Data Highlights and Potential Industry Considerations from 2018 FAA Airman Certificate Data…

Ok, my wife says I am really a dork because I got excited when I saw that the 2018 FAA Airman Certificate Data was posted publicly. I told her that I couldn’t be the only person who thought it was fun to look at that data, there had to be at least three or four more people just like me somewhere in the industry. She didn’t disagree that it was probably limited to that few people.

But someone has to look at this data, and with a little contextualization, some of that data can be illustrative of trends in our aviation industry when it comes to the pilot community or our certification trends. The good news, I have been keeping a spreadsheet for this for years, update it with new data, and do it for you! So, with that said, here are a few highlights that I noted after a little data crunching.

When we look at the overall trend, I find it most broadly applicable to look at a few key metric points. These include overall numbers for things like the Private Pilot, Commercial Pilot, Instrument Rating, ATP Pilot, and CFI Certificates issued on a yearly basis. To help build a baseline for those numbers, the following graphics may be of interest.

Continue reading

Charlie Checkrides (2018)…

Why drive when you can fly? Especially when you are going to an airport anyway!

I didn’t do it every time I could over the past year, but one of the reasons we bought Charlie was to make the travel between airport easier when I was conducting FAA practical tests.

Like any good pilot, I kept logs, and tracked what I did. Well, not only as a pilot, but so I could also give the data to my accountant at the end of the year to see if any of the costs associated with travel to and from practical tests could be leveraged for any taxiing benefits also. You can deduct mileage, why not flight time, right? Well, at least some of the costs can be he tells me. But I digress.

Curious what the total at the end of the year would be, I tallied it up, graphed it, and found that Charlie and I spent a little time together over the year!

Totaling over 34 hours and travelling over 1600 miles, Charlie spirited me across the Michigan, and even a little Indiana, countryside from above to where I provided my services as a FAA Designated Pilot Examiner.

The only drawback, when you fly to an airport it is hard to run out at lunch and get some food…I expect if I tried to taxi to a nearby deli or restaurant with Charlie it wouldn’t go unnoticed or be very successful.

I know that the use of the aircraft saved time over the travels of the year. In some cases, it was the catalyst that allowed more than one test to take place in the same day due to the reduced travel time between two airports that were a significant distance apart. Aircraft are truly time machines.

Oh, and they are just darn fun to fly also. So, with that said, and without getting too esoteric here, Charlie gave me a year with some rather enjoyable transits.

Flying the Approach in GPS Mode instead of VLOC – Why it may be better, as long as you do it correctly…

Flying a VOR approach? Asking yourself why you would do this instead of doing a GPS approach (assuming your aircraft is equipped with an IFR GPS system)?

Well, the answer might be because there isn’t a GPS approach to the runway or even the airport you are approaching, or, perhaps, some mean old examiner is just making you do a VOR approach on an instrument checkride. Yeah, we still do that when we can.

This doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of your GPS system to fly the approach more accurately or in manner that integrates more fully with your avionics package and autopilot.

It is worth noting that there is an allowance in the FAA’s Airman’s Information Manual (AIM) that gives the pilot the ability to use the GPS system to “navigate” along a path when they are flying along the final approach segment of a VOR approach. Speficially, it notes:

AIM 1-2-3-c-5:
“Use of a suitable RNAV system as a means to navigate on the final approach segment of an instrument approach procedure based on a VOR, TACAN or NDB signal, is allowable. The underlying NAVAID must be operational and the NAVAID monitored for final segment course alignment”.

What this means practically is that a pilot may utilize their GPS RNAV system to actually fly along a VOR approach beyond the final approach fix as long as they can “monitor” the VOR (or TACAN or NDB) on a secondary radio and ensure that the GPS is navigating along the appropriate NAVAID course for the approach.

So, why might you want to do this you might be thinking right now. Continue reading

Government Shutdown Effects on FAA Pilot Testing (etc.)

Round three of government shutdowns affect on FAA pilot testing activities. While some of the information is still coming on on the effects, this has been experienced before (in 2013, and a short version in January of 2018). Back in those, I shared what the effects were, so I am sharing them again here to the best of my knowledge. all over again.

