The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association has learned that the Federal Aviation Administration has made unannounced changes to questions in various question banks. The drastic changes have been confirmed in three airman knowledge tests so far. The result has been an increase in failure rates.
As a result of these significant changes in advanced knowledge tests, AOPA is urging certified and student pilots and their instructors to prepare for additional tests outside of their typical practice tests and adjust flight training methods accordingly.
Another obstacle student pilots and instructors face is the lack of a detailed study guide available from the FAA to prepare students for the new test questions. This makes it difficult to know where to focus flight training. Previously, practice exams were a very reliable indicator of what was on the actual knowledge tests. However, this is no longer the case.
In a March 3 letter to the FAA, the National Association of Flight Instructors and AOPA said they have no problem with the changes, but want the changes to be coordinated with the practice exams to provide better flight training to prepare applicants. The letter goes on to say that the unannounced changes and increase failure rate fail to accomplish much for those learning to fly and build a career.
Instead, the result is more expense for students who fail the exam and must take it again. This means a fee of $140 to $150 to retake the exam. There is additional travel expense and lost time for the students, as well as increased frustration with the process. The letter requests information about what areas students should focus on while preparing for the exam.
Flight schools and universities offering flight training programs have reported a marked increase in failures since the changes took place. For example, more than half of the student pilots taking the Fundamentals of Instruction knowledge test have failed. The other exams affected are the Flight Engineer and Airline Transport Pilot knowledge tests.
AOPA and NAFI will continue to request coordination efforts with the the FAA to better prepare students for the knowledge tests affected. The letter requests time to implement changes in training and test preparation to curb the failure rate. AOPA asserts that the goal of aviation programs is to produce well trained students, but feels the end result could be more students choosing not to learn to fly or pursue aviation careers.