The National Association of Flight Instructors and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association have  asked the FAA to clarify or rescind apparent changes to airman knowledge test-bank questions that the agency made without notifying industry stakeholders.

FAA Knowledge Test cubicle setupThe request comes after an unusually high numbers of pilot-applicant failures in recent weeks.  Some testing centers recorded quadruple the failure rate, as compared to before the changes.

“We learned last week that the FAA’s Airman Testing Standards Branch recently implemented changes to the banks of questions the agency uses to compile knowledge tests for pilot candidates,” said NAFI Executive Director Jason Blair. “These include the airline transport pilot, flight engineer, and fundamentals of instruction tests—and possibly more—and they involved significant revisions to test-bank questions.”

In a joint letter to the FAA, both groups request that the test banks be rolled back to the original questions, that applicants who failed have their failing scores expunged and given a retest, and that the FAA coordinate with the flight instructing industry on rolling out the changes.

“In order for an instructor to teach the material effectively and to evaluate their students prior to any exam, they must have a good understanding of the expectations set forth by the FAA,” states the letter, signed by Blair and Kristine Hartzell, AOPA’s Manager of Regulatory Affairs. “Additionally, if a student fails an exam, the instructor must understand where the knowledge deficiencies are so that they provide retraining and ensure that the knowledge area is thoroughly understood before signing the student off for a retest.”

Blair said the problem is not with the nature of the test bank questions, themselves. Rather, it is with the lack of transparency and coordination with the flight instructing industry.

““We fully support the FAA’s efforts to improve the quality of the knowledge tests,” Blair said. “It’s important that applicants aren’t simply studying ‘sample test’ questions at the rote memorization level to pass a knowledge test, and we agree that a focus on learning material and skills to the correlative level is the best method to teach applicants to be safe, knowledgeable pilots. However, we’re concerned that the test changes were made without any notification to the industry.”

Read the NAFI news release here.