The Oral & Practical Test
There is a lot of confusion and mystery surrounding the oral and practical examination. Most of the confusion stems from people seeking guidance from others that have already tested and received their airframe and powerplant certificate. Variations are as many as there are mechanics. Depending on when (year) and where (DME) they tested, you will hear a lot of different stories. This section will clear up the confusion and provide you with the current process based on the regulations in effect today.
The Oral and Practical Examination is an outcome-based examination. Regardless of background and experience, all applicants must demonstrate entrance-level knowledge and skill for the ratings sought. Skill tests are significant as they measure the applicant's ability to logically think and objectively apply their knowledge, while demonstrating the physical skills that enable them to carry out aircraft maintenance in a professional and safe manner.
How Tests are Generated
In an effort to standardize oral and practical tests conducted by different Designated Mechanic Examiners (DME) the FAA created a computer-based platform to create all oral and practical tests.
Technically speaking, an oral and practical test should be conducted in a standard manner regardless of which DME conducts the test. The main difference would be the facility, aircraft, tools, and other equipment each DME uses for the practical projects.
The DME that you select to conduct your test is required to conduct a pretest interview. This can be accomplished face-to-face, by telephone, through email, zoom call, or by other methods that will allow them to review your 8610-2s, Airman Knowledge Test Reports, eligibility, and identification. They should also discuss fees, testing procedures, projects, the type of equipment to be used, and what you should expect if you pass, fail, or do not complete the test.
NOTE: Designated Mechanic Examiners are not employees of the Federal Aviation Administration but are authorized by the FAA to conduct oral and practical examinations and if also authorized, to do so, issue temporary airman certificates to those they have tested and have passed.
The DME will charge a reasonable fee to each applicant for handling the forms and reports incident to the issuance of an aviation mechanic certificate, the use of the DME's facilities, equipment, materials, and service in administering the oral and practical tests.
(Each DME is independent and the FAA does not set the fees to be charged)
After the pretest interview and prior to the examination date, the DME will enter the information from your 8610-2 into the Designee Registration System (DRS). This is the system that the computer generates your test.
The computer-generated test will be based on the ratings sought. There will be a planning sheet with the number and letter codes for the test questions to be asked and the number and letter codes for the practical projects to be given. There will also be the actual questions to be asked with the typical answers for each question and a description of the individual projects to be given as well as the level of competency expected for each project.
The Anatomy of the Oral and Practical Test
As with the Airman Knowledge Tests, the Oral and Practical Test is on the 44 subject areas found in appendices B, C, and D of 14 CFR Part 147. The test is developed based on a Practical Test Standards Concept.
There are three Practical Test Standards (PTS), General - Section I, Airframe - Section II & III, and Powerplant - Section IV & V.
Section I - General (12 subjects)
Section II - Airframe Structures (7 subjects)
Section III - Airframe Systems and Components (10 subjects)
Section IV - Powerplant Theory (3 subjects)
Section V - Powerplant Systems and Component (12 subjects)
The certificate sought will determine which sections will be tested. For an Airframe and Powerplant certificate, all five sections are required. For Airframe only, Sections I, II, and III are required. For Powerplant only, Sections I, IV, and V are required. Section I is only required one time providing it was passed. If a person has an airframe certificate and is testing for powerplant as an added rating then only Section IV and V would be required. Likewise if a person has a powerplant certificate and is testing for airframe as an added rating then only Section II and III are required.
Each section is divided into two parts. Knowledge (oral) elements, indicated by the use of the words, "Exhibits knowledge in..." and Skill (practical) elements, indicated by the use of the words, "Demonstrates the skill to perform..."
Each part of each section is treated as "stand-alone", meaning you have to pass all subjects in each part of each section. If a person fails a part of a section then they must retest all subjects in that part of the section when retesting, (not just the subject failed).
An example would be; an applicant who answers all the questions correctly in 11 of the 12 subjects in Section I, however in the 12th subject "Aviation Mechanic Privileges and Limitations" the applicant fails.
When the applicant retests he/she must answer questions in all 12 subjects, even in the 11 subjects that the questions were answered correctly previously. The same is true for practical projects. If a project is failed in a section, when retesting the applicant will have to complete practicals for the whole section, not just the subject practical failed.
When the test is computer-generated, the DME will receive seven questions for each of the 44 subjects. The DME is required to ask a minimum of four questions for each subject. The applicant is required to answer three of the four questions correctly. Even if the applicant answers the first three questions correctly the DME must ask the fourth question.
70% or better is required to pass the knowledge (oral) part of the test for each subject. Answering three of four correctly is 75%. If the applicant misses two of four that would be 50%, or fail. In that situation the DME has the option to ask the remaining three questions in that subject at which time the applicant must answer five of the seven questions corrects. That would be 71% for that subject.
