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CFI Brief: In with the NEW and out with the OLD…

Yes, Yes, Yes, exciting times and change are right around the corner in Airman Testing! I am sure that by now many of you are well aware that the implementation of the Airman Certification Standards (ACS) for both Private and Instrument Pilot Airplane will be happening in just a few weeks. I know, this may be a devastating time for some of you to see the tried and true Practical Test Standards (PTS) go away but the reality is it was time to evolve. So in respect to anyone who may be having an emotionally hard time with this change, let’s together take a few moments of silence to pay homage to the PTS…

Now walking up to the mound for relief...

Hello ACS!

Ok good, now that we have that out of the way let’s get down to business. Because in reality, the PTS is included within the ACS so it isn’t going away – it’s evolving into a more complete document. As we cruise into June and near the FAA implementation date of the ACS and June test roll I want to help clarify a few things in relation to the knowledge tests themselves.

First and foremost the implementation of the ACS is not going to completely change the FAA Knowledge exams into something unrecognizable. As a knowledge test applicant, there are two major things you can expect to see taking effect this June.


  1. The Private computer testing supplement (CT-8080-2G) will go into effect. This means some revised figures along with equally revised questions. This won’t impact your studies, as the figures reflect the same basic contents as the previous edition it’s replacing – however, it would be helpful for you to be familiar with the current figures ahead of taking your test.

    Click to load the new supplement.

    Click to load the new supplement.

  1. Additional scenario-based questions. This is not something new; the FAA has been adding and evolving questions to be more relevant and meaningful to flight operations for the last two years. Over the last several years the FAA for lack of a better term has been cleaning up the test question databases by removing out-dated questions and replacing them with scenario-based questions and questions more appropriate to today’s flying environment. These types of changes to the knowledge tests take effect throughout the year in February, June, and October. So as I said earlier this is nothing new, it is something that ASA actually expects and prepares for beforehand.

Now you may be asking yourself what exactly is a scenario based question? It is a question asked in context of a typical flight operation, requires a higher level of understanding or application, and may cross-over to include multiple subjects. I will give you an example:

⇒ Non scenario-based question: What minimum pilot certification is required for operation within Class B airspace?

⇒ Scenario-based question: You are taking a flight between KSEA and KPDX airports. What minimum pilot certification must the pilot hold to make this flight as PIC?

The first question is considered “rote” or something that your brain has memorized and is able to quickly recall. The second question is considered scenario-based because it is testing the same knowledge in the context of a proposed flight operation. The answer to both questions is exactly the same, but to determine the answer to the scenario-based question you need to have a knowledge and understanding of multiple subject areas (i.e. Navigation, Airspace, Sectionals and Regulations). There is still a need for “rote” learning – some things you just need to know without hesitation or fanfare. But the addition of scenario-based questions will help facilitate your learning – it’s much easier to learn or memorize something when it’s in context and you understand “why” along with the “what.”

There is no need to be overly alarmed with what is taking place, ASA has got you covered. Our Prepware Software and Test Prep books are continuously updated to reflect changes to the knowledge tests and will continue to be the industry’s go to choice for FAA Knowledge Test Prep.

If you have any questions lets us know on the Learn to Fly Blog by posting a comment.

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What is the process of learning to fly?

There are a number of different paths that you can take, but all of them usually include the same checklist of things.  To get started with this process, talk to a handful of pilots.  They can either be friends of yours, folks from a local aviation club, or pilots in a trusted online community.  Ask them about who they’d recommend that you learn from in your area.  Interview the candidates that surface and choose one.  Then ask that instructor to guide you through the rest of these points on the checklist.  (Note: These are things that you will need to address for your Private Pilot certificate, the most commonly sought.)

  • Take an introductory flight. For a nominal fee, you’ll get to fly a plane under the direction and supervision of a certified flight instructor. This step will give you a very real sense of what it will be like to learn to fly. If you enjoy the flight, you’ll have some strong validation that you’re onto a wonderful experience. If you dislike the flight, it’s better to find out at this stage, rather than sometime later.

  • Get a flight physical exam. A minimum level of physical ability is necessary to be a pilot. An Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) is a specially certified doctor, who can give you the medical exam you need to get the thumbs up for your pilot credentials.

  • Complete ground school training and testing. This step can be done independently or simultaneously while you’re taking your air lessons.  Ground school is training that focuses on the book knowledge of flying.  You can get this in a number of different formats: book, lecture, video and/or software.  Choose one according to your learning style. At the end of your ground school, you’ll take the Knowledge Exam proving you understand the materials.

  • Air lessons with your instructor. Similar to ground school lessons, you get hands-on experience in the air applying your knowledge and learning techniques. According to the FAA, a minimum number of hours must be spent on instruction in the air, but most people take more time in order to master their skills.

  • Solo air time in the plane. After the instructor deems you skilled enough, you will make solo flights practicing what you’ve learned. Your flight instructor will still work with you at this point, including in-flight instruction.

  • Get your final exam called the Check Ride. A designated pilot examiner (DPE) will give you what amounts to a final exam.  There is an oral exam portion and flying portion.
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Why learn to fly?

Flying can be for fun or practical purposes. Some people choose to make it a career. No matter the purpose, you’ll find it to be exhilerating and adventurous. ASA Authors have told some of their adventurous stories. Here is a list of those blog posts.

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