Recently the FAA discovered a deficiency in several instrument check-rides that took place during a four-year period in Alaska. Our members, the public, and the media reached out to the Alaska Airmen’s Association, seeking information and clarity. Below is a brief overview of the issue, actions taken by the FAA, and the position of the Association.
The FAA is tasked with ensuring aeronautical activities are conducted safely and that pilots meet the minimum qualification of the certificates they hold. The FAA does routine checks of their Designated Pilot Examiners to ensure they are administering check-rides correctly. The FAA also does follow-up surveys with pilot applicants for quality control purposes.
The Alaskan Region of the FAA recently discovered a problem during the follow-up surveys. After further examination, the FAA determined that an examiner in the Talkeetna area was not performing complete check-rides for approximately four years. Specifically, some applicants were not asked to demonstrate an FAA-approved precision instrument approach, a requirement for Instrument or Instrument Flight Instructor check-rides. As a result, the FAA has revoked this examiner’s Designated Pilot Examiner credentials and now must ensure that pilots certificated after check-rides with the examiner meet the minimum qualifications outlined for Instrument Privileges.
The Manager of Anchorage Flight Standards reached out to the Alaska Airmen’s Association and others in Industry when the issue came to light. In the subsequent months, there were several updates from the FAA as they continued their investigation. To the FAA’s credit, they were responsive to feedback and concerns from the Alaska Airmen’s Association. The FAA reduced the extent of the reexaminations to 137 pilots, and the scope is limited to the precision approach component. Some pilots originally included are now exempt because they have completed other check-rides with different examiners that required them to demonstrate the skipped element (Airline Transport Pilot as an example).
The FAA issued a Public Notice on December 15th, 2022 outlining the issue. The Alaska Airmen’s Association feels that the notice was premature, providing few answers and leaving the public asking more questions. None of the 137 pilots affected had been notified at the time of the FAA’s notice that they were affected. https://www.faasafety.gov/spans/noticeView.aspx?nid=12757
The public notice requires airmen to contact the FAA within ten business days of receiving a reexamination letter. The notice also states that reexamination “should normally take place” within 15 days of receiving the letter. If the airman “cannot meet the 15-day deadline, the airman must temporarily deposit their airman certificate at the FSDO for a maximum of 30 days.” There are no instructions for how to proceed if the 30-day window cannot be met.
Moving forward, the Alaska Airmen’s Association will explore ways to help the FAA revise its national policy to be more flexible and less burdensome on the pilots who have done nothing wrong and have acted in good faith. The policy should allow the FAA to choose a measured response that meets the scope and scale of the issue rather than a blanket action. Additionally, the affected pilots should be given reasonable steps for correction in a fair amount of time. The FAA Alaskan Region has done its best to allow for flexibility within the constraints of the existing policy. However, that policy is overly restrictive and limits their ability to do so. While the FAA must ensure pilots meet the minimum standards, the current policy comes across as heavy-handed and draconian.
The Alaska Airmen’s Association is Taking Action
The Association is supporting the affected pilots by answering questions and directing individuals to the proper contacts within the FAA. The Association has collaborated with the University of Alaska Anchorage to fund 50 hours of instructor and simulator sessions at their Merrill Field Campus that will be available to affected pilots at no charge. Refer to www.alaskaairmen.org/support for details on this program. The Alaska Airmen’s Association is asking the aviation community to help us in this effort to offset the costs of reexamination to the affected pilots. If you wish to make a tax-deductible donation to support the affected pilots or are one of the affected pilots, please check www.alaskaairmen.org for more details.
For more information, read the full FAA notice:https://www.faasafety.gov/files/notices/2022/Dec/N8900.647_Donald_R._Lee.pdf