NOTE: The option to ask the remaining three questions usually depends on how the test has been going. If it is apparent the applicant is having difficulty in answering questions in all subjects, many times the DME will suspend the examination because its apparent the applicant needs more time to study and prepare. Remember, the applicant must demonstrate "entrance level knowledge", not the "best guess" and hope to answer correctly.
There is not a specific time allocation for the oral examination however an applicant properly prepared usually takes 50 minutes to 1-1/2 hours to complete.
As previously outlined, the projects are derived from the the Practical Test Standards. The examiner must evaluate the applicant's knowledge and skill in sufficient depth to determine that the objective and performance standard for each project given is met.
The DME creates a scenario that will be given to the applicant so he can demonstrate his ability to meet the objective and performance standard given for that project. Rather than giving singular individual projects, when possible, a DME will create scenarios that will combine several given projects into one assignment which expedites the completion of the overall test.
An applicant is not permitted to know before testing begins which selections in each subject area are to be included in his/her test. Therefore, an applicant should be well prepared in all oral and skill areas included in the practical test standard.
Typically for an airframe and powerplant test there are 22 or 23 practical projects for the five sections. There won't be a project for each subject area however there will be projects in each of the five sections. They are computer generated so one can never predict what the projects will be. As stated previously, if an applicant fails a project for a subject in a particular section, then the applicant will have to complete additional projects for other subjects in that section when retesting.
Based on the applicant's skill, preparation, and projects received, the practical portion of the test averages from 5 to 5-1/2 hours to complete.
Practical Test Standards
Applicants are expected to demonstrate an approval for return to service standard, where applicable and demonstrate the ability to locate and apply required reference materials, where applicable. In instances where an approval for return to service standard cannot be achieved, the applicant must be able to explain whey the return to service standard was not met (example: when tolerances are outside of a product's limitations).
The following terms are used in the practical test standards:
1. Inspect - means to examine by sight and/or touch (with or without inspection enhancing tools/equipment).
2. Check - means to verify proper operation.
3. Troubleshoot - means to analyze and identify malfunctions.
4. Service - means to perform functions that assure continued operation.
5. Repair - means to correct a defective condition. Repair of an airframe or powerplant system includes component replacement and adjustment, but not component repair.
6. Overhaul - means disassembled, cleaned, inspected, repaired as necessary, and reassembled.
The following is a detailed description of the meaning of each level.
Know basic facts and principles.
Be able to find information, and follow directions and written instructions.
Locate methods, procedures, instructions, and reference material.
Interpretation of information not required.
No skill demonstration is required.
Z3b. Locate specified nondestructive testing methods. (Level 1)
The applicant will locate information for nondestructive testing.
Know and understand principles, theories, and concepts.
Be able to find and interpret maintenance data and information, and perform basic operations using the appropriate data, tools, and equipment.
A high level of skill is not required.
Z3c. Inspect and check welds. Given welds (some with flaws). (Level 2)
The applicant will inspect welds and indicate acceptable and non-acceptable welds.
Level 3 (This is the approval for return to service standards.)
Know, understand, and apply facts, principles, theories, and concepts.
Understand how they relate to the total operation and maintenance of aircraft.
Be able to make independent and accurate airworthiness judgements.
Perform all skill operations to a return-to-service standard using appropriate data, tools, and equipment. Inspections are performed in accordance with acceptable or approved data.
A fairly high skill level is required.
Z3e. Check control surface travel. (Level 3)
Using type certificate data sheets and the manufacturer's service manual, the applicant will measure the control surface travel, compare the travel to the maintenance data, and determine if the travel is within limits.
The practical test is passed if the applicant demonstrates the prescribed proficiency in the assigned elements in each subject area to the required standard. Applicants shall not be expected to memorize all mathematical formulas that may be required in the performance of various elements in this practical test standard.
However, where relevant, applicants must be able to locate and apply necessary formulas to obtain correct solutions.
If the applicant does not meet the standards of any of the elements performed (Knowledge or skill elements). the associated subject area is failed, and thus that section of the practical test is failed.
Typical areas of unsatisfactory performance and grounds for disqualification include the following.
1. Any action or lack of action by the applicant that requires corrective intervention by the examiner for reasons of safety.
2. Failure to follow acceptable of approved maintenance procedures while performing skill (practical) projects.
3. Exceeding tolerances stated in the maintenance instructions.
4. Failure to recognize improper procedures.
5. The inability to perform to a return to service standard, where applicable.
6. Inadequate knowledge in any of the subject areas.
If you fail any section either oral or practical you will be required to retest the complete section of the subject failed, even subject areas passed during the test. You may:
Retake the test after 30 days from the date of the previous test. You must present to the DME an original copy of the 8610-2 from the previous test, two new 8610-2 forms, AKTRs, photo ID, and another copy of the Pilot's Bill of Rights.
