Alleged Knowledge Test Issues Prompt Flight Training Protest


Flight training organizations along with EAA and AOPA are urging the FAA to take a hard look at the availability and effectiveness of aviation knowledge tests. In 2018, the agency awarded an exclusive contract to PSI to administer the gamut of written tests. On Jan. 1, 2023, the company cut the fee it paid to third-party test facilitators and the group contends that some third-party testers have since quit, resulting in reduced access to the service. “Diminished access to testing could not come at a worse time. It is widely held that the availability of a diverse, qualified workforce is the biggest threat to growth in our industry,” the group said in a letter to the FAA. “Further barriers to testing will only exacerbate an already tenuous situation.”

The group is also questioning the level of service PSI is providing under the contract. “The quality of FAA knowledge test facilitation performed by PSI is also a concern,” the group said. “The [flight training] community has noticed a lack of progress toward benchmarks that are required under the test management services contract.” The group also alleges that PSI is notorious for poor customer service, further exacerbating the issues. “In short, PSI has obstructed the pilot and mechanic workforce pipeline and disrupted the aviation training community,” the letter reads.

The group has been in communication with PSI and said the company denies the allegations. It said PSI refused to provide data on testing availability, forcing the stakeholders to conduct surveys to gauge the impact of the pay reductions to third-party testing sites. PSI does include a list, updated regularly, of testing sites that are closed or otherwise unavailable, on its website.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

Other AVwebflash Articles


  1. Left them after 15 years of testing center testing on an airport. Easy to fly in and test. Reasons all covered in this article Russ. Poor poor support, software issues with testing and the final straw was in today’s employer challenges you can work at McD’s and make more money than giving a PPT test! They raised testing pricing and gave none to the center to keep computers, printers updated. Center had to keep the center cool/warm clean and staffed. Exam center received $65.00 of the $179.00 then in January they changed to $18.00 for 3 hour test monitoring – no thanks. We closed!

    • I suggest the problem is lack of oversight, not privatization (witness SpaceX’ success). Having two or three vendors rather than one, and most important, serious performance metrics that must be met to be paid, would straighten out this issue.

    • Your post is another example of bias at work. Check your priors.

      There is no simple answer on whether privatization is good or bad. Most examples of privatization fall far short of creating a free market replacement for a government function thus it’s simply going to perform based on the incentives set up and the oversight.

      Certainly, only a high volume facility would be able to provide a 3 hour test for $18.

      OTOH, the testing facility I used in the army was paying three guys to mostly sit around all day. Choose your poison.

    • I will agree: Privatization began under Reagan and accelerated under Gingrich’s Contract On America. A study conducted by Wharton and University of Pennsylvania in the late 2010’s showed that taxpayers actually pay from 4% to almost 35% more for “government services” nowadays using Private Contractors than if the same services were provided by government agencies themselves.
      In the case of FAA testing: You did have to go to an FAA FSDO to do a test, which would be inconvenient, and I did that many times. But the tests were FREE. So the costs was for convenience to test at your local airport.

      • FSDO or FSS, the word FREE helped a lot. And FSDO/GADO flight test, the word FREE was great then. About all I ever used.

    • It’s not privatization, it’s the exclusive contract.
      If there were other testing providers, they would be competing for testing centers.

  2. As a Testing center ourselves I can confirm first hand PSI lacks in all that is said. Very poor customer service, almost no revenue to the center with high overhead and responsibility. They closed us for the Pandemic and took 3 years to get back open. Couldn’t talk to anyone to find out what and how to get reopened. But with email perseverance (no phone calls please) we finally opened. But with no incentive in reimbursements to cover costs, one has to wonder what will happen to all the centers in time?!

  3. And then there was one. Federally backed monopolies are now the norm. Centralized government control is much easier when there is no competition and no one to stand against it. Costs are out of reach for the general population. Each aspect of our declining free western society can be traced to this continued bureaucratic models growth. The GA decline continues and the end is near for our once great general aviation community in America. This is but one cog in the wheel of destruction. Look at the bigger picture and you will realize our GA is on a fast track to becoming as defunct as European GA is.

    • >> Federally backed monopolies are now the norm.
      This is the problem. Instead of the government picking a vendor, they should publish requirements. Anyone who wants to get into the testing business and can meet the requirements should be able to offer the tests and set their price. Government concessionaires always provide a bad product at a ridiculous price.

  4. In 2013 I took 2 written tests at the Chandler AZ airport facility. Airframe and Power-plant. I got there, paid the test took the tests and done. Fast and nice.
    In 2021 I went to the facility in Tempe to take my written for PPL.
    Boy! what a terrible service. You should see the attitude of the ladies working in there at that time. They treated me like I don’t know what. Disrespectful, arrogant as if they were making me a big favor to let me take the test!
    Unbelievable. I am glad I did pass with 97%!
    I got out of that nasty place with a great relieve over my shoulders…

  5. I suggest the problem is lack of oversight, not privatization (witness SpaceX’ success). Having two or three vendors rather than one, and most important, serious performance metrics that must be met to be paid, would straighten out this issue.

  6. In the last year took my Instrument and Commercial knowledge exams in Walla Walla. Was situated at the Adventist College. Very well run operation. Comfortable quiet and everything worked as it should and the staff was very professional and polite.

    My only objection was the nearest center was over an hour away and I live in the largest city in southeastern WA and the largest flight school is here.

  7. I have a PSI testing location just north of Seattle, WA. Other than PSI company own BrainTree testing places, mine is the only testing facility between South Seattle to the Canadian Border still providing Airman Testing. I have reduced testing availability to keep it going for the convenience of the flying public as PSI’s testing facilities are only open Monday through Friday, 9-5. So folks can come in the evening or on Saturday to test.

    I’ve been riding this roller coaster since 2011 when I originally signed on with Computer Assisted Testing Service (CATS). I was shocked when the FAA allowed PSI to buy CATS and become a sole source. I wrote at that time to the Federal Trade Commission concerning this as well as the FAA and DOT. Further, I contacted my own WA State Attorney General several times as PSI is also sole source testing for almost all other testing (Nurses, MedTecs, Doctors, Engineers, Architects, etc)

    PSI is a Monopoly; pure and simple, yet, the Federal Trade Commission and the State AG’s are not doing anything about it.

  8. Contact Us
    If you need to contact our support team, please use the information below. Please include your full name and a detailed description of your question or problem so our support specialists can better assist your request.
    Email: [email protected]
    Phone: 1-844-704-1487
    PSI FAA Operations Support
    Email: [email protected]
    Phone: 1-877-449-8378

    • Have any AvWeb readers had experiences contacting PSI through this boilerplate? If so, how would you rate their responsiveness?