It’s an interesting time to be a student pilot as changes to longstanding pilot certification procedures take effect and the air traffic system evolves with new technology. If you joined or returned to the student pilot population in 2016, staying ahead of what’s new in the training realm has kept you busy.
As of June 15, applicants for a private pilot certificate or an instrument rating have been preparing for their flight tests based on newly issued airman certification standards that replaced the long-familiar practical test standards (PTS) for those piloting privileges. AOPA chaired the FAA-industry working group that produced the new standards designed to make training and testing more relevant to the way pilots fly today by better integrating knowledge and practical tests, and by being more adaptable to changes in cockpit technology.
Most student pilots become quite familiar with filing and activating VFR flight plans. Those students will likely soon become authorities on using the international flight plan form, as it is scheduled to be required for domestic flight plans early in 2017 (using it is already an option).
Filing that flight plan typically follows receipt of a weather briefing. Starting this fall, that briefing may have included notices to airmen about field conditions (FICON notams) presented in a new format, including braking action reports keyed to specific guidelines for the reporting of aircraft braking. See this article for examples and links to reference documents.
NextGen—the Next Generation Air Traffic System—continues to transform the way pilots fly. An important component of the systemwide upgrade is the installation of Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast Out (ADS-B Out) equipment in aircraft that will be flown in airspace where a transponder is now required. The deadline for having ADS-B Out installed is Jan. 1, 2020, but many aircraft are already equipped, and in September 2016 the FAA launched a program offering rebates to many aircraft owners for early installation.
Best wishes for a new year of flying that is likely to bring even more exciting changes.