For several years there has been a consensus that current Pilot Test Standard (PTS) have experienced growth through inclusion of more material, increased understanding of risk, technology and modification of expected maneuver skills. Examples of this include the growth of the “Special Emphasis” topics in all the current standards. An additional issue has been the generally widespread criticism of the validity of many of the types of question used in the Knowledge Test Process.

While the FAA moves toward implementing a U.S approach to the Safety Management System (SMS) Process, as mandated by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the time was appropriate to initiate a revision to U.S. Pilot Testing and Certification process.

In September 2011 the FAA Chartered the Airmen Testing Standards and Rulemaking Committee or ARC. The FAA invited aviation professionals with experience and expertise in airman training and testing to participate in the process.  A range of stakeholders hopefully ensured that all aspects of airman testing and training, including best practices, were considered in the development of a set of recommendations. The result was a draft set of “Airman Certificate Standards” or ACS.

The ACS will be part of the safety management system (SMS) framework that the FAA uses to mitigate risks associated with airman certification training and testing. Specifically, the ACS, associated guidance, and test item bank question components of the airman certification system are constructed around the four functional components of an SMS. The FAA views the ACS as the foundation of its transition to a more integrated and systematic approach to airman certification.

Two draft Airman Certification Standards were issued for public Comment in 2013, and a third of interest in 2014
•    Draft PRIVATE PILOT AIRPLANE – Airman Certification Standards
•    Draft INSTRUMENT RATING—Airman Certification Standards
•    Draft COMMERCIAL PILOT AIRPLANE — Airman Certification Standards

The New ACS format will include the Areas of Operation consistent with the current regulations. What you will recognize as new is a Risk Management Task in each AO. This task will have a list of specific activities related to risk for this AOA. There are two Risk management actions common almost all AO’s, Task Management and Situational Awareness. In addition, a new Task “Human Factors” has been added to Preflight Preparation AO.

How does this affect us?  Well if you are working toward a certificate or rating it will require that you become “situationally aware” of how you prepare for your Oral and Flight test.

For those of us with current ratings we can foresee that the FAA will expect instructors to frame their Flight Reviews around the new ACS requirements!

If you are interested in reviewing the draft ACS you can find them at

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