It’s an aviation cliché that if you are a student pilot working toward your first pilot certificate, your aeronautical knowledge and flight proficiency are likely more up-to-date than those of longer term certificated pilots. It’s painfully easy to lose track of updates once you leave the training environment. Continuing pilot education and training programs such as the FAA’s WINGS Pilot Proficiency Program, and rules requiring a flight review, are intended to keep the knowledge gap from growing too vast. But aviation is highly dynamic and lots of things can change in a very short period of time.
One way you stay current is to become a regular visitor to the FAA Airman Testing Standards Branch (AFS-630) web page or, better yet, become a subscriber to AFS-630’s updates page.
Meet the Testing Team
The FAA Flight Standards Service’s Regulatory Support Division promotes safety through the development, implementation, analysis, and distribution of technical information.
The Airman Testing Standards Branch, AFS-630, plans, develops, and maintains materials related to airman certification training and testing. These include airman knowledge and skill tests, computer testing supplements, knowledge test guides, practical test standards, training handbooks, and the computer testing sites. The AFS-630 pages on FAA.gov also include links to frequently asked questions and answers, as well as links to submit comments and questions.
These features – all recent enhancements to the AFS-630 page – are intended to improve transparency, communication, and engagement with FAA stakeholders. “We welcome reports, suggestions, comments, and questions concerning our products,” notes AFS-630 branch manager Bob Newell. “We are working every day to improve the overall airman certification system, and to improve the service we provide.”
Airman Certification Standards
To achieve these goals, AFS-630 (along with other parts of AFS-600) is closely involved in the ongoing Airman Certification Standards (ACS) development work led by an AOPA-chaired aviation industry group that includes associations, universities, training providers, and professional associations.
The goal is to integrate knowledge and risk management for each skill task in the existing FAA Practical Test Standards (PTS) into a single Airman Certification Standards (ACS) document. As you may know, the PTS clearly defines acceptable performance standards for the flight proficiency (skills) part of the airman certification process. The absence of a similar set of standards for aeronautical knowledge has created a number of issues and “disconnects” familiar to anyone who has ever taken an FAA knowledge test. Both industry and the FAA believe this approach will significantly improve testing, training, and safety by clearly mapping aeronautical knowledge and risk management to the flight proficiency skills defined in the PTS.
Importantly – especially for those just starting out in aviation – everyone involved in the project believes this approach will also decrease training time and costs by focusing more closely on what an applicant really needs to know in order to earn a specific airman certificate or rating. As noted by AFS-600 division manager Van Kerns, “We can greatly improve airman training and testing through an integrated, holistic system that clearly aligns test¬ing with certification standards and guidance.”Adds AFS-630 branch manager Bob Newell, “We are very excited to work with our FAA and aviation industry colleagues on this project.”