Airman Certification Standards


  • The Airman Certification Standards (ACS) are the criteria by which aeronautical performance is measured in the pursuance of a certification or rating
    • Printed copies can also be found at your local FBO, the FAA's website or ordered online at stores such as
  • Originally called the Pilot Testing Standards (PTS), the FAA transitioned to ACS beginning on June 15 2016
  • Must be reviewed when pursuing a rating as it explains everything you could ever want to know about your check-ride expectations
  • Always reference the most current publication of the Airman Certification Standards
  • Testing statistics and trends can be found at:

Airman Certification Standards Purpose:

  • Amazon, Airman Certification Standards
  • Standardizes the conduct and performance of FAA inspectors and Designated Examiners
  • Standards are not minimums

General Information:

  • The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) publishes the Airman Certification Standards (ACS) document to communicate the aeronautical knowledge, risk management, and flight proficiency standards
    • The FAA views the ACS as the foundation of its transition to a more integrated and systematic approach to airman certification
  • The ACS is part of the safety management system (SMS) framework that the FAA uses to mitigate risks associated with airman certification training and testing
  • The ACS, associated guidance, and test question components of the airman certification system are constructed around the four functional components of an SMS:
    • Safety Policy that defines and describes aeronautical knowledge, flight proficiency, and risk management as integrated components of the airman certification system;
    • Safety Risk Management processes through which both internal and external stakeholders identify changes in regulations, safety recommendations, or other factors. These changes are then evaluated to determine whether they require modification of airman testing and training materials;
    • Safety Assurance processes to ensure the prompt and appropriate incorporation of changes arising from new regulations and safety recommendations; and
    • Safety Promotion in the form of ongoing engagement with both external stakeholders (e.g., the aviation training industry) and FAA policy divisions
  • The FAA developed ACS' and its associated guidance in collaboration with a diverse group of aviation training experts
    • The goal is to drive a systematic approach to all components of the airman certification system, including knowledge test question development and conduct of the practical test

Airman Certification Standards Concept:

  • The goal of the airman certification process is to ensure the applicant possesses the knowledge, ability to manage risks, and skill consistent with the privileges of the certificate or rating being exercised, in order to act as Pilot-incommand (PIC)
  • In fulfilling its responsibilities for the airman certification process, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Flight Standards Service (AFS) plans, develops, and maintains materials related to airman certification training and testing, including:
    • The FAA knowledge test measures mastery of the aeronautical knowledge areas listed in Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) part 61
    • Other materials, such as handbooks in the FAA-H-8083 series, provide guidance to applicants on aeronautical knowledge, risk management, and flight proficiency
  • Safe operations in today's National Airspace System (NAS) require integration of aeronautical knowledge, risk management, and flight proficiency standards
    • To accomplish these goals, the FAA drew upon the expertise of organizations and individuals across the aviation and training community to develop the Airman Certification Standards (ACS)
  • The ACS integrates the elements of knowledge, risk management, and skill listed in 14 CFR part 61 for each airman certificate or rating
    • It thus forms a more comprehensive standard for what an applicant must know, consider, and do for the safe conduct and successful completion of each Task to be tested on both the qualifying FAA knowledge test and the oral and flight portions of the practical test
  • During the ground and flight portion of the practical test, the FAA expects evaluators to assess the applicant's mastery of the topic in accordance with the level of learning most appropriate for the specified Task
  • The oral questioning will continue throughout the entire practical test
    • For some topics, the evaluator will ask the applicant to describe or explain
    • For other items, the evaluator will assess the applicant's understanding by providing a scenario that requires the applicant to appropriately apply and/or correlate knowledge, experience, and information to the circumstances of the given scenario
  • The flight portion of the practical test requires the applicant to demonstrate knowledge, risk management, flight proficiency, and operational skill in accordance with the ACS
    • Note: As used in the ACS, an evaluator is any person authorized to conduct airman testing (e.g., an FAA Aviation Safety Inspector (ASI), Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE), or other individual authorized to conduct test for a certificate or rating)

How to Use/Read the ACS:

