Can You Pass the FAA Pilot's Exam?

By: John Miller
Image: arsenik/E+/Getty Images

About This Quiz

If you’ve ever gazed at a plane passing by high overhead or seen “Top Gun,” you’ve probably yearned to fly into the clouds with your hands on a control wheel. Unlike a car, you can’t just take a short DMV test and then hop into the cockpit and streak toward the heavens. First, you’ll have to pass the Federal Aviation Administration pilot’s examination. That means understanding a broad range of knowledge about flight rules and regulations, along with basic airplane operation. Do you think you can pass this basic pilot’s quiz?

Before you even set out to receive FAA approval, you have to decide what sort of aircraft you want to fly. The rules for flying a glider are much different than those for piloting a huge commercial airliner. Yet there’s also a lot of overlap between these knowledge bases – pilots must have a firm grasp on the physics of flight, as well as the way aircraft leverage things like lift, drag, thrust, airspeed, attitude, and much more.

Pilots must also know all of the FAA’s various rules and regulations regarding their particular aircraft type. All of those variables change depending on whether you want a sport, recreation, commercial, remote, or another type of license. Take off in this exciting FAA pilot's test now!

What is the fuselage?

The fuselage is the main body of the plane. Pilots are taught to visually inspect the fuselage of their aircraft to make sure it's not cracked or damaged.

What does the normal axis do?

The normal axis allows the plane to yaw. Yaw is the when the aircraft moves left or right but remains on a horizontal plane.

How do pilots measure wind speed?

Aviation measures windspeed in knots. You can convert 1 knot to 1.15 MPH.

Every runway has a two-digit number on it. What does the number stand for?

Every American runway features a two-digit number. That number refers to the compass direction, and is listed as degrees magnetic. Three-digit numbers are rounded to two digits (i.e. 220 degrees would be 22).

What data does the heading indicator provide?

The heading indicator shows which direction the plane is going. It looks like the face of a compass.

The shape of the aircraft's wings determines what?

Wing shape is incredibly important to the aircraft's overall capabilities. It has a direct bearing on the plane's maximum speed and altitude.

In order to obtain a pilot's license, candidates must do what?

Before you receive that coveted pilot's license, you have to visit a doctor. Without medical clearance, you won't be taking off anytime soon.

What should you do if your aircraft stalls?

It's not uncommon for certain types of aircraft to stall. It's not necessarily time to panic, but you do need to pitch the nose down​ to regain airspeed.

The height of the aircraft is denoted by which term?

Pilots always have to keep a close eye on their altitude, the height of their plane above sea level. Because otherwise, you know, boom.

Pilots use the longitudinal axis to perform what?

Think of the longitudinal axis as a piece of twine through the center of the plane from tail to nose. It allows the plane to roll as it remains horizontal, while the body rotates diagonally.

During takeoff, the wing flaps should be in what position?

During takeoff, the wing flaps should be in the down position. This helps increase lift, which helps the plane ascend into the skies.

What's one purpose of spoilers?

Spoilers are hinged plates integrated into the top area of the wings. When raised, they can help the plane descend, and they can also reduce the aircraft's speed.

Where is the inboard wing flap located?

Many large planes have two sets of wing flaps. The inboard flaps are the ones nearest the fuselage -- the outboard flaps are closer to the wingtips.

What does the lateral axis allow the aircraft to do?

The lateral axis allows the nose of the plane to move up or down. This happens in a diagonal motion.

The attitude indicator shows the aircraft's location relative to what?

Pilots constantly evaluate the position of the aircraft with regard to the horizon. The attitude indicator shows which direction the plane is tilted and to what degree.

Where would you find the plane's elevators?

The elevators are located on the plane's tail section. When the elevators go down, the plane goes up, and vice versa.

A remote pilot's license allows you to do what?

The FAA offers multiple levels of pilot licenses. A remote license only allows you to fly UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles).

What's a circuit?

In aviation, "circuit" refers to airfield traffic patterns. As with all aspects of flying, there are good and bad ways to execute a circuit.

What does the transponder do?

The transponder is a critical communications tool. It uses radio signals to send your altitude and position to air traffic controllers, helping them to keep the skies safe for everyone.

What is a typical circuit altitude?

Pilots must learn to fly circuits well if they want to land safely. A typical circuit altitude is around 1,000 feet.

What's the purpose of a plane's vacuum pump?

An aircraft's vacuum pump is incredibly important. Without it, the aircraft's attitude and heading indicators don't work properly.

VOR stands for what?

VOR stands for VHF omnidirectional range, a type of short-range radio guidance system. The system helps the pilot use a series of ground-based radio beacons to pinpoint location.

What's the name for winds that are perpendicular to the plane's direction of travel?

Pilots must always be aware of current weather conditions. A crosswind is any wind that moves perpendicular to the aircraft's direction, and it can have a major impact on flight dynamics.

What happens if a pilot deploys only one spoiler?

Pilots may use only one wing's spoiler at a time. In doing so, they induce a rolling motion to help change the plane's direction.

Before you take off in cold weather, you must make sure there's no ice buildup on which part of the plane?

The ailerons are what make the wings work. Ice buildup on this critical component can have all sorts of tragic consequences.

What's a TGL?

Many pilots practice TGL (touch-and-go landings) in their early days. This continual repetition of landing and taking off again helps them to better control their aircraft.

On a circuit, the base leg comes right before what?

Each landing circuit is made up of several legs. The base leg is the part of the circuit you fly just before descending into the final leg.

VOA ground stations have what approximate range?

VOR ground stations help pilots determine their location, and without them, things can get dicey in certain situations. The stations only have a signal range of about 200 miles.

Which direction do you turn in a circuit?

In a standard circuit, pilots turn left. But for many reasons, it's often necessary to perform a right-hand circuit, so you must be well-versed in both.

What does "fly by wire" refer to?

In the old days, pilots used the yoke and pedals to literally move the parts of the plane. These days, these controllers are all electronic, and the computer instead activates motors that move the rudders, wings, etc.

About HowStuffWorks Play

How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!

Explore More Quizzes