News - Future Airline Pilot & CFI Pipeline Directly Impacted by Inability to Secure Timely Checkrides

FSANA continues to receive reports from flight training providers around the country that sourcing of practical tests have become a burden to their models of providing flight training to its completion. FSANA has been working with the FAA and industry partners for almost two years to determine how big of a problem this really is and try to provide solutions. Unfortunately, the problem has gotten worse, not better.

Last week, James Viola, FAA Deputy Director for GA Safety Assurance spoke with Bob Rockmaker, FSANA CEO about the matter. During the discussion, Viola made it clear that the FAA is going to achieve the 10 business day/14 calendar day goal for practical test scheduling once the CFI has endorsed an applicant for a test.

Rockmaker applauded James Viola and FAA leadership for recognizing the serious nature of the airman testing issues and thanked both Viola and the U.S. Secretary of Transportation for focusing on the issue.

We continue to get reports of applicants who call FSDO's to schedule CFI initial practical tests, multiple times, and receive no calls back from the offices. The number of examiners available has gone down, not up. In many locations, wait times for practical tests exceed the FAA and industry agreed "no longer than 14 days" as a reasonable wait time, with many locations experiencing scheduling wait times of 5-6 weeks as the normal experience. 

In the worst of cases, we have reports of practical tests needing to be scheduled 4-6 MONTHS in advance of an actual test. For some larger training operators who have multiple locations, the experience is requiring them to purchase airline tickets for their customers to take tests in other FSDO regions where an examiner can be sourced.

Each of these problems creates delays in training, extra costs for the applicants, and additional costs to the businesses that provide the training to the next generation of pilots who will fill the cockpits of the airlines.

There are many reasons that the FAA has provided for why the number of examiners has decreased, why examiners are not available in some locations, and why the shortage has occurred.

The simple fact is that the FAA is tasked with providing the resources to test pilots who have been trained for certificates and ratings and the level of service that has been provided in many areas of the country is not meeting the need.

At this time, FSANA is very concerned that this lack of ability to serve the testing needs of the training providers and their customers through the country is directly affecting the pipeline of production of the next generation of pilots and directly affecting the business efficacy of the businesses that provide this training.

FSANA recognizes that the flight training community has undergone an increase in training provision during the current active hiring climate which has added some burden and that many examiners have retired over the past few years as a result of changed FAA designee currency requirements, but the vacancies have not been filled and the increased need has not been addressed. 

A general change in how training is provided in many cases, on a shorter time footprint and at locations where training is in higher density and the weather is better, represents a change in the systemic approach to training from when the testing structure was originally developed 50 years ago and most pilots trained at local airports.

In consideration of these factors, FSANA believes it is time for the FAA to very quickly make changes and work with the industry to remedy the inability to provide the testing that is needed to keep the pilot training pipeline flowing in the United States.

While some progress has been made, more is needed. We stand ready to work actively on this, but it must be done quickly. This industry is not in a position to wait another two years to address this clear and present concern that is negatively affecting flight training businesses and slowing the pilot training pipeline.

If you or someone you know is having troubles sourcing practical tests, having tests administrated properly, or coordinating them through your local FSDO, the FAA did establish a feedback email that skips local coordination and goes directly to a national office to deal with problems being experienced. These types of concerns should be emailed to: 

9-AMC-Designee-Questions-Comments-Concerns [at] faa [dot] gov

The staff that receives information at this address takes this seriously and will keep concerns confidential when it is requested. If you are not comfortable with that or fear reprisals from a local office or staff member, FSANA is also willing to serve as a middle-man and de-identify any reports if you would prefer to email them to info [at] fsana [dot] com. When using either of these email addresses, include in the subject line the statement "Pilot Testing Issues."