Industry Groups Continue to Advocate for FAA Testing System Improvements

As follow on to previous advocacy efforts (see related story), a coalition of aviation organizations sent a letter to the FAA's regulatory support division, voicing joint concerns for the future state of the FAA testing system.

The group highlighted the recent change in PSI's third-party testing reimbursement rates as one example of recent missteps by the government contractor that negatively impacts access to testing. "PSI maintains that the fee reductions will not impact applicants, yet the contractor avoids transparency and refuses to provide data necessary for third parties to validate its assertions," said the group. "Specifically, our request for a complete list of testing locations, seating capacity, and the distribution of PSI-owned vs. third-party testing facilities was denied by the contractor."

The letter, signed by a coalition including ATEC, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), Aviation Supplies & Academics, the National Air Transportation Association, and the National Association of Flight Instructors, made several recommendations:

  1. Perform and publish an independent, FAA assessment of knowledge test accessibility before and after the January 1, 2023 fee change, including quantifying the net change in seat capacity for each FAA test, the impact to testing accessibility (i.e., decreased access geographically), and PSI’s ability to provide quality replacements for third-party testing center seats that leave the network.
  2. Develop additional ways to increase testing capacity and lessen industry exposure resulting from the current single-provider framework. Alternative proctoring methods and additional providers should be explored, including virtual proctoring and/or utilization of the current network of accredited institutions holding Part 141 and/or 147 air agency certificates.
  3. Using stakeholder feedback, produce and publish an assessment of PSI’s performance under the FAA contract, what benchmarks have not been met, and shortfalls that should be addressed to ensure proper performance through the initial term.
  4. Perform an assessment of the FAA’s current certification process, assessing the effectiveness of the Agency’s strong emphasis and reliance on knowledge exams relative to other forms of competency testing.

The letter was accompanied by two Freedom of Information requests filed by AOPA last month, asking for the FAA to make available a copy of the FAA-PSI government contract and a full list of all testing centers, before and after the Jan. 1 change so that industry could make it's own assessment on capacity changes.