3 Things Every Pilot Needs to Know About… The New ACS!

On Wednesday, June 15th the Practical Test Standards (PTS) that student pilots and flight instructor alike have come to know and “love” for so long goes by the wayside as the FAA’s new Airmen Certification Standard (ACS) comes of age. That is for the Private Pilot Certificate and Instrument Rating. The ACS for the Commercial, Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) and Flight Instructor certificates will come in time too…

The ACS is less about new things that are required of pilot certificate/rating applicants and more about asking the same things in more appropaite ways. In a lot of ways the FAA did a lot of “clean up” to their documentation and the benefits will be reaped by the student pilots and the flight instructors who will now have a better set of documentation from which to base their training operations.



Many pilots have their “war” stories from the written examinations they took and the questions they were faced with that had NOTHING to do with their flying, or any flying in the last decade! Those days are long gone and the refining of the written examinations over the past years has helped position the new ACS as well.

So let’s take a look at a few things you should keep in mind about the new ACS…

1.The move from the PTS to the ACS is an improvement.

Back when I was teaching aviation management courses my students would tell you that my favorite concept was “alignment”. Effort alignment, marketing/services alignment, etc… In management, having efforts and products being aligned is critically important. The same is true in (flight) training.

The FAA realized, as did many pilots and flight instructors, that the old system wasn’t effective. The disconect between the written and practical exam alone were enough, let alone the disconnect between the publications from the FAA and the exmas. The institution of the ACS is not just a set of major edits to a document, rather it is a small piece in the overhual of the pilot training framework. This is something I can really appreciate. Now the ACS is laid out with code references and the accompanying publications will also receive appropriate updates soon. This will help make test prep easier following the written exam before practical.

2.The ACS is not the product of the FAA alone, it is the product of many.

Rather than simply rewriting the PTS as the ACS to fit their own needs the FAA was smart… The FAA reached out to industry stake holders for input, making the redesign of the flight training process the effort of many rather than one. Taking public comment and input is a vital piece of an effective solution and the FAA should be commended for taking this apporach. The FAA included a variety of organization in their collaborative efforts to develop the ACS including, but not limited to:

Collegiate aviation programs such as Embry Riddle, Florida Institute of Technology, and the University of South Dakota, just to name a few.

Organizations such as the National Association of Flight Instructors and the National Business Aviation Association.

Various aviation-related companies such as Gleim, Jeppesen and Cessna Pilots Centers.

As you can see the FAA took comments and input from a number of participants. Bringing in insight from so many corners of the industry, I believe, helps the quality of the product.

3.The ACS does not change the practical exam (flight test).

Again, the ACS doesn’t change the requirements of the flight test. Private Pilot subject matter isn’t changing, simply the system, meaning the tools for pilot training are more effective!

Lastly the ACS isn’t just coming into circulation blind. The FAA tested the ACS in Orlando and Seattle during the five year development phase and based on those results it is ready for prime time!

-Fly Safe, @MTElia1B9


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s