Commercial ACS Final Documents Available – Effective June 12, 2017 (Private and Instrument ACS Updates also available)

The FAA has released the new ACS standards for the Commercial Pilot Certificate along with updates to the Instrument and Private Pilot ACS. These documents become effective on June 12, 2017.

All parties involved with receiving and/or providing training and administrating FAA practical tests should review these documents to be prepared for their implementation on that date. Students and instructors should note that examiners must apply these new and updated standards on the effective date for any subsequent testing.

The implementation of the Commercial ACS continues the FAA/Industry work to bring all training and testing efforts into the new paradigm of Airman Certification Standards, improving and expanding on the historically applied Practical Test Standards (PTS).

Updates to the Private Pilot and Instrument ACS included minimal corrections and changes, some streamlining of some tasks, and standardization of phraseology in consideration of regulatory changes over the past year since they were initially published. Of note, the Commercial Pilot ACS do include similar changes to slow flight procedures as were implemented initially last year when the Private Pilot ACS were released and put into effect.

The new versions of these standards can be found at

More information about the current status of the FAA ACS process can also be found in a recent FAA presentation. Click here to see the FAA presentation.

Student Pilot Certificate Issuance Numbers Down Since Change to Plastic Student Pilot Certificates

In accordance with federal guideline changes, on April 1, 2016, the FAA was required to issue plastic student pilot certificates, breaking from the historically issued joint FAA Medical/Student pilot certificate. Whenever a change like this happens, it is always interesting to see the impacts on certification that take place.

When reviewing FAA certificate issuance data from 2016, it can be seen that the number of student pilot certificates issued on a monthly basis decreased significantly from what were previously very stable monthly averages over recent years. On average, the decrease has been greater than 40% per month.

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FAA Data Shows Declining Trend in ATP and Percentage of US AMEL Pilot Certification

Recent data from the FAA empirically indicates that we are experiencing a declining trend in US Commercial Multi-Engine pilot and ATP certificates being issued. There are many motivations for whether people choose to become pilots and seek professional employment in the field, and while I am not going to go into that here, there is important data relevant to pilot capacity discussions as we consider current testing and certification trends.

The number of ATP practical tests being administered in the U.S. is declining significantly following two years of declining numbers in the number of ATP Knowledge Tests. While the number of commercial multi-engine pilot certifications has remained flat, the percentage of tests being completed by U.S. pilots is dropping. These two trends mean fewer U.S. pilots qualified for ATP certification and for future employment by U.S. airlines.

These trends are partially the result of changes in FAA certification regulations over the past years that impacted what steps a pilot must complete in order to be ATP certificated. While other industry factors are also at play, and many will contend that pay is a major factor here, the direct correlation to the reductions in certification by U.S. pilots has tracked in line with the changes in certification requirements that were implemented.

On August 1st, 2014, it became mandatory that anyone who taking a FAA ATP Knowledge Test has completed a specific ATP CTP training course, of which there are only a few providers and for which the cost is significant. Pilots who had completed the test prior to this date had a grace period of 24 months until their test was no longer valid, and on August 1st, 2016 this expired. In the first half of 2014, we saw a surge of pilots taking their FAA ATP Knowledge Tests prior to that deadline, and as we expected, in 2016 we saw a surge of pilots completing their FAA ATP Practical Tests in the first half of 2016. Since then, we have seen a significant decrease in monthly volume of ATP practical tests. Continue reading

UAS (Drones) Exempt from Mode C Veil around Class B Airport? – Asked of and Answered by FAA…

In multiple discussions over the past year or so, the question of the Mode C veil around a Class B airport applies to “drones” has come up. With a lack of an ability to definitively

Here is what was asked: (Click Here to See the Full Letter that Was Sent to the FAA Chief Legal Counsel)

Interpretation is requested on the following:

“Are small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS or “drones”) exempted in hobby or commercial use from the requirement to operate with a Mode C transmitting transponder when operating within the lateral limits of Mode C veil requirements around Class B airspaces without prior approval, coordination with, or authorization from the supervising ATC facility?” Continue reading