DPE Symposium Focuses on Backlog of Practical Testing, Solutions

he Flight School Association of North America (FSANA) met in Phoenix to discuss practical testing trends, practices, and standardization.

The Flight School Association of North America (FSANA) Symposium gathered together constituents to improve communication between examiners, industry, and the FAA. [Courtesy: Jason Blair]

The Flight School Association of North America (FSANA) brought together DPEs and flight training industry members in Phoenix this week for a second annual Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE) Symposium. In an effort to help spread more communication between DPEs, from DPEs and flight training operations to each other, and to improve recruitment of future DPEs, symposium content included updates from FAA staff working with practical testing and DPEs, fellow DPEs on best practices, and some data from FSANA on trends in practical test provisioning.

One of the concerns discussed at the symposium was the continued backlog of practical tests. FSANA recently completed a survey of DPEs and training industry participants, the results of which indicated that 77 percent of respondents reported a need to wait more than 2 weeks to get a practical test scheduled. A full 38 percent said that a wait time of more than a month was needed. When considering initial CFI practical tests, 83 percent indicated a need to wait more than 2 weeks. Scheduling waits for a retest in the event an applicant received a disapproval notice on their first attempt at the practical test was similarly delayed, according to the survey data.

Wanting to not just highlight the delays being experienced, the content of the symposium specifically addressed some potential solutions. Efforts can be made to maximize utilization of available DPE resources and time, best practices for flight training providers to avoid disqualifying applicants' eligibility when they present themselves for a practical test, and discussion of how our industry can recruit future DPEs for testing service were a few of the topics discussed to help alleviate any backlogs of practical testing.

Standardization in practical testing across DPEs is always a topic that comes up when working with flight training providers. A goal of the FAA—and the overwhelming majority of DPEs—is to always remain consistent in the administration of practical tests in accordance with the airmen certification standards (ACS) and practical test standards (PTS). To address this—and with DPEs and flight training providers from across the country in attendance—specific practices, discussions of hot-topic maneuvers, and how to best manage testing in differing airspace and airport environments around the country threaded through multiple sessions.

A number of participants in the symposium were individuals who are seeking to become or even already engaged with the process of becoming DPEs. The opportunity for these individuals to interact with experienced DPEs and flight training providers enhances their ability to get through the DPE selection and emplacement process. FSANA is hopeful that many of these individuals will become actively serving DPEs for the flight training community in the near future.

A primary conclusion of the symposium? Practical testing provisioning remains a critical infrastructure point in the pilot training pipeline for professional and private aviation needs. Efforts to enhance efficiency and standardization in this sector continue to be important to our aviation infrastructure.

Jason Blair is a flight instructor and an FAA designated pilot examiner, and an active author in the general aviation and flight training communities.

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