FAA Update: Pilot Testing Procedures Change

RotorDrone|March/ April 2020

FAA Update: Pilot Testing Procedures Change
Nothing lasts forever,not even the staid administrative procedures of federal agencies.

Until January of this year, the process for taking the Airman Knowledge Test (ATK) had not changed since I earned my private pilot’s certificate nearly 30 years ago. Now, whether your goal is to become a commercial drone pilot, an airline transport pilot, or to earn any other rating that falls under the FAA’s jurisdiction—including parachute rigger and aircraft dispatcher—you will need to take an additional step.

Change can be stressful, especially if becoming a certified drone pilot is your only interaction with an administrative behemoth like the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which can already be a daunting prospect. However, in this case, the changes are to everyone’s advantage. So let’s take a look at some common questions people have about the new procedures.

So what has changed. exactly?

In brief, you now need to register with the integrated Airman Certification and Ratings Application (IACRA) online before you take your written test to become a remote pilot in command (RPIC). Prior to this change, you would have registered with IACRA after you took the test. That’s the headline. In addition, your printed test results will no longer be embossed with an official seal by the testing center, and the codes that help you understand the questions you got wrong are being updated, making them easier to interpret. That’s it.

I fear change. Is this really necessary?

Yes. The old system was prone to errors that could be costly and time-consuming to fix. Prior to January 2020, you simply contacted a local testing center and gave them your name when you registered to take your test. Afterward, you logged onto IACRA and registered your results. The problem was that if the name you used to take the test and the name you registered uner in IACRA were different in any way, because of a simple typo or a difference formatting, the system broke down. This could cause delays in processing test results, and it cost the FAA many thousands of dollars a year to sort out the confusion.


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March/ April 2020