It was the summer of 2011. The FAA had decided to form a group of aviation community stakeholders to help the agency improve airman knowledge testing. We got approval to charter an Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC), the legally appropriate vehicle for getting stakeholder input. We made a list of the diverse constituencies who should participate.
Then I picked up the phone to see if the 15 people we had listed might be willing to help. In every case, I had scarcely finished my explanation of the project before the answer was some version of “Count me in — when do we start?”
Little did any of us know how it would evolve, or how long many of us would be together in this effort. Even as we progressed from the recommendations of the original ARC to a series of working groups established by the industry Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee (ARAC) a few of our participants honestly doubted that anything would really come of this project. One memorably opined that he did not expect to live long enough to see the Airman Certification Standards (ACS) actually take effect. But thanks to the tremendously dedicated efforts that this entire team has made, the transition from the Practical Test Standards (PTS) to the ACS is finally underway.
The lion’s share of the work on the Airman Certification Standards project — developing the ACS, refining documents in accordance with multiple rounds of public comment, reviewing FAA handbooks, developing and running the prototypes — has been accomplished by the industry participants at no cost to the government. Those participating in ARAC working groups do so entirely at their own expense. Member organizations provide meeting space for face-to-face meetings, and they have hosted the many weekly GoToMeeting telcons through which the nitty-gritty work really gets done.
Leveraging industry expertise to accomplish the ACS development work, review handbooks, and other such tasks is essential for several reasons. However, as much we like to fly and teach, there is no way that FAA employees can hope to stay as current as those who work in the aviation training industry every day. Our industry partners in the ACS project have helped not only with the massive task of creating the ACS, but also with the recommending how FAA handbooks should be revised to align with the ACS and stay fully up-to-date. In addition, their work has provided both the framework (i.e., the ACS) and the flexibility (i.e., freed-up resources) for the FAA to develop meaningful knowledge test questions.
So who are these dedicated volunteers? Industry participants include representatives from advocacy organizations, instructor groups, academia, courseware developers, manufacturers, parts 61, 121, 141, 142 training providers, and knowledgeable individuals. Here’s the full list of those who have participated in at least one of the ACS teams:
Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association; Airlines for America; Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA); AnywhereEducation Inc.; Aviation Accreditation Board International; Aviation Research Training & Services; Aviation Supplies & Academics; CAE; Cessna Pilot Centers; Coalition of Airline Pilots Associations; Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University; Flight Safety International; General Aviation Manufacturers Association; Gleim; Florida Institute of Technology; Jeppesen; King Schools; Liberty University; Mary Schu Aviation; National Air Transportation Association; National Association of Flight Instructors; National Business Aviation Association; Oxford Flying Club; Paul Alp, CFI; Polk State College; Redbird Simulations; Regional Air Cargo Carriers Association; Robert Stewart, CFI; Satcom Direct; Society of Aviation and Flight Educators; Sporty’s Academy; University Aviation Association; University of North Dakota.
Much remains to be done: The June 2016 deployment of the ACS for the Private Pilot Airplane certificate and the Instrument-Airplane rating mostly marks the end of the beginning. But it is a huge milestone, one that will significantly benefit everyone who does aviation training, teaching, and testing from here on out. Kudos and heartfelt thanks to the many heavy-lifters who have made the ACS a reality. (FAA Safety Briefing – JulAug 2016)