FAA Relaxes Examiner Restrictions

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The FAA has issued a notice removing several regulatory restrictions identified as major contributors to increasingly long wait times for pilot practical exams. FAA Notice N 8900.485 (PDF) gives designated pilot examiners (DPEs) the ability to conduct up to three tests and an unlimited number of retests per day and lets flight instructor applicants schedule practical tests directly with a qualified examiner without having to contact a Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) first.

The new policy also allows DPEs to conduct tests anywhere in the U.S., removing the previous requirement that they operate within the geographic boundaries of their managing FSDOs. In addition, they can now test any U.S. citizen outside of the country without additional approval. According to the notice, “geographic limitations contribute to increased difficulty in providing timely certification services across the country and exacerbate the pilot shortage that has resulted from a rapid expansion of the aviation industry.”

These changes are the first of a series announced after a group of industry representatives led by the Flight School Association of North America (FSANA) met with the FAA last summer to discuss DPE shortages and practical exam delays. The FSANA says it will continue to work with the FAA to improve testing practices and regulations.