IFATC’s Fastest Recruit Part 3: Practical Test

May, 7, 2021 by Suhas J.

You’ve passed your Written exam, and your recruiter has cleared you for a Practical Test. The IFATC Practical Test is a test where anywhere from four to six IFATC Testers spawn at your parallel runway airport and fly patterns on both runways.

The recruit should expect runway changes, transitions, ground conflicts, and more. Firstly, set a good date that works for both you and your Recruiter. Make sure you have nothing else going on at this time and that you’ll be in an environment where you can focus on your airspace.

Once you’ve picked a date and time with your recruiter, use the time in between to practice until you feel absolutely confident in your skills. In your Tracking Thread, try having more people attend, switch airports, ask them to challenge you or focus on aspects you need to work on. If you need ideas for good parallel runway airports to open, this post on our blog written by an IFATC Supervisor and Trainer outlines the 10 best and most common training/testing locations.

Always ask for feedback from your pilots. Ask them to be honest, and take any criticism in your stride and improve on it the next time around. Receiving and acting on feedback is an essential aspect of IFATC.

Lastly, always thank your pilots for coming out to fly. Prepare yourself for all scenarios and continue to review the ATC Manual and the Perfect ATC Test YouTube video.

The time has come, and it’s the day of your Practical Test. As your test draws near, rewatch the Perfect ATC Test YouTube video again, and definitely open your Tracking Thread at least once depending on your availability before your Practical Test. Your Recruiter will typically let you know your testing airport 30 minutes before your testing time. This airport will have parallel runways. As soon as your recruiter notifies you of your airport, take advantage of this and go observe your surroundings. Spawn at your assigned airport and taxi to a runway. Use the free cam and airport ground map to look for potential hot spots or conflictive areas. Take note of where your runway exits are. Some airports have exits at several points of the runway, while others only have exits at opposite thresholds. It is crucial that you know where your runway exits are should there be a need for a go around.

After you’ve taken note of span points, hot spots, taxiways, and runway exits, fly a pattern yourself. Take note of your airport’s elevation and calculate your pattern and transition altitude. Also be sure to observe nearby airports, as testers won’t always start at the same airport. After you’ve got a good feel of your airport, you’re in an environment where you can focus, and you’ve gotten some practice in, you’re ready to go. Your Recruiter will tell you to open your frequencies, and your testers will begin spawning.

Aviate, Navigate, Communicate. Treat this as a normal Tracking Thread in the sense that you don’t overwhelm yourself, and as always you try to provide the best service possible to your pilots. Take deep breaths, and think logically, moving from one aircraft to another. If you get multiple commands at once, start with one aircraft and work your way through the others. Don’t panic and don’t rush!

Remember your training and you’ll do great. Be on the lookout for typical testing methods you may have seen be put in use at your Tracking Thread, such as ground conflicts, go arounds, transitions, and runway changes. Your Practical Test will be over in around 30 minutes after all testers have come to a stop or despawned, and your Recruiter will get back to you with your results shortly after consulting your testers for feedback.

If you pass, you’ll be provided with feedback and a link to join the IFATC Discord Server. If not, you’ll receive feedback on what to improve and when these incidents occurred in your replay, and you will typically have a wait period ranging from 2 weeks to 30 days before you can retest, depending on your Recruiter’s opinion of your performance. Use this time to study your resources, and of course, keep practicing.

“Failure is not the opposite of success, it’s part of success.” You’ve made it this far, don’t lose hope! Stay motivated and you’ll get there in no time.

Suhas is a writer for the IFATC Education Group. He is a long time Infinite Flight user, IFATC Officer and Tester. In the real world, he’s a student pilot on both glider and powered aircraft. He's also an IFVARB Board Member.