ATEC Joins Working Group to Encourage FAA Publication of Delayed Airman Certification Standards

Part 147,

In 2016, the FAA published its first Airman Certification Standards (ACS) under the watchful eye of the FAA Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee's Airman Certification System Working Group. The purpose of the ACS is to set forth what an airman applicant must know, say, and do in order to qualify for certification, and act as the bedrock on which FAA testing and guidance materials are based. Since the original ACS was published, six others have followed, all providing knowledge and skill standards for pilot certification.

In 2019, the aviation maintenance community was invited to participate in the the agency's development of the Mechanic Airman Certification Standard. Since that time, ATEC has been steadfast in its continual review and comment on the draft standard, with the understanding that those standards when published would ultimately drive training and curriculum development. Unfortunately, while the draft ACS is near completion, it has joined eleven other ACS in a long line of documents awaiting publication. 

The backlog is due to a seeming reinterpretation of the FAA's responsibilities with regard to standards publication. Due to the administration's response to promulgation of a Department of Transportation rulemaking, in 2019, the working group's efforts were brought to a halt. 

On Feb. 23, the ACS working group sent a letter, signed by several members of the ATEC community including its executive director Crystal Maguire, urging the agency to publish the long-awaited standards. In its ask, working group members provided a potential solution that would ensure the ACS remains a living, breathing document with the flexibility to adapt testing and training as aviation technologies continue to evolve:

"We submit for your consideration that the ACS is not subject to Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) part 5 administrative procedures," said working group members. "A common sense approach is that the ACS should not be considered rulemaking or guidance, but instead a framework for internal agency governance of certification processes. Industry will in turn incorporate the ACS knowledge and skill elements in its own training programs because it knows the agency will assess those elements in its FAA-facilitated airman tests."

Publication of the ACS is vital to the aviation education community given an expected interim final rule will require FAA-certificated A&P schools align their curriculums with the ACS. The same week the ACS working group delivered its letter encouraging quick publication of the backlog of ACS, ATEC also sent a letter to FAA officials outlining its expectations with regard to the new part 147 and how it should incorporate those standards (see related story).