Are You Current with the New Airman Certification Standards?

By Scott Spangler on June 10th, 2024

It should go without saying that flying is a dynamic pursuit, so that means that learning and being able to proficiently perform the skills (and understand the knowledge that supports them) is not a one-and-done endeavor whose conclusion is the issuance of an airman’s certificate. A good way to assess your current competency is to periodically examine the Airman Certification Standards for the certificates and ratings you now possess.

The FAA recently issued new ACS for Airline Transport Pilot and Type Rating for Airplane: ACS-11A; Commercial Pilot, Airplane: ACS-7B; Commercial Pilot, Rotorcraft Helicopter: ACS-16; Flight Instructor, Airplane: ACS-25; Flight Instructor, Instrument Airplane and Helicopter PTS: 8081-9E; Flight Instructor, Rotorcraft Helicopter: ACS-29; Instrument Rating, Airplane: ACS-8C; Instrument Rating, Helicopter: ACS-14; Private Pilot, Airplane: ACS-6C; Private Pilot, Rotorcraft Category Helicopter: ACS-15. There is also an updated ACS Companion Guide for Pilots.

This can be a frightening review for pilots, especially for those who haven’t assiduously evaluated and maintained their knowledge and skill currency and those (like me) who earned their certificates and ratings several decades ago. But fear not: start at the beginning and see how you’d fare if you had to pass a checkride based on the new standards.

The 87-page Private Pilot, Airplane: ACS-6C is way different than the comparatively skimpy practical test standards I faced in June 1976. The areas of operation seem the same, but the make or break are in the details.

For example, making the transition from old school paper and pencil cross-country flight planning for Task D. This “ Note: Preparation, presentation, and explanation of a computer-generated flight plan is an acceptable option,” says that an electronic flight bag plan is an acceptable replacement for paper and pencil, so I’ve got some schooling to do because it appears in several subsequent tasks such as Navigation and Radar Services.

It’s nice to see that the Navigation still opens with Pilotage and Dead Reckoning. But I wonder how. In the aerial epoch of GPS, how many aviators have maintained these skills since their checkride? One guesses that given today’s avionics suites, they are more current on managing “automated navigation and autoflight systems.”

My assessment was going well until the Emergency Operation Area of Operation dredged up no memory of Emergency Descents or Emergency Approaches and Landings. There’s two more for the schooling list. That wasn’t as bad as I expected, and some of the new terminology was entertaining, such as “magnetic direction indicator.” Isn’t that a compass?

I wonder what surprises the Instrument Rating, Airplane: ACS-8C, and Commercial Pilot, Airplane: ACS-7B will reveal? And I’m curious to know what your review of the current ACS revealed? Scott Spangler, Editor


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