Government Shutdown Effects on FAA Testing/Training

UPDATE 2:30pm 1/22/18 – A short term funding extension has been passed so tomorrow things should be back up and running. As long as no other shutdowns develop, it should be back to normal operatons.

Deja Vu all over again. I wrote almost the same thing in 2013. So, it made figuring out the effects easy(ish) 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

FAA knowledge test providers have been notified that they will no longer be able to give FAA knowledge testsĀ  until the staff who oversee this operation at the FAA are brought back to work.

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.

This will represent a stoppage in the training flow of the U.S. pilot training until knowledge tests are again allowed.

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. It is presumed that FAA Designated Pilot Examiners will be able to continue to administer practical tests while FAA staff is on furlough.

One exception to this is CFI intial practical tests. Some FSDOs have already notified DPEs that they will not be able to continue CFI practical tests during any shutdown, others have indicated that any CFI initial tests already assigned to DPEs may continue. The practical effect is certainly that any applicants seeking to have a CFI test assigned, a process that is done through a local FAA office, will be unable to have these assigned until the FAA is back in the office. So, while a few already assigned may be able to continue in some places, in most places CFI tests will also grind to a halt for now.

Most of these tests are conducted through the use of the IACRA system, a system that is maintained by the FAA. At this time there has been no indication that this system will be turned off during the shutdown. It is a natural assumption that even if this system is left on during the shutdown, should any problems arise that cause the system to fail, no staff would be there to fix the problems. We will all hope that it will continue to work through the shutdown.

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.

This will work for any practical tests that do not require administration by FAA FSDO staff or deferral to DPEs by FAA staff. The most prevalent of these is the CFI initial practical test. It is anticipated that in most FSDOs these will be unavailable during any government furlough of FAA staff.

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.

Posted in Aviation permalink

About Jason Blair

Jason Blair is an active single and multiengine instructor and an FAA Designated Pilot Examiner with over 6,000 hours total time, over 3,000 hours of instruction given, and more than 3000 hours in aircraft as a DPE. In his role as Examiner, over 2,000 pilot certificates have been issued. He has worked for and continues to work with multiple aviation associations with the work focusing on pilot training and testing. His experience as a pilot and instructor spans nearly 20 years and includes over 100 makes and models of aircraft flown. Jason Blair has published works in many aviation publications with a focus on training and safety.

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