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AOPA seeks pilot comments on knowledge-testing experiences

FAA requests bids on three-year vendor contract

The FAA is seeking proposals from vendors for developing, delivering, and administering knowledge tests to the public, and AOPA encourages members to respond to a one-question survey about their experience with the knowledge-testing process, including any changes they think should be made.

Photo by Mike Fizer

AOPA will use the member feedback to help evaluate the contract the FAA plans to award.

On Nov. 6, the FAA issued an amended request for offers from potential bidders for a contract for developing, delivering, and managing distribution of FAA airman knowledge tests, to be submitted to the agency by Jan. 3, 2018. The amended request extended an earlier deadline for offers given in the original request issued Oct. 25.

The current service provider, PSI, delivers FAA knowledge tests through test sites that primarily include flight schools and fixed-base operators (FBOs). Currently, the test fees typically range from $140 to $165, depending on the location, with a substantial portion of these fees being shared with the flight schools and FBOs. Members of AOPA and the Experimental Aircraft Association receive discounted fees. PSI recently merged with the only other FAA-authorized knowledge test provider, Computer Assisted Testing Service (CATS). The future of the revenue-share structure could change as a result of the FAA rebidding the testing program.

Parties bidding on the contract must be capable of delivering 150,000 airman exams at domestic locations that cover the same geographic area as the current testing locations (within 25 miles or less) “as well as 2,500 exams a year at international, military and ad-hoc test sites.”

In 2016, 109,000 traditional airman exams were delivered, and 16,000 unmanned aircraft system knowledge exams were delivered after they began in October 2016, according to the FAA. In the first four months of 2017, 14,800 UAS exams were delivered.

A three-year contract will be awarded, with the potential for seven one-year extension options, as part of a broader effort to improve FAA knowledge test management and implement the knowledge-testing goals of the new airman certification standards.

The winning bidder will not be compensated by the FAA, but would recover its costs and turn its profit by “charging reasonable testing fees to applicants.” The FAA reserves the right to set a maximum fee of $160 per test. Fees are to be reviewed every three years.

The awarding of the contract will be based on an evaluation of the bidder’s technical performance of the contract—which is the ability of the bidder to satisfy all the technical and prescriptive requirements requested by the FAA for test development and distribution—and a cost/price evaluation.

Although the service provider’s responsibilities are to include “development, assessment, maintenance and enhancement of test items, exams and supplementary test materials with automated tools and academic expertise,” the FAA will continue to write the knowledge test questions.

AOPA members who wish to share their knowledge-test experiences or comment on the testing process are encouraged to take AOPA’s one-question survey within the next two weeks so the association will have the opportunity to take the comments into consideration when evaluating the FAA’s request for offer and the proposed contract’s provisions.

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, Pilot Regulation, Training and Safety

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