By: Jackie Spanitz, Curriculum Director, Aviation Supplies & Academics
An FAA and industry working group are currently developing new airman certification standards (ACS) which will replace current practical test standards (PTS). The ACS will dictate the knowledge and skill needed to obtain an FAA mechanic certificate, including those tested through both the oral and practical (O&P) and written exams. The purpose of the new ACS is to ensure applicants, educators and evaluators understand what the FAA expects an applicant to know, consider, and do in each phase of the certification process.
The first ACS was initiated in 2011 as an effort to fix the pilot knowledge tests. With many questions that seemed outdated, irrelevant and more “tricky” than “meaningful,” test preparation became an exercise in memorizing correct answers solely for the purpose of passing the test. The first ACS for Private Pilot Airplane and Instrument Rating Airplane applicants is effective June 2016.
Given the similar challenges presented in mechanic certifications, the pilot working group was expanded to include maintenance. Once the mechanic ACS is established, an FAA/industry review board will evaluate all general, airframe and powerplant knowledge exam questions against the ACS. If a question no longer “fits” (because it is not relevant, meaningful, or current to today’s technologies, regulations and practices), it will be rewritten or tossed. New questions will be written consistent with the ACS. In this way, the ACS will serve as guidance for the test writers, ensuring applicants are tested on subjects that really matter to safe maintenance operations.
ATEC has a big role in developing the new ACS, get involved to ensure your curriculum and training guidance remain aligned with the FAA testing standards. You can also visit and subscribe to the FAA airman testing web page to stay informed of FAA activities.
Jackie Spanitz is curriculum director for Aviation Supplies & Academics (ASA, Inc.). She has participated on all three of the committees that worked on the ACS development over the last five years. Having spent over 20 years working with FAA knowledge exams and documents, she is grateful to her industry and FAA colleagues who have worked so diligently to improve the training and testing environment. Questions? Contact her at Jackie@asa2fly.com
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