FAA Updates Training Standards & Manuals

By Scott Spangler on April 2nd, 2012

Flt NavBack 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).

Handbooks: Aviation Maintenance Technician—Powerplant (2 volumes, FAA-H-8083-31); Aviation Maintenance Technician—Airframe (2 volumes,  FAA-H-8083-32); and Flight Navigator (FAA-H-8083-18) .

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

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7 Responses to “FAA Updates Training Standards & Manuals”

  1. Paul J Says:

    I found it interesting that Change 1 for the new Private and Commercial PTS’s came out before the new versions ever went into effect.

  2. Martin Says:

    How do they determine how the Flight Engineer’s license is still active? I haven’t used mine since 2001, but my records still show my FE Turbojet, ATPL and Class1 medical….

  3. @williamAirways Says:

    “Rotates and lifts off at the recommended airspeed and accelerates to VY.”

    Was this in the 2002 edition? FAA-S-8081-14B for IV.A this says:

    “Establishes a pitch attitude that will maintain VY +10/-5 knots.”

    FAA-S-8081-14A says:

    “Establishes a pitch attitude that will maintain VY +10/-5 knots.”

    Regardless, you’d be surprised how many pilots out there doesn’t have a clue what and why they should use V(Y) and V(X). I was at a WINGS seminar on takeoffs and landings and one of the attendees ran his mouth and said that he always rotates and pitches for 90 KIAS in his Cessna 172 because he can see better. Yep. We have a winner. *sigh*

    That Flight Navigator Handbook is chock full of interesting information, some of which is useful even in primary and instrument training. I think it contains a wealth of value despite its title and the inferred audience.

  4. Ray Says:

    Scott, I think you missed the boat on this one. The record of changes you note is only the changes that have been made to the new version since it was created. They are not a list of changes from the old 2002 version compared to the new version. There are actually a couple of interesting new twists. For example, in the “Use of the Practical Test Standards” the examiner is now required to conduct the test as a “scenario” structured to accomplish most tasks as part of a mission. And, there are now 16 Special Emphasis Areas compared to the previous 11. Being an entire 24 pages longer, I am sure there will be many other items to consider. I have been surprised this has not been getting more press.

  5. xp+10+reviews + 4 April 2012 + AeroSOFT’s BIKF + Samen’s A330-300 « Xplane10's Blog Says:

    […] FAA is updating Training Standards and manuals, and plans are well underway to vastly scale down the existing network of VOR NAVaids in the lower […]

  6. Scott Spangler Says:

    Ray, I sure did. When I was in the Navy, this offense would get you time in the brig, so consider me there as the penalty for my complacency.

    After comparing old and new private pilot PTS almost page for page (as I should have done the first time around), most of the additional pages are dedicated to the new areas of “special emphasis” and related topics.

    The new “specials” are wire strike avoidance, Temporary Flight Restrictions, Special Use Airspace, Aviation Security, and Single-Pilot Resource Management. And the related additions include the management of risks, tasks, and automation.

  7. Mark C. Says:

    williamairways – don’t be too hard on that guy. My instructor constantly emphasized Vy on climbout, Vx on simulated short field TO, and I got good at it. While flying my checkride, the DPE chewed me out and told me to lower the pitch so I could see over the nose and save the extreme angles for when I was bush flying. Had me flying climbout a good 10 knots faster than I was used to.

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