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FAA Releases Airman Certification Standards (ACS) for Flight Instructor Applicants

Earlier today, the FAA released the Airman Certification Standards (ACS) for the Flight Instructor - Airplane Practical Test. The ACS replaces the old Practical Test Standards (PTS), and now is the "playbook" for how CFI checkrides will be run, once the document goes into effect on May 31, 2024. Our Flight Instructor Ground School will be updated in the coming weeks to reflect these changes.

This was a highly anticipated change, and the good news is that apart from a few things we'll cover here, the checkride is pretty much unchanged. So those who have been studying under the old PTS can stay the course, and be aware of the changes going forward. Here are the highlights of the new ACS:

Why is the FAA doing this?

The FAA has been replacing the old PTS on its checkrides with the new ACS for about a decade now. Private, Instrument, and Commercial checkrides have been run off the ACS, while the CFI checkride was the major lone holdout still on the PTS, until now. The ACS serves as a way to standardize the structure and conduct of checkrides, and to add risk management elements to all required tasks. The ACS contains much more detail on what is required than the PTS did, making the content of checkrides more predictable and less up to the discretion of the individual examiner.

New Option for Slow Flight

A new task has been added to the flight portion of the checkride. Area of Operation X, Task B, is Demonstration of Flight Characteristics at Various Configurations and Airspeeds. Previously, slow flight has been performed at "an airspeed at which any further increase in angle of attack, load factor, or reduction of power would result in a stall warning." In other words, we learn to do slow flight at a speed before the stall horn or any buffeting occurs. This is still the case on Task A of this area of operation, but the ACS has added Task B now, which calls for flying at what's known as the Minimum Controllable Airspeed, in other words, at a speed where any further deceleration would cause a full stall. This is a return to the old standards for slow flight which were taught to pilots for decades. Examiners can now choose whether to test on either Task A or B, so CFI applicants will need to be comfortable flying at Minimum Controllable AIrspeed in both clean and dirty configurations.

Fundamentals of Instructing (FOI) Include More Detail on What Will be Tested

The requirements for FOI have not changed. Certain tasks have been combined or broken out, so the structure will look different than the PTS, but the overall knowledge requirements are the same. The ACS details out what specifically you'll be required to know, and as before the Aviation Instructor's Handbook, as well as out Flight Instructor Ground School provide comprehensive knowledge for this.

Examiners Will Select At Least Three Tasks from FOI to Test On

In the old PTS, examiners were required to select two tasks, Instructor Responsibilities and Professionalism and one other task. In the ACS, examiners will now select Tasks E & F, Elements of Effective Teaching in a Professional Environment, which largely mirrors the old required task, and Risk Management and Accident Prevention. Examiners will then select at least one additional FOI task to test.

Previously Developed Lesson Plans May Be Used on Checkride

A point of confusion has been clarified in the ACS: Area of Operation IV notes that "previously developed lesson plans from the instructor applicant's library may be used." Applicants will no longer be required to develop a lesson plan on the day of the checkride or to perform it by memory, and are not required to create their own, able to draw on third party lesson plans such as those in our free Flight Instructor Lesson Plan Package.

Computer Flight Planning is Explicitly Allowed

While some examiners continue to require paper cross country flight plans to be completed and presented, the ubiquity of computer assisted planning tools like Electronic Flight Bag (EFB) has been recognized by the new ACS. Area of Operation II, Task I - Navigation and Cross Country Flight Planning now states: "preparation, presentation, and explanation of a computer-generated flight plan is an acceptable option."

Steep Spirals Now Consist of AT LEAST 3 Complete Turns

The Steep Spirals task has in the past consisted of 3 full 360° turns around a point. The addition of the language "at least" three turns to the skills section of this task seems to leave it to the discretion of the examiner whether to call for 3 or more full turns.

Knowledge Tests Already Completed Under the PTS Are Still Valid

If you took and passed your CFI knowledge tests under the PTS, your score report is still good to qualify you for the checkride, even if your checkride takes place after the ACS effective date of May 31, 2024. The score reports are good for 24 calendar months just as any others are.

So the bottom line is, except for a few highlights and clarifications, the CFI checkride is largely unchanged. The PTS will still dictate checkrides from now up until the effective date of the ACS, which is May 31, 2024. Do have a look at the new ACS and familiarize yourself with everything, if your checkride falls after that date. These changes will be incorporated as updates to our full Flight Instructor Online Ground School, so be sure to check that out as well!

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Apr 03

Would this affect the CFII checkride at all? Or will it still be conducted under the CFII PTS?

Apr 10
Replying to

Following, but I believe this will just follow the PTS. The ACS does not mention lessons from CFII


Apr 02

Any changes on the helicopter side?


Apr 01

Would be nice to ban all lead polluting Training planes from flying.


Apr 01

this is incredibly helpful thank you!

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