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AOPA analysis reveals significant changes to the FAA practical test standardsAOPA analysis reveals significant changes to the FAA practical test standards

Beginning in August, applicants for private pilot, commercial pilot, and flight instructor certificates will have to meet new, revised FAA standards during the checkride. The revised practical test standards (PTSs) become effective for private and commercial pilot certificates and for flight instructors on August 1.

AOPA's Aviation Services department has conducted an analysis of the changes and prepared a side-by-side comparison available on AOPA Online. AOPA strongly advises flight instructors and applicants to thoroughly read the new PTS, paying extra attention to the "Introduction" and "Notes" sections.

One of the most interesting changes for private pilot candidates is the addition of a note to the practical test standard explaining that if an examiner determines that a task is incomplete, or the outcome uncertain, the examiner may require the applicant to repeat the task, or portions of that task. This doesn't mean instruction, practice, or repetition of an unsatisfactory task is permitted, but the PTS now does allow an applicant a second chance to complete a maneuver.

"This is the first time that FAA has provided this guidance to examiners, and it is a welcome clarification," said Melissa Bailey, AOPA vice president of air traffic and regulatory and certification policy.

While the FAA has told AOPA that the revisions are mainly intended to improve guidance and clarity, as well standardize PTS language across the three different tests, AOPA's analysis revealed that the new standards require commercial applicants to now demonstrate a steep spiral and a new task for power-off 180-degree-accuracy approach and landing. Both private and commercial applicants will also be subject to more precise maneuvering standards during slow flight, power-off stalls, and, in the case of private pilots, turns to a heading.

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