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Airman Certification Standards Coming to You!

There are exciting changes coming to pilot certification next summer. New Airman Certification Standards (ACS) will be introduced that are essentially an “enhanced version of the PTS, which add task-specific knowledge and risk management elements to each PTS Area of Operation and Tasks,” the FAA says.
Between now and then, NAFI will provide updated information and links to FAA and other resources to help flight instructors learn how this will work and what you need to know about using the new standards and publications. In this first piece we’ll explore the reasons for the changes.

How Did the ACS Project Come About?
In late February 2011, NAFI learned of significant decline in the FOI knowledge test pass rates. NAFI was concerned about the reasons for the decline and arranged a meeting with AFS-630 (Airman Testing Standards Branch). NAFI, AOPA and a team of industry and university training and testing experts were
assembled and granted a one-time look at the testing process and the changes to the FOI questions. It was determined that significant issues existed in how airman test questions were developed and how users were advised of the material for which an applicant would be responsible.

Phil Poynor,
NAFI Vice President of Government and Industry Relations
The FAA established the Airman Testing Standards and Training–Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) to evaluate the need for changes to the airman certification system. Jason Blair, then NAFI’s executive director, and David Oord of AOPA were appointed co-chairs of the ARC. It briefly considered a “Knowledge Test Standards” (KTS) document as a companion to the skill-focused PTS. This approach was discarded as unworkable out of concern that creation of separate KTS documents could result in divergence between the KTS and the PTS and create other problems.

The ARC concluded that aviation safety and stakeholder needs, including the core desire for a more relevant FAA knowledge test, would be best served by integrating task-specific aeronautical knowledge into the appropriate area of operation/tasks in the existing PTS, and by adding risk-management elements for each area of operation.
The ACS will define the performance metrics for knowledge and skill, and also the required content for guidance materials such as the FAA-H-series handbooks and for relevant knowledge test questions.

The ARC recommended that the Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee (ARAC) accept the task of creating a joint industry/FAA Airman Certification System–Working Group (ACS-WG). This group was given a very broad charge1 . The ACS Working Group is composed of FAA officials and a number of industry experts. The bulk of the work of reviewing existing standards, creating new standards and reviewing the FAA handbooks falls on the impressive array of industry representatives.

NAFI is aware of the perception of some in the aviation community who question the aviation knowledge and experience of the participants.  Nearly everyone on the working group and the FAA experts the working group consults with have extensive piloting and aviation experience.  For example, the educational psychologist role is filled by a PhD in Applied Experimental and Human Factors Psychology who is a Designated Pilot Examiner and  a Corporate Pilot..  She previously was an airline line captain on B-767, DC-8, DC-9 and YS-11 aircraft and has consulted with the U.S. Air Force and NASA, among others on human factors and training.  This level of experience is representative of the diverse interests and experience of the members of the working group.

What Is Next?
For a basic overview of the process, read the FAA informational brochure . You don’t have to wait until June to see results from this work as significant progress has already been made. For example, the recent elimination of the ADF/NDB, GPS and questions that required multiple interpolations is due to recommendations of the ACS Working Group. For many, we suspect that alone has made this effort worthwhile.

There is a lot to take in at one time. So, instead of presenting everything at once, over the next 10 months or so, NAFI will periodically communicate with members about the ACS process via Mentor, eMentor and the NAFI monthly webinar.

NAFI’s first ACS webinar will be December 16, 2015. Watch eMentor for more information.

For more information visit these links:

About NAFI
Founded in 1967 the National Association of Flight Instructors (NAFI) is an association of nearly 4,000 active flight instructors and is committed to developing excellence in member instructors and member flight training organizations (FTOs). NAFI serves as a voice for flight instruction within the flight training industry and with federal agencies. NAFI members influence active pilots daily; pilots training to advance their skills with new ratings or certificates and students working to become pilots. NAFI members work at FBOs, flight schools, universities, in corporate flight departments, in the military and as independent instructors. NAFI staff works with industry and government on a daily basis and NAFI staff and members help shape direction of flight instruction. For more information visit NAFINet.org or call 866-806-6156.