FAA agrees to drop dated material from knowledge tests

June 26, 2013

The FAA has agreed to remove questions that focus on obsolete terms and technologies from airman knowledge tests in response to a request from the co-chairs of an industry/government group that is drafting revisions to training and testing standards.

AOPA welcomed the FAA’s response as a “very positive step” to advance the goals of the Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee’s (ARAC) Airman Testing Standards and Training Working Group.  The industry-led panel identified the obsolete terms and technologies now being removed from FAA knowledge exams.  The acceptance of the group’s recommendations highlights that the FAA is working with the industry to improve pilot testing and training.

AOPA, a co-chair of the working group, requested the action in May, said David Oord, AOPA manager of regulatory affairs. Also making the request was fellow working group co-chair Jason Blair, former executive director of the National Association of Flight Instructors.

“This is important because we are trying to change pilot’s perception of knowledge testing,” Oord said. “Some pilots view the knowledge test as something to ‘get out of the way’ forcing them to memorize terms and technologies they’ll never see or use, like LORAN or a TWEB (transcribed weather broadcast). In order to make the test a relevant and important step in their certification, we considered it important to do away with obsolete test questions, then move on to an integrated airman certification standard.”

The integrated certification standards under development are intended to make airman testing and training relevant, meaningful, and applicable to the operational and technological realities of today’s flying. Knowledge testing should support that goal by addressing pilots’ command of subjects necessary for safety today; not technologies used decades ago or, in the case of the direction finder system (DF), only available until recently in remote areas, Oord said.

As the working group continues its effort to create new certification standards for the private pilot certificate and instrument rating, Oord encourages pilots to submit formal comments by July 8 on the preliminary drafts of the documents. They can be reviewed here. The July 8 deadline extended the opportunity for public participation after numerous stakeholders facing an original comment cutoff in May requested more time to study the proposals and incorporate changes.

Draft certification standards for flight instructors are also being finalized and will soon be available for public review and comment, Oord said.