The change from Practical Test Standards (PTS) to the Airmen Certification Standards (ACS) is happening this June. The first ratings to change over to the new ACS are the Private – Airplane and Instrument – Airplane. Guidance is posted on the FAA.gov web site and I’m not going to go into the codes or format but I do want to bring up a few points. The ACS does not change the standards for the evaluation but each Area of Operation task now has three specific sections; Knowledge, Risk Management, and Skills. The PTS has always had a “skills” section but the knowledge and Risk Management area were perhaps somewhat vague to many applicants and CFIs. Knowledge pertains to the knowledge requirements of §61 for your respective rating (e.g. §61.105 for the Private Pilot) and these areas are examined both on the knowledge test (“written test”) and on the oral portion of the practical test (your “check ride”). The future “written” tests will link a code specifically to a subtask on the knowledge section making it much clearer as to which areas were missed on the written (and making it easier for the examiner to recheck these areas!).
The ACS has brought new and needed attention to Risk Management. The risk management section of the ACS contains much information that was in the “special emphasis” section of the PTS. The special emphasis area on page 7 of the Private Pilot PTS (FAA-S-8081-14B) was sometimes overlooked by both CFIs and students. Also overlooked was the Single Pilot Resource Management (SRM) section of the old PTS especially as it pertains to Aeronautical Decision Making (ADM). ADM includes tools such as the PAVE model, the 3Ps – Perceive, Process, Perform, and DECIDE. I’M SAFE is another risk management tool. Now risk management is right out front and center on each task in the ACS. The FAA has many great handbooks that are available free on the faa.gov web site. These handbooks serve as the references for just about everything contained in the ACS (or old PTS for that matter). One handbook that may have been overlooked in your training is the Risk Management Handbook (FAA-H-8083-2 with change 1). This handbook is a primary resource for the new ACS risk management section.