We all are hoping that the government shutdown will be over soon, but in the meantime, a few effects that will be felt during any continued government shutdown on airman testing, training, or certification:

FAA Knowledge Tests Halted

UPDATE: 1-3-2018

PSI / CATS, the provider of FAA knowledge tests has provided notification that “we have been authorized to resume FAA Airman Knowledge Testing. However, please be advised that during this shutdown, we cannot guarantee that results will be accurately processed after Airman Knowledge Testing data is transferred to the FAA.”

The practical application of this is that knowledge tests will allow an applicant to qualify for a practical test, but since it is unlikely to sync to the master FAA database, any practical test would not be able to be done using IACRA and would have to be done using a paper 8710 form with the DPE. 

FAA knowledge test providers typically are not able to continue providing “written” tests due to the fact that their systems must interrogate data to and from FAA systems that are not running during a shutdown. We have had a couple reports today that these have been unavailable that support this statement again.

This means that anyone that has not already completed their FAA knowledge tests before this time will not be able to do so until the government staff has returned. This effectively stops applicants who are pursuing training to have the ability to become eligible for practical tests that require any FAA knowledge tests.

In the interim, training can certainly continue for pilot seeking ratings or certificates by instruction providers except for taking of their knoweldge tests.

FAA Practical Tests

As of the writing of this no indication of any stoppage of (most) practical test administration has been given. In fact, it has been directly conveyed to and noted by FSANA that “Airman Practical Testing May Continue during Government Shutdown when conducted by Designees” in a news story that was put on on December 24, 2018. Click Here for the Article.

Should IACRA become unavailable for any reason, it is possible that examiners can continue to process applications in paper format. Applicants and instructors should continue to monitor this situation and confirm the best way to process with the DPE prior to the administration of any tests.

Part 135 Line Checks

While not specifically pilot training related, any charter operators who have line checks scheduled with FAA staff should plan on them not happening while any government shutdown is taking place. When they do get back to the office, some scheduling catch up may be needed. It would be a good idea for any operators who need any oversight activities to keep their operation going to start planning ahead and during any shutdown to evaluate which of their pilots (if any) may have any currency expire during any interim time.

Delayed Processing of Certification Paperwork

While the FAA staff is out on furlough, it is assumed that any practical test applications will be placed “in the in-basket” and await final processing by FAA staff (at the local FSDOs or in Oklahoma City as appropriate) until staff returns. While we typically see processing times for practical tests between 60-90 days, the FAA does allow for the temporary airman certificates granted by DPEs when completing practical tests validity for up to 120 days. It is possible that the furlough will create further delays in this processing (hopefully we will not see a shutdown of the government itself for this length of time).

The last time this happened, the FAA’s processing did get a little behind when they got back to work, and it did cause some certificates to be delayed. In a few cases, this caused pilot’s who had temporary airman certificates to have them expire prior to receiving their new plastic certificates.

Should any pilots who have received a temporary airman certificate find that their temporary certificates are going to expire it may not be possible to schedule an appointment with an FSDO to issue a continuance of a temporary airman certificate. Pilots should note that if they have been issued a temporary airman certificate, their previous airman certificate is no longer valid and any expired temporary airman certificate (unless otherwise extended by the FAA) will become invalid for use after 120 days. Any pilots who have expiring temporary airman certificates should contact their local FSDOs (when they are back in the office) to schedule a time to extend them if their permanent airman certificate becomes delayed due to the furlough/government shutdown.

This may also be required after the shutdown as they catch up on processing. Keep an eye on any expiration dates and make sure any temporary certificates have not expired if you are going to operate.

FAA Seminars

A little less critical, but anyone planning on attending FAA Safety Team seminars that are being conducted by FAA staff members should probably plan on them not happening. While this may not seem overly critical, it may have an effect on anyone hoping to use these trainings for any currency or training purposes. keep an eye on the schedule.

This is the best understanding that I can share of these effects right now. If I get any more, I will update this and provide it. Hopefully, we will all be back to business as normal very soon..

If anyone has different information, please let me know.