Small knowledge testing centers lose certification

August 14, 2008

Under a new FAA policy, roughly 120 CATS and LaserGrade testing facilities across the country have lost their knowledge test administration privileges because they gave fewer than 25 tests last year. AOPA has requested that the FAA reverse its policy and immediately reinstate the testing centers’ privileges.

“AOPA is very concerned that this FAA policy punishes existing testing providers and does not support the ongoing industry effort to grow the pilot population,” wrote Rob Hackman, AOPA senior director of regulatory affairs, to the FAA. “So far, the FAA has granted only four centers’ requests to have their privileges reinstated.”

The FAA’s policy actually presents a barrier to students pursuing pilot certificates—a barrier that would only exacerbate the current decline in new student starts.

In some cases, the FAA terminated the privileges of facilities that are more than 100 miles from any other testing center.

“We are well over 100 miles from any other testing center, 125 from San Antonio and 150 from Houston,” wrote Patrick Delaney of TCS Victoria Flyers in Victoria, Texas. “We serve the entire region and a closure of our facility will mean those needing to take a test will have to drive an extreme distance in a time of $4 a gallon gasoline.”

Jeffrey Gaier of Duffy’s Aircraft in Wisconsin, asked the FAA to reinstate the company’s privileges because it had given 25 exams between June 13, 2007, and June 18, 2008. In 2007, the facility gave 27 exams, and so far this year, it has given 18. From 2002 to present, Gaier said that the company averages 32 exams per year.

AOPA also pointed out that the policy could have a negative financial impact on the businesses.

“AOPA is also concerned that financial investments made by these testing centers in equipment, facilities, staff training, and testing materials were not factored into the decision made by the FAA,” Hackman wrote. “Many flight schools impacted by this policy rely on their testing centers to provide the full range of training to students. Without knowledge testing capability, schools will lose students and business that could result in business closures and job losses.”