Back in the paper era I was filled with two-part dread every time the FAA’s Airman Testing Standards Branch had updated its practical test standards (PTS) and aviation training handbooks. Part I was the expense of keeping my training library up to date. Part II was discovering what had changed.
Digital publishing and Internet distribution has retired dread Part I. So the recent notice that it had revised three practical test standards and three handbooks:
PTS: Private Pilot Airplane (FAA-S-8081-14B, effective June 1, 2012); Commercial Pilot Airplane (FAA-S-8081-12C, effective June 1, 2012); and Parachute Rigger (FAA-S-8081-25B, effective July 1, 2012).
Really? There’s still a flight navigator certificate, in the GPS-guided 21st century? Curiosity demands that I check that out before I assess my Part II dread in the PTS and Handbooks.
Actually, the 282-page Flight Navigator’s Handbook is pretty interesting, and some of its 16 chapters get pretty intense, especially those that deal with esoteric topics like celestial, grid, and pressure pattern navigation. According the FAA stats, in 2010, there were 174 active flight navigator certificates down, in a steady decline, from 509 in 2001. And if you’re curious, there are 49,038 active flight engineer tickets, down in a steady decline from 65,398 in 2001. But I digress.
Finding changes in handbooks requires reading the before and after versions. But bless the bureaucracy for its anal-retentive nature, it makes finding the changes relatively easy in the PTS because it lists them. There were a half-dozen major changes to the parachute rigger PTS, and most of them dealt with canopy and harness repair.
The changes to the private and commercial PTS made more sense, once I paged through the documents to find the referenced Area of Operation, Task, and Objective. The private pilot PTS was last changed in 2002, so I’m wondering what a decade of changes looks like.
Interesting. The “Record of Changes” for the private and commercial airplane PTS both list the same three items. The FAA removed the Judgment Assessment Matrix. “Reason: Did not apply to this PTS.” And they added the cryptic “criterion number 9” to Section 1, and again in Section 2 of both test standards because it was “inadvertently omitted during the last revision.” That’s it. How bad could they be?
Following this was a long list of updated references and enhancements, including an abbreviations section and “Use of the Judgment Assessment Matrix.” Wait, didn’t they just tell me they’d just removed that?
Okay, in both test standards, Section 1 covers single-engine land and sea and Section 2 is dedicated to multiengine land and sea. Now, what is Task A in Area of Operation IV. Let’s see, Operation IV is “Takeoffs, Landings, and Go Arounds,” and Task A is “Normal and Crosswind Takeoff and Climb.” And the mysterious “criterion number 9” is…“Rotates and lifts off at the recommended airspeed and accelerates to VY.”
Huh. The contrarian in me wonders if this inadvertent omission made the difference in some applicant’s private or commercial checkride. Is that why it took a decade to recognize and correct it? And what does it say about our society when the mental movie now playing between my ears is of some personal injury lawyer arguing this very point in court on behalf of a pilot, through a momentary lapse of attention, who stalled on takeoff. –Scott Spangler