Comment period reopened on new standards for pilot testing, training

June 12, 2013

The FAA has reopened the public comment period on an industry/government working group’s draft Private Pilot and Instrument Rating Airman Certification Standards (ACS) in response to several requests for more time to review the documents. Comments may be submitted until July 8.

While stakeholders prepare their suggestions for the draft standards publications, about 130 comments submitted  before the first comment window closed May 24 are being reviewed by the Airman Testing Standards and Training Working Group (ATSTWG) co-chaired by AOPA.  The working group was set up to act on recommendations laid out by the preceding aviation rulemaking committee (ARC), both of which were requested and led by the industry—long frustrated with the current system of airman knowledge testing and training. 

The work will eventually align aeronautical knowledge testing standards with the flight proficiency standards set out in the existing practical test standards (PTS) publications and incorporate risk management throughout. As summarized in the public docket established for the initiative, the ATSTWG's work is “intended to improve the relevance, reliability, validity, and effectiveness of the FAA's aeronautical testing and training materials, as well as to support the goal of reducing fatal general aviation accidents by incorporating task-specific risk management considerations into each Area of Operation.

“Because the ACS documents are intended to be the foundation for transitioning to a more integrated and systematic approach to airman certification testing and training, the ATSTWG wishes to benefit from the broadest possible range of public comment on the work it will submit to the FAA via the Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee in September 2013.”

Accomplishing the group’s goals will be aided by incorporating the “real-world education and training expertise” of industry stakeholders. The working group is also continuing to develop a draft authorized instructor ACS document, which it plans to offer for public review at a later date.

A solid foundation

The working group also will recommend ways to streamline and consolidate several FAA handbooks and other training guidance publications. Additionally, they plan to update knowledge test questions, tied to the standards, along with recommending a system of expert outside review of test questions, and other improvements to the testing system.

“For too many, the knowledge test was often viewed only as a hurdle one needs to get over in order to get their certificate—something to get out of the way” said David Oord, AOPA manager of regulatory affairs and co-chair of the working group.  “By clearly laying out the knowledge a pilot needs to know with the skills they must have, and incorporating risk management throughout the standard, a pilot will have the foundation they need to fly safely.  Everything from the beginning of training, through the written test, and ending with the practical test will be anchored to the standards.”