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2018 Airman Testing Updates

News > 2018 Airman Testing Updates

The FAA makes various changes and updates to knowledge tests several times a year. The Airman Certification Standards (ACS) documents typically are updated once a year, and reference materials are updated as needed. Gleim has you covered, so you won’t have any surprises if you are instructing students or planning to take an FAA exam yourself.

Sport, Recreational, Remote, and Private Pilot

Several new airman testing supplements will be released over the summer, beginning on June 11. Supplements are the booklets containing all the figures and images associated with the knowledge tests. The Sport, Recreational, Remote, and Private Pilot knowledge test supplement changes will not be significant, but a few minor changes are notable.

A few figures will be deleted because the FAA previously removed questions referring to them. These include figures covering area forecasts and ADFs. The low-level significant weather prognostic chart is now a two-panel chart instead of the old four-panel version. Gleim has developed new questions associated with the new figure.

A small change will be made to a figure displaying a TAF. Previously, the date and time in the FM groupings were incorrect, as they did not include the two-digit date. This will be corrected in the new supplement. It is important to note that this figure includes the code BECMG, which indicates a slow change in weather. This code is only used at military facilities and will not be seen at civilian-only airports, but since it is included in the supplement, it is testable material and applicants should be familiar with its meaning.

Although the FAA has not yet released a date for the ICAO flight plan changeover, the old domestic flight plan form will be replaced in the supplement with the new ICAO flight plan form. Test questions will be similar to questions covering the previous form, but adapted for the ICAO form.

The FAA is planning to add questions regarding the new BasicMed regulations that became effective on May 1, 2017. BasicMed does not replace the third class medical certificate, so the new questions will be an addition to the current medical questions, not a replacement. We expect questions to cover basic requirements and limitations to fly under BasicMed.


The Commercial Pilot knowledge test will also have a new supplement, but again, the changes will be relatively minor. A new “Appendix 1” will be added, similar to the Private pilot supplement, containing the sectional chart legend as well as chart supplement legends. We expect questions to be added over three new figures containing excerpts of airport information from the chart supplement. Savvy instructors should advise their students that they can refer to the legends during their test to help answer other questions they might see.

Several figures will be deleted, most of which are approach charts. Figure 51, Airport Signs, will be expanded to include many more airport signs. This figure is the same as a figure used in the Private Pilot supplement, and we expect that the questions will be very similar.

Three new weather charts will also be added, including two surface prognostic charts and one low-level significant weather chart. Figures similar to these have been included for other certificates in the past, and questions that will be added to Commercial should test basic understanding and interpretation of the charts.


A new supplement will not be released for Instrument this year, so major changes to the test are not expected, except that the topic of VOR/DME RNAV has been removed. As of now, the Instrument supplement only includes the domestic flight plan. Although the FAA has not yet announced when the ICAO flight plan form will be required for domestic use, we expect it may be added to the test soon. In anticipation of this change, we have added additional information to our material covering the ICAO flight plan.

Flight/Ground Instructor

Minor changes will also be made to the supplement for the Flight and Ground Instructor knowledge tests. Area forecasts will be removed, and a new figure was added of a graphical forecast for aviation (GFA). In addition, the FAA is expected to add questions covering the student pilot certificate rule that took effect on April 1, 2016.


A new supplement for the ATP knowledge test is also scheduled to be released, but not until October 2018. It is unclear at this time what will be changed. However, if it is similar to changes made in other supplements, the update should be relatively minor.

ACS Updates

The FAA is also planning on releasing updates for the Private, Commercial, and Instrument ACS, scheduled for release in the first half of June. The revised ACS were released to the FAA website on May 29, and changes go into effect on June 11. Many of the changes are editorial updates or revisions to align tasks with other operational changes. Some changes clarify existing task elements, a few standards have changed, and the appendices have been updated. A list of the major enhancements to the Private, Instrument, and Commercial Pilot ACS is included in each document on page iv. There are several “global changes” that affect these three ACSs including:

  • Airplane configuration: Where appropriate, the use of “raise the landing gear” and “raise/lower the flaps” has been changed to “configure the airplane as per the manufacturer’s recommendations.”
  • Task elements that are the same in the three ACSs are now aligned.
  • BasicMed is now a knowledge test and practical testing element.
  • Special Air Traffic Rules (SATR) and Special Flight Rules Area (SFRA) are new testing elements; however, for the practical test, these won’t be tested if they do not apply to your area.
  • Runway Lighting Systems has been added to the Communications and Light Signals task.

The Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) and Flight Instructor ACS are still in development. The changeover from the current Practical Test Standards (PTS) format to the ACS for ATP is expected in October 2018, and the changeover for Flight Instructor is expected in June 2019.

Gleim Aviation Updates

The changes described above affect the FAA Knowledge Test prep products. Each year a new Knowledge Test Prep book is released, and work is well underway to print the new editions. Clients using Gleim Online Ground School or Test Prep Online will receive updates automatically. Details about updates will be provided in your online personal classroom as the updates are released.

The ACS updates affect a variety of training resources, primarily the Flight Maneuvers books and the ACS and Oral Exam Guides. Gleim encourages you to sign up for our free updates notification service. To receive updates, visit the product updates webpage, then click on the aviation books you are interested in. You can enter your email address in the field under the books and click “Email Me” to sign up.

Written by Karl Winters, Gleim Aviation Editor and Instructor

About Gleim Aviation

Since 1980, the Gleim Aviation team of pilots, instructors, writers, designers, and programmers has helped aviators pass millions of FAA knowledge and practical tests using the unique Gleim Knowledge Transfer System. Gleim is an environmentally-friendly company headquartered in Gainesville, FL.

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