Retest sooner than 30 days if you receive a signed statement from an airman holding the certificate and rating you seek certifying that you have been given additional instruction in each subject failed and that you are now ready for retesting.
NOTE: The certifying airman's signed statement must also include the airman's rating and certificate number.
How to Prepare for the Test
As with preparation for the Airman Knowledge Tests, preparing for the oral and practical examination depends on the experience and training of the applicant. If properly prepared it really shouldn't matter who (DME) administers the test.
Advantages for AMT Students
Since the tests are based on the subjects and performance standards in Part 147, a graduate of an AMT program should have an subject knowledge and exposure advantage over someone who qualified through their military or work experience. The other advantage for the AMT student is many schools have a DME that tests using the same tools and equipment they trained with, so there should a familiarity advantage.
Challenges for AMT Students
One primary challenge for the the AMT students is the length of time since they may have had the subjects or practical projects in school. In a two year program some of the subjects would have been two years ago.
Another significant challenge is the way most maintenance publications are written. Manufacturer's write the instructions believing the mechanics maintaining their products are experienced mechanics with a solid foundation of knowledge. So in essence a lot of the steps that would be considered elementary are left out. This can be extremely challenging for someone that hasn't performed a particular maintenance function previously.
Advantage for Military or Work Experience
The advantage for most military applicants is real life experience being around airworthy aircraft and in an aviation environment using technical data, tools, and equipment maintaining aircraft.
Since most DMEs use civil or general aviation aircraft and components during their tests, the challenge for the military applicant is the fact that most experience is on helicopters or jet aircraft. Absolutely no exposure to general aviation aircraft, manufacturers maintenance manuals, reciprocating engines, magnetos, carburetors, propellers, or Federal regulations.
For most Military personnel, they also find the technical data used in civil aviation isn't quite as detailed as they're accustomed to. This again can be quite challenging when the applicant isn't familiar with the component and hasn't performed the function previously.
Solutions for All
Test Prep - There are many "test prep" programs available however most focus heavily on the Airman Knowledge Tests and not as much on the oral and practical test. Also most prep programs run anywhere from one to two weeks in length which requires leave or vacation to attend. The cost of the course, leave/vacation, as well as the cost of the hotel while away from home can be quite costly.
Many applicants that I've tested that have attended those types of programs, have told me that too much time was spent on the written tests and very little if any was focused on the oral and practical test.
With a little self discipline and the availability of test prep software as well as written study guides the same can be accomplished independently and a lot of money can be saved in the process.
Self Study - Self study for the tests to obtain your certificates shouldn't be any different than taking online courses from a college or university.
The challenge is, self study for anything takes more individual discipline than attending a prep course guided by an instructor. Most of the written study guides have an oral and practical section but I've found most are limited in the the number of questions that they include and don't always cover all subject areas in the depth necessary to prepare the applicant properly. Also there's not an Instructor/Student interaction.
The Aviation Maintenance Technician 8083 series text books are the series of books that most written and oral questions are generated from, so having digital copies and searching them for explanation when further explanation of a question builds confidence, and expanded understanding of the subject area. They are available for FREE under the Free Books tab on this site.
Practical Test Preparation
As previously discussed the practical projects are derived from the practical test standards. There are projects established for each of the 44 subjects.
Again, the subject areas for the tests are the same as the required AMTS curriculum subjects listed in 14 CFR part 147, Aviation Maintenance Technician Schools, appendices B, C, and D. However, the subject area titled "Unducted Fans" (in appendix D) is not a tested subject at this time.
