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Examiners urged to give more tests to help clear backlog

AOPA is supporting an appeal from flight training organizations to the FAA’s 950 designated pilot examiners (DPEs) to take on more work this spring to ease a practical test bottleneck that has become a serious concern for the aviation training industry.

Photo by Mike Fizer.

Longer term, a working group on which AOPA serves is studying systemic remedies for the testing delays many pilots face at the end of their training programs.

On February 20, the Flight School Association of North America published an “open letter call to service” urging DPEs to pitch in a little extra to clear the backlog of practical tests—a problem the organization has been trying to address for two years.

“This backlog is affecting the pilot production pipeline nationwide,” said the letter signed by Bob Rockmaker, the Flight School Association of North America’s president.

A ripple effect of complications flows from the delays. “Waits for practical test scheduling in many locations are more than a month, causing flight training providers to limit student intake and applicants to spend more to remain current and proficient as they await testing availability,” he wrote.

Rockmaker advocated structural changes that will take time to implement, making it necessary also to take a short-term approach to the problem. That would consist of designees stepping up in a “major push of practical tests” by giving “a few extra tests per examiner” in April and May. He also called on industry partners to support the effort.

Meanwhile, he suggested, if 900 of the approximately 950 examiners who give practical tests each gave an extra test a week, “it would equate to more than 46,000 additional practical tests across the system in a year.” The proposed uptick in testing activity would amount to a 50-percent increase in tests given based on 2018 statistics, he said.

AOPA is taking up the call asking examiners—many of whom give practical tests part-time—to block out some additional checkride appointments, said AOPA Director of Regulatory Affairs Christopher Cooper.

Cooper represents AOPA members on the Designated Pilot Examiner Reforms Working Group that last year was assigned to study the examination process and issue recommendations later this year.

In November we reported that the review will move forward with three subcommittees examining diverse aspects of the problem. Cooper chairs the subcommittee that will recommend how the FAA can most effectively deploy examiners.

“AOPA gives its full support to the Flight School Association of North America’s call to service and is proud to be involved with finding solutions to the limited availability of designated pilot examiners,” he said. “Both short- and long-term actions must be taken to meet the needs of the next generation of pilots.”

Some long-term measures are already in effect, such as the FAA’s decision last fall to continue its waiver of a rule that had prevented examiners from giving practical tests outside their assigned territories, Cooper said.

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, Flight School

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