Spring could herald knowledge test fee increase

February 11, 2010

Student pilots taking the FAA knowledge test after this spring could be levied with an extra $50 fee if testing services’ plan goes forward.

Computer Assisted Testing Service Inc. (CATS) and LaserGrade notified AOPA early this year that they would begin imposing the extra fee on test-takers effective April 1. The testing services said they would use the proceeds of the fee to comply with new requirements from the FAA. AOPA, the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), the National Air Transportation Association (NATA), and the National Association of Flight Instructors (NAFI) are asking the testing services and the FAA to delay the planned increase and reevaluate the need for it.

The associations pointed out that cost is the main reason student pilots cite for not completing their training, and that the successful completion of the knowledge test is an important milestone on the way to a pilot certificate. They asked CATS and LaserGrade to delay implementation of the fee increase and asked the FAA to begin a review of the new testing requirements that would cause it.

“With minimum complexity and little cost, the current knowledge testing system has served the industry well. This increase in fees and added complexity will have no effect on the safety of the industry or the National Airspace System and only serve to erect another barrier to anyone interested in pursuing flight training,” the associations wrote.

The new fee would cover the costs of transitioning to the Organization Designation Authorization (ODA) as required by the FAA. According to the letter received from CATS and LaserGrade, the new authorization requires both “to establish and enforce strict new standards” for the programs and the individual testing centers. It is intended to enhance the safety and security of the aviation community and general public, and it would require heightened supervision of testing sites, new training programs and educational tools, and enhanced inspection programs, the testing services told AOPA.

The actual effective date of the new fee is unclear: According to the letter received by AOPA, the new fee would be implemented beginning April 1. However, the letter received by testing centers states the new fee would be implemented March 1.