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I’m From the FAA and I’m Here to Help You!

By Earl Downs


My title statement almost sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but in this case, it’s true. Pilot training is increasing to the point that the FAA is seeking to make Designated Pilot Examiner’s (DPE) more readily available for those who need to take a Practical Exam (checkride).  My goal as a DPE is to help the FAA meet their requirement to certificate pilots and to help this process by serving the aviation training community with my designated authority.


About Designated Examiners

The FAA simply does not have enough personnel to run around performing all of the pilot checkrides that need to be administered. So, they designate private individuals to do that job for them. All designated examiners operate as private individuals or businesses, but they fall under strict FAA guidance,testing and qualification requirements.


Cost For a Practical Test

Payment by Cash, Check, and Credit card (A credit card courtesy fee will be applied)


FAA Designated Examiners (referred to as Designees) must follow procedures as outlined in FAA Order 8000.95A. Volume 3 of this document addresses Designee Policy. Chapter 5 of Volume 3 is titled, Responsibilities and Obligations of a Designee, in which paragraph 2.c. states the following. 

[The Designee shall] “Charge Responsible Applicant Fees. The designee must ensure that the applicant understands all fees charged, including the fee for retesting after failure, before the designee accepts the airman certificate and/or rating application.”


Earl Downs is committed to complying with this requirement to explain his fees before you schedule for a checkride and has included a list of fees for his service as a Designated Pilot Examiner below. Earl Downs welcomes an open conversation with test applicants regarding these fees or special fees that may apply to unusual or unplanned situations.

Sport Pilot - $400.00

Private Pilot - $525.00 

Commercial Pilot - $550.00

Instrument Rating -$525.00

CFI Initial - $800.00  (Click here for special information regarding the CFI initial checkride).

CFII Category Ad-on - $600.00

CFI Reinstatement - $600.00

Category/class Add-on to an existing certificate - $375 (This could vary)

Call for fees for certifications not listed

These fees are based on the test being administered at Cushing Regional Airport

Non-Qualification Fee

Prior to starting the examination, the applicant must show that he/she meets all the requirements for the certificate/rating being applied for (endorsement, flying time, etc.) The applicant must also produce the necessary documents and records to verify that the airplane is airworthy and that the equipment meets testing requirements.


A $100 non-qualification fee will be charged if the applicant does not meet the pre-qualification requirements and the checkride will not be started.


Fees for traveling to your location to administering a pilot checkride 

A travel mileage fee is $.57 per mile of round-trip travel mileage from the center of Cushing, Oklahoma to your testing location, plus a travel time fee of $25.00 per hour based on round-trip travel time. The travel total round-trip mileage and time is determined based on the mileage and time calculated on GOOGLE Maps.


Non-completion of a Checkride Fees

A checkride may be terminated for two reasons. They are:

  • Disapproval – The applicant did not comply with the testing standards of a particular task.

  • Discontinuance – For external reasons not related to Disapproval (airplane, weather, etc.).


If the Disapproval/Discontinuance occurs prior to flight, the flat-rate fee will not be charged and a fee of $100 per hour will be charged based on the time between the applicant signing the test application form and the time of Disapproval/Discontinuance document being issued.


However, If the Disapproval/Discontinuance occurs after the flight is started, the full flat-rate fee is applicable.


 Retesting of any Disapproval/Discontinuance Fee

Retesting of a Disapproval/Discontinuance is based on the hourly fee of $100 per hour.


Note: By changing from the flat-rate fee to an hourly fee for non-completion and retesting situations, the total cost of completing a follow-up checkride will be less than the cost of two flat-rate checkrides.

Schedule for a Test 

About Cushing Regional Airport (CUH)

Cushing Regional Airport is a great place for taking a checkride. The paved runway at this non-towered airport is 5,200 feet long and it has three turf runways. With two GPS approaches at Cushing, and Stillwater Airport (SWO) only 20 miles away (Tower, ILS, VOR and GPS approaches), we can spend productive time on the checkride without the hassle of time-consuming high-density traffic.

The testing facility offers a warm and friendly atmosphere in the airport terminal building. We are aware that testing can be a tense time, and we do everything possible to make you feel comfortable and welcome. The testing facility is spacious; it provides a large table for laying out your testing materials, and CFI applicants will appreciate the whiteboard and markers that may be used for performing training presentations.                                                                                                   

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