I would want to get some more practice in the system popping through puffy clouds before I attempted to fly hard IFR.
If I had a plane that I was familiar with and just needed to drop through the clouds to get home, my personal minimums right now would be 1,000′ AGL ceiling, 5 miles visibility, and minimal winds 10-15 kts.