Special Emphasis Areas

Special Emphasis Areas are areas of aircraft operation that are critical to flight safety.  The examiner will evaluate you on all of these areas throughout the practical exam.  You may be asked to demonstrate knowledge regarding some of these;  for others, the examiner will observe your actions to ensure they are consistent with best practices for each special emphasis area.  You must be able to demonstrate knowledge regarding the risks associated with each area and the associated procedures to mitigate or control each risk.

  1. Positive aircraft control – You are demonstrating that you are flying the airplane; the airplane shouldn’t be flying you.  Another example is that you shouldn’t be ‘behind the airplane’.
  2. Positive exchange of the flight controls procedure  – Use of the three-way voice handshake ‘You have the controls’ and visual check.
  3. Stall/spin awareness – Demonstrating knowledge of the conditions that lead to stalls and spin, as well the proper recovery procedure.
  4. Collision avoidance – Using clearing turns before maneuvers, pattern visual scans before entering runways, raising the wing in a high-wing airplane before turns, looking left and right before entering a taxiway and call-outs, i.e. ‘Clear Left’.
  5. Wake turbulence avoidance – You need to demonstrate that you understand the risk of wake turbulence, the procedures to use when departing or arriving behind heavier aircraft, or when crossing behind a heavier aircraft enroute.
  6. LAHSO – Land and hold short operations.  You need to know the requirements to accept a LAHSO clearance, the phraseology ATC will use, and your responsibilities once you have accepted a LAHSO clearance.  You also need to know that you do not have to accept a LAHSO clearance.   This is a special emphasis item as student and novice pilots are susceptible to runway incursions related to this operation as they are either unfamiliar with the operation and the runway’s allowable landing distance, or they do not understand that do not have to accept the ATC clearance.  Review section 4-3-11 in the AIM.
  7. Runway incursion avoidance – This has been a hot topic for a few years now, and GA pilots are one of the largest violators of runway hold short instructions, either due to lack of situation awareness, distraction, or unfamiliarity with complex fields.  Read the appendix to the Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge that was published to improve safety and reduce runway incursions.
  8. CFIT – Controlled flight into terrain.  Demonstrating importance of always knowing about terrain and obstructions along flight path, and risk of inadvertent or continued flight into IMC.
  9. ADM and risk management – This is such an important area that it has its own detailed section in the PTS and in this guide.
  10. Wire strike avoidance – While this is a higher risk for helicopter and aerial application operations, every flight involves at least two close encounters with the ground. You need to discuss how you will assess the risk of wires anytime you are flying at less than 1,000 AGL. This video from AOPA highlights wire risk and avoidance.
  11. Checklist usage – This is already called out in an earlier section in the PTS, but again its emphasized that you need to demonstrate consistent use of the manufacturer’s checklist for all operations. Be prepared to discuss your strategy for using a checklist and how to avoid distractions when using a checklist.
  12. Temporary flight restrictions (TFRs) – If your response to the examiner is other than ‘I check for TFRs before every flight’ you’re likely to in the hot seat. Know how and where to obtain TFR information, the different types of TFRs, and how to interpret the TFR NOTAM to ensure that you can comply with its requirements. 
  13. Special use airspace (SUA) – Whether its a MOA, alert area, warning area, restricted area, prohibited area, or a TFR, you need to know how to identify it on a chart, the risks and restrictions associated with it, and best practices or procedures when flying through these types of SUAs.
  14. Aviation security – Since 9/11, security has had an increasing emphasis. As general aviation pilots, we all share the responsibility to ensure the security of our airports and operations. Complete the General Aviation Security course from AOPA to learn best practices for security.
  15. Single-Pilot Resource Management (SRM) – This is such an important area that it has its own detailed section in the PTS and in this guide.
  16. Other areas deemed appropriate to any phase of the practical test – A catch all that gives the examiner the discretion to assess any area of risk that they believe is important to the safe operation of aircraft.

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