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FAA explains dropping EFAS questions from a knowledge test

Generations of pilots who memorized key aviation radio frequencies for knowledge tests, cross-country flights, and practical exams can tell you that 122.0 MHz is the frequency for obtaining in-flight weather advisories from “Flight Watch,” the call sign of the En Route Flight Advisory Service (EFAS).

So when AOPA reported recently that the FAA planned to drop questions in several topic areas—including EFAS—from the Private Pilot-Airplane Airman Knowledge Test effective Feb. 9 in a move to purge “outdated” test subjects, readers were quick to react.

“Why the EFAS questions? Is (Flight Service) planning to shut down EFAS?” asked one reader in a comment posted under AOPA’s Jan. 29 report.

The FAA, responding to an AOPA request for more information about the EFAS decision, has notified the association that it sees a likely future need to streamline the service in recognition of a trend among pilots to use numerous new information and automation technologies, said David Oord, AOPA director of regulatory affairs.

“In keeping with the trend toward greater GA use of automation, including tablet devices and datalink, for both preflight and en route weather briefings, the FAA said it is working with stakeholders on ways to ‘right-size’ the National Airspace System,” Oord said. “Because these initiatives are likely to include streamlining services such as the En Route Flight Advisory Service (Flight Watch), the agency has removed EFAS questions from the private pilot airplane knowledge test as of February 9.”

The decision is also part of the FAA’s ongoing effort to utilize the limited test space for more meaningful questions, rather than those which require rote memorization. Although the questions are being dropped for now, EFAS and the services it provides are still available for pilots, he added.

The En Route Flight Advisory Service is described in Section 7-1-5 of the Aeronautical Information Manual as “a service specifically designed to provide en route aircraft with timely and meaningful weather advisories pertinent to the type of flight intended, route of flight, and altitude. In conjunction with this service, EFAS is also a central collection and distribution point for pilot reported weather information. EFAS is provided by specially trained FSS specialists controlling multiple Remote Communications Outlets covering a large geographical area and is normally available throughout the conterminous U.S. and Puerto Rico from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. EFAS provides communications capabilities for aircraft flying at 5,000 feet above ground level to 17,500 feet MSL on a common frequency of 122.0 MHz.”

Other discrete EFAS frequencies have been established to ensure communications coverage from 18,000 through 45,000 feet msl.

Dan Namowitz
Dan Namowitz
Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 35-year AOPA member.
Topics: Advocacy, Training and Safety, Navigation

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