AMG - General
A. Basic Electricity
B. Aircraft Drawings
C. Weight and Balance
D. Fluid Lines and Fittings
E. Materials and Processes
F. Ground Operation and Servicing
G. Cleaning and Corrosion Control
I. Maintenance Forms and Records
J. Basic Physics
K. Maintenance Publications
L. Mechanic Privileges and Limitations
AMA - Airframe
A. Wood Structures
B. Aircraft Covering
C. Aircraft Finishes
D. Sheet Metal and Non-Metallic Structures
F. Assembly and Rigging
G. Airframe Inspection
Airframe Systems and Components
A. Aircraft Landing Gear Systems
B. Hydraulic and Pneumatic Power Systems
C. Cabin Atmosphere Control Systems
D. Aircraft Instrument Systems
E. Communication and Navigation Systems
F. Aircraft Fuel Systems
G. Aircraft Electrical Systems
H. Position and Warning Systems
I. Ice and Rain Control Systems
J. Fire Protection Systems
AMP - Powerplant
Powerplant Theory and Maintenance
A. Reciprocating Engines
B. Turbine Engines
C. Engine Inspection
Powerplant Systems and Components
A. Engine Instrument Systems
B. Engine Fire Protection Systems
C. Engine Electrical Systems
D. Lubrication Systems
E. Ignition and Starting Systems
F. Fuel Metering Systems
G. Engine Fuel Systems
H. Induction and Engine Airflow Systems
I. Engine Cooling Systems
J. Engine Exhaust and Reverser Systems
L. Unducted Fans (Not Tested)
M. Auxiliary Power Units
As previously explained, the practical projects will be computer generated, there will be 22 to 23 projects for an airframe and powerplant test, there won't be a project for each subject area however there will be multiple projects for each section. On occasion there may be two projects for one subject area.
If you are a graduate of a Part 147 program and participated in class and shop activities you will not be given anything that you haven't seen or done while in class or the shop.
The main difference for the same practical project, is the DME and the type of equipment he uses for the tests that he gives. Some schools have a DME on staff and gives tests using the same equipment that the student trained on giving an element of familiarity. But that's not aways the case.
Depending on the DME, the projects are created so that it will satisfy one, two, or more of the projects given. (an example would be remove and replace a part or component and a logbook entry for the work performed) If the applicant had to look up part numbers, remove and replace a part, find specific torque values, and complete a log book entry, this could actually be satisfying several projects on the test.
Typical Type of Practical Projects
The following is not a complete list however it is a good sampling of items that an applicant should be familiar with and able to accomplish.
Use a multi-meter; check for opens, shorts, resistance, voltage drops, or continuity in a circuit or component.
Be able to calculate voltage, resistance, current, and voltage drops using ohms law.
Calculate capacitance in a circuit.
Using the FAA website, be able to create a summary of airworthiness directives for a particular make and model of an aircraft, engine, or other component.
Determine the applicability of an airworthiness directive, both one time and recurring.
Complete logbook entries for 100hr inspections, minor repairs or maintenance.
Complete the FAA form 337.
Determine the applicability of 14 CFR Parts 1, 3, 21, 23, 39, 43, 45, 47, 65, 91, and various advisory circulars.
Find torque values, correct use of a torque wrench, and torqueing of nuts and bolts.
Use and read a micrometer and vernier caliper.
Inspect and interpret airworthiness of woods, dope and fabric, and sheetmetal.
Bend sheetmetal, calculate bend allowances, calculate rivet spacing, repair a damaged sheetmetal surface.
Interpret blueprints and illustrated parts catalogs, and make rough sketches of repairs.
Remove and replace a flight control.
Check control surface travel.
Check and adjust cable tension.
Safety wire turnbuckles.
Create inspection checklists and perform inspection of systems and components.
Remove and replace brake assemblies, replace brake linings.
Remove and replace tires from wheels, service bearings.
Service brake systems, pressure and gravity methods.
Service hydraulic reservoirs.
Remove and replace aircraft batteries. (service batteries)
Remove and replace a cylinder from an engine.
Check magneto internal timing, or time the magnetos to an engine.
Perform a compression test on an engine.
Service spark plugs.
Perform a conformity inspection on an aircraft, engine or component.
Check propeller blade angle using a universal propeller protractor.
Check, inspect, and dress nicks in a propeller.
Splice a wire, install connectors, remove and replace circuit breakers or fuses.
Demonstrate the starting procedures and run an engine.
Again, this is not a complete list but a good sampling of the typical type of projects that are given for a test. Differences are in the DME and the equipment being used.
It can seem a little overwhelming, but for an AMT student that was actively engaged in class and the shop it shouldn't be difficult. Covid-19 shut down and the length of the complete program adds to the challenge though. For jet and helicopter mechanics and those not familiar with civil aviation regulations, it is very challenging.
Go to the Services page and see what I have to offer. I have practical test standards review sessions that cover the broad range of practical projects. It also allows an individual to become familiar with the aircraft, engines, and equipment that I use for testing. It puts a current familiarity to the testing process.
If you are a graduate of a 147 program my sessions reinforce what you previously learned and exposes you to some of the things that you may not remember or may have missed.
If you haven't been through a 147 program my sessions gives you an opportunity to become familiar with and learn processes and procedures on aircraft, engines, components, and technical data that you haven't been exposed to in your aviation career.
All my services are tailored to the individual so go and read more, then give me a call to set up a visit and free consultation.
YOU HAVE ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO LOSE AND EVERYTHING TO GAIN!