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FAA shares plans to cut flight test delays

The FAA has briefed the flight training industry on measures it plans to implement to slash the delays many applicants face scheduling flight tests—including giving designated pilot examiners new flexibility to operate in a nationwide reshuffling of testing resources.

Photo by Mike Fizer.

AOPA supports the measures the FAA is working to implement and believes they could have a significant impact on pilot training and certification, said David Oord, AOPA senior director of regulatory affairs.

The reforms cover a wide range of certification functions and will affect organizations in the public and private sectors. Most of the changes will be implemented under existing policies where it appears that the FAA had not fully used its authority to delegate airman testing activities.

For general aviation, the most significant changes affecting the DPE system include creating a national system for appointing and terminating designees; removing geographic restrictions limiting where DPEs can render their services; and eliminating a policy prohibiting DPEs from giving more than two tests in a single day.

Establishing a national airman certification system would allow resources to be deployed to areas “where the highest certification activity occurs,” and would manage the entire system for detection of operational risks. The restructuring will also speed up the process of initial flight instructor testing—long a source of delays—by allowing applicants to apply directly to authorized designees rather than working through a local FAA office, Oord said. The lifting of geographic limitations on DPEs and ending the two-tests-a-day cap could put more tests on a DPE’s calendar and quickly cut into the current flight testing backlog. The provisions affecting DPEs are consistent with the goals of proposals included by Sens. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) in the Securing and Revitalizing Aviation (SARA) Act of 2018, introduced in the Senate in July and strongly supported by AOPA. 

A regulatory rewrite will be needed to remove language that prevents the FAA from “using an individual designee in innovative ways” or in “ways not allowed before,” the FAA said.

The Flight School Association of North America (FSANA), who, along with AOPA, has been working on this issue over the last two years, said the training industry could expect to see reforms taking effect soon.

“The FAA at the highest levels is committed to making major changes in policy guidance to provide relief of scheduling backlogs for airman practical tests around the country. FSANA is pleased to report that changes are coming in September 2018,” it said in a news item on its website.

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, Pilot Regulation

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