New training standards would add safety, relevance

July 11, 2013

New standards proposed for private pilot and instrument-rating certification would improve training and place all skill and knowledge requirements in one “easily identifiable document” for each, AOPA said in a regulatory filing.

The draft standards would “make the connection” between knowledge tests and practical tests, and “bring relevancy to both and throughout the flight training paradigm,” AOPA said in formal comments on the proposed publications submitted July 8.

AOPA co-chaired the Airman Testing Standards and Training Working Group, an industry-led effort to make training and testing more relevant and meaningful and move beyond the FAA’s sometimes obsolete, technologically dated education and training methods.

The working group was set up to act on recommendations laid out by the preceding Airman Testing Standards and Training Aviation Rulemaking Committee. That panel, established in September 2011, produced recommendations to the FAA on revising the training and testing process and content. AOPA was an active participant in the committee, which submitted its report with nine recommendations to the FAA on April 13, 2012.

The FAA accepted the recommendations for overhauling training and testing methodology, and in August 2012 assigned the project to an aviation rulemaking advisory committee working group consisting of subject matter experts from aviation associations and industry. AOPA co-chairs the committee, which began its work in November 2012. It will submit its final report, airman certification standards (ACS), and recommendations to the FAA in September.

Approximately 300 comments were submitted on the draft certification standards by stakeholders before a July 8 deadline.

With adoption of a single airman certification standards document for a certificate or rating, “the tests, handbooks, and training materials will now be linked to a single source, making testing transparent, meaningful and more easily prepared for,” wrote David Oord, AOPA manager of regulatory affairs, in the association’s formal comments. 

Oord added that the new airman certification standards, while centralizing needed information, will not add to current training requirements nor reduce the need for basic stick and rudder skills. 

“The document could now be referenced from the very first introductory flight, throughout all training, the written test, and eventually the practical exam—better preparing the applicant for each phase along the way,”

In the comments, Oord commended the FAA for its willingness “to listen to industry in an effort to improve pilot training and testing. Prior to the ACS, there was no single document that testing referenced but rather a host of handbooks, regulations, advisory circulars,” he wrote.

AOPA supports the draft documents as representing a step in the right direction toward an ultimate goal of reducing fatal general aviation accidents, while producing a proactive, transparent training and testing system.

Among its other assigned tasks, the working group is developing a proposal to streamline and consolidate FAA guidance material such as flight training handbooks. It is also working on a method of expert government and industry review of updated knowledge test questions.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz | Aviation Writer

Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.