  • The ACS consists of Areas of Operation arranged in a logical sequence, beginning with Preflight Preparation and ending with Postflight Procedures
  • Each Area of Operation includes Tasks appropriate to that Area of Operation
  • Each Task begins with an Objective stating what the applicant should know, consider, and/or do
  • The ACS then lists the aeronautical knowledge, risk management, and skill elements relevant to the specific Task, along with the conditions and standards for acceptable performance
  • The ACS uses Notes to emphasize special considerations
  • The ACS uses the terms "will" and "must" to convey directive (mandatory) information
  • The term "may" denotes items that are recommended but not required
  • The References for each Task indicate the source material for Task elements
    • For example, in Tasks such as "Weather products required for preflight planning, current and forecast weather for departure, en route, and arrival phases of flight." (PA.I.C.K2), the applicant should be prepared for questions on any weather product presented in the references for that Task
  • The abbreviation(s) within parentheses immediately following a Task refer to the category and/or class airplane appropriate to that Task:
    • ASEL: Airplane - Single-Engine Land
    • ASES: Airplane - Single-Engine Sea
    • AMEL: Airplane - Multiengine Land
    • AMES: Airplane - Multiengine Sea
    • Helicopter
    • Gyro-plane
    • Airship
    • Free Balloon
    • Powered Parachute Land
    • Powered Parachute Sea
    • Weight-Shift Control Land
    • Weight-Shift Control Sea
  • Note: When administering a test, the Tasks appropriate to the class used for the test must be included in the plan of action
    • The absence of a class indicates the Task is for all classes
  • Each Task in the ACS is coded according to a scheme that includes four elements:
    • PA.XI.A.K1:
      • PA = Applicable ACS (Private Pilot ‒ Airplane)
      • XI = Area of Operation (Night Operations)
      • A = Task (Night Preparation)
      • K1 = Task element Knowledge 1 (Physiological aspects of vision related to night flying.)
  • Knowledge test questions correspond to the ACS codes, which will ultimately replace the system of Learning Statement Codes (LSC)
  • After this transition occurs, the Airman Knowledge Test Report (AKTR) will list an ACS code that correlates to a specific Task element for a given Area of Operation and Task
  • Remedial instruction and re-testing will be specific, targeted, and based on specified learning criteria
  • Similarly, a Notice of Disapproval for the practical test will use the ACS codes to identify the deficient Task elements
  • Applicants and evaluators should interpret the AKTR codes using the ACS revision in effect on the date of the knowledge test
  • Applicants for a combined certification and rating must pass all areas designated in both Airman Certification Standards
    • Evaluators need not duplicate Tasks
  • A combined certificate and rating evaluation should be treated as one practical test, requiring only one application and resulting in only one temporary certificate, disapproval notice, or letter of discontinuance, as applicable
  • Failure of any Task will result in a failure of the entire test and application
    • Therefore, even if the deficient maneuver was related to a rating and the performance of all certification tests were satisfactory, the applicant will receive a notice of disapproval
  • The applicant must pass the Knowledge Test before taking the practical test
  • The practical test is conducted in accordance with the ACS and FAA regulations that are current as of the date of the test
    • Further, the applicant must pass the ground portion of the practical test before beginning the flight portion
  • The ground portion of the practical test allows the evaluator to determine whether the applicant is sufficiently prepared to advance to the flight portion of the practical test
    • The oral questioning will continue throughout the entire practical test
  • Evaluators conduct the practical test in accordance with the current ACS and FAA regulations, and the FAA encourages applicants and instructors to use the ACS when preparing for knowledge tests and practical tests
  • The FAA will revise the ACS as circumstances require
    • However, if an applicant is entitled to credit for Areas of Operation previously passed as indicated on a Notice of Disapproval or Letter of Discontinuance, evaluators should continue using the ACS effective on the test cycle start date

Additional Rating Task Table:

  • Additional Rating Task Table
    Additional Rating Task Table
  • When adding a rating onto an already existing certificate, it may not be required to perform all of the tasks associated with the new rating
    • For example, if adding a glider rating onto an existing private pilot certificate, tasks such as "Certificates and Documents" will not change whereas "Takeoffs, Landings, and Go-Arounds" will
  • At first glance the table [Figure 1] can seem quite intimidating or confusing but it is actually very straight forward once familiar with how to read it
  • To determine tasks required, open to the Additional Rating Task Table found toward the front of the Airman Certification Standards (see table of contents)
    • On the left column you will see the "Areas of Operation" while on the top row you see the "Ratings Held"
    • Acronyms are spelled out either below the chart or in the abbreviations section toward the front of the ACS
  • Find the rating you already and go down that column
  • For each Area of Operation, Tasks required will be listed
    • This can range from ALL, to a few (maybe just B, and C)
  • Now that we have a list of Tasks required we can continue on into the ACS to read the Objective and sub-steps associated with each Task
  • Always be sure you are referencing the most current standards as they do change!

Saftey of Flight:

  • Safety of flight must be the prime consideration at all times
  • The evaluator, applicant, and crew must be constantly alert for other traffic
  • If performing aspects of a given maneuver, such as emergency procedures, would jeopardize safety, the evaluator will ask the applicant to simulate that portion of the maneuver
  • The evaluator will assess the applicant's use of visual scanning and collision avoidance procedures throughout the entire test
  • Among these are:
    1. Stall/spin awareness,
    2. Checklist usage,
    3. Distractions,
    4. Positive exchange of the flight controls procedure,
    5. Aeronautical Decision-Making (ADM), Crew Resource Management, and Single-Pilot Resource Management
  • A given special emphasis area may not be specifically addressed under a given Task
    • Additional specifics can be found under the risk management section for each task
  • All areas are essential to flight and will be evaluated during the practice test


  • Note that temporary flight certificates are only valid for 120 days
    • An extension may be granted through the FAA if your pilot certificate has not yet arrived by 120 days
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