By Mary Grady, Contributing editor
The FAA recently changed its bank of test questions without notice, causing a spike of up to four times the usual rate of failures in recent weeks, according to the National Association of Flight Instructors. The content of test questions was significantly altered, NAFI said, for at least three tests -- the fundamentals of instruction test, which is required for all flight and ground instructors, and the ATP and flight engineer tests. "We fully support the FAA's efforts to improve the quality of the knowledge tests," said NAFI executive director Jason Blair. "However, we're concerned that the test changes were made without any notification to the industry." As a result, he said, the applicants who failed have wasted their time and money -- up to $150 -- and must re-take the tests.
Last week, NAFI and AOPA wrote to the FAA (PDF) and asked the agency to change the test banks back to the way they were until a new process is in place to inform the flight-training industry of content changes. They also said applicants who failed the tests after the changes were made should be allowed to re-take the test for free and have the failure expunged from their record. "We support the FAA's efforts to improve the rigor of the testing process, and we're sincerely interested in promoting the process," said Blair. However, "to do this effectively, we would like the FAA to include industry partners such as NAFI, AOPA, and other flight-training stakeholders in efforts to spread the message about upcoming changes." That would allow training providers and students to adapt learning processes and avoid surprising applicants with unexpected test material, Blair said.