If you’ve ever wondered why the FAA’s pilot written exams still contain questions about outdated technologies like loran, microwave landing systems and VHF/DF steer, you’re not alone. A special pilot testing working group has identified dozens of questions on the Private, Commercial and ATP written tests that it says are obsolete. It is asking the FAA to remove the questions and notify training providers so they can update their training curricula.
Headed by Jason Blair, the former executive director of the National Association of Flight Instructors, and David Oord, manager of regulatory affairs for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, the Airman Testing Standards and Training Working Group has been tasked with identifying questions that should be removed from FAA pilot written tests because they contain incorrect or outdated material. The exams are chock full of questions created more than 30 years ago. Some of them are fine as written, but too many are showing their age, safety experts say.
While the working group is urging the FAA to eliminate references to obsolete technology (loran was turned off in 2010, MLS was never widely adopted and VHF/DF steer is available only in a few places in Alaska), the recommendations stop short of calling for a wholesale overhaul of the pilot written tests, as advocated by AOPA and others. The FAA’s Private, Instrument and Commercial knowledge exams, for example, include more questions about ADF navigation than GPS, this despite the fact that most pilots use GPS on every flight and might never tune an ADF receiver.
Other subjects the group wants the FAA to remove from exams are certain references to inertial navigation systems, transcribed weather broadcasts, on-airport flight service stations, composite moisture stability charts, incorrect terms in winds aloft forecasts, and instrument approach plates with outdated and obsolete components.
The group’s work is far from done, so there is a strong likelihood that more positive changes are coming. The draft standards for the private pilot certificate and instrument rating, for example, are currently out for review and comment. There is no firm timetable for when changes to the written tests might be adopted.