Changes to written testing coming April 24 and PHAK addendum published

FAA logoIn a recent Community Advisory, FAA Airman Testing described how it has been working with its testing vendor, PSI Services, to scientifically assess the FAA Airman Knowledge Tests. The assessments of the Private Pilot Airplane and Commercial Pilot Airplane Knowledge Tests have been completed with the results of those assessments scheduled to be implemented on April 24, 2023. While subject matters will not be modified, changes will be made to existing test questions on those two tests to assure they are aligned with the current Airman Certification Standards and reference an existing FAA handbook. The assessments of the Private and Commercial Airplane tests will also result in a reduction in time to complete the exams.

Beginning Monday, April 24, the Private Pilot Airplane test time will be reduced from 150 minutes to 120 minutes (2 hours), and the Commercial Pilot Airplane test time will be reduced from 180 minutes to 150 minutes (2.5 hours).

Additionally, five unscored validation questions will be added to each test increasing the Private test from 60 to 65 questions and the Commercial from 100 to 105 questions. Unscored questions will not count towards the test score. These questions are included to allow the FAA to evaluate the statistical performance of new questions before they are deployed in the standard bank of test questions.

Curious how your written testing performance stacks up? You can access 2022 cumulative testing statistics at

Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge (PHAK) Addendum C published

Addendum C was recently published for the Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge (PHAK) to address the National Transportation Safety Board Safety Recommendation A-14-109. This recommendation asked the FAA to revise the PHAK to clarify the information it contains on attitude indicator pitch and bank limitations to explain that attitude indicators have pitch and bank indication limits, that the pitch indicating range is required to be at least ± 25°, and that, if an aircraft operates at a pitch that exceeds the indicating limits, the pitch indicator may stop and remain at the limit until the pitch no longer exceeds the limitation, or the pitch indicator may tumble.

Addendum C can be found here.


Video Tip: How to land a tailwheel airplane (wheel landing method)

Most pilots learn to fly and earn their pilot certificate in a tricycle gear airplane, often referred to as a “nosewheel” airplane, like a Cessna 172 or Piper Archer. After spending some time at just about any airport, however, you’ll also see a variety of tailwheel airplanes, which were designed and built decades before the first nosewheel airplane ever flew. While there aren’t many differences when flying tailwheel and nosewheel airplanes in the air, taking off and landing are a different story.

This week’s tip explains how to land a tailwheel airplane by using the “wheel landing” method. To learn more about how to fly tailwheel airplanes, check out Sporty’s Tailwheel Checkout Course with Patty Wagstaff.

What’s in my flight bag?

Every pilot has their preferred carry items – some ranging from simply a sectional chart and a headset to others carrying every piece of aviation technology they could possibly get their hands on. I find it best to travel somewhere in the middle of the two for normal ops. Some things may be considered as extra, but you can never be too prepared. 

First and foremost, the bag that I use is the Flight Outfitters Bush Pilot Flight Bag. Its rugged canvas and leather look might be one of the most appealing flight bags out there and it’s also very durable. I’ve used this bag for about a year with some tough miles and it still looks near brand new. It offers convenient storage spots for your iPad, logbook, pens, and any other accessories you could need in the front two pockets and in the main compartment has a removable divider which splits the large storage area into three separate compartments, perfect for organizing your supplies. The pockets on the side of the bag are perfect for a large backup battery pack on one side and a backup radio on the other. It also has a large water bottle holder that’s capable of stretching to hold almost any size water bottle you could want. 

Next up, I fly with an iPad Pro 10.5. I’ve found this iPad to be the perfect in-between for sizing as it’s not tiny like the iPad Mini, but not oversized like the iPad 12.9. With ForeFlight, I can take quick glances and be able to see the information I need rather than straining to see the small words or symbols on an approach plate, but it doesn’t block out very much of my view when mounted properly. Which brings me to the next piece of gear I use – the Pivot 10X iPad case with a Suction Cup.  

I have found this case to be incredibly rugged. No damage has occurred to my iPad throughout its life, despite the accidental drops in the cockpit or getting hit against walls or the door frame of an airplane while in my bag. One of my favorite features is that the screen cover. When folded, the cover acts as a stand to help support the iPad during use at a table. When placing the iPad in the cockpit, you can simply slide the cover off and slide the case onto the pivot suction cup mount. When ready to move the iPad, it’s incredibly simple to get out of the mount. 

Lost communications can be a serious problem especially in IFR conditions. It’s always a safe bet to carry around a handheld radio, no matter your mission, but there are so many different options available. I personally picked the most simple, easy to use radio that’s on the market today – the PJ2. My thought has always been “what’s the purpose of a backup radio?” Well, to establish communications with ATC or whoever else you need to be talking with as quickly as possible. As a comm only radio, this meets that requirement and nothing more, adding to it’s incredible simplicity. Truthfully, that’s all that a backup radio should be. A big bonus for the PJ2 is the headset jacks which are built into the radio. Rather than rooting around in a flight bag trying to find the headset adapter as you may with many other radios, you can simply plug your headset directly into the radio saving time and frustration. 

Headsets are always a debatable topic, but I use a Lightspeed Zulu 3 and have had absolutely no problems or gripes about this product. Personally, I find the difference in ANR between the Zulu 3 and the Bose is minimal. I find the sound quality for the Zulu a touch better and the weight difference negligible. What sold me for the Zulu 3 is the price point, metallic design (vs. plastic on the other brands), larger ear cups, overall style, and the seven year warranty. This headset has stood up to the rigors of flight training, being used by children, and being jostled around in my flight bag. It still looks nearly brand new!

One of the final flight bag pieces I always carry is a Stratus. The countless bits of information available via ADS-B that a Stratus can provide to you via ForeFlight can be incredibly helpful, both IFR and VFR. Being able to see your GPS location on a chart gives you much better situational awareness leading to safer flying. What’s more, its ability to display traffic with direction and altitude, has helped increase my ability to spot other airplanes in my vicinity and help avoid close calls especially in a busy flight school practice area. With AHRS-equipped Stratus, it adds an additional backup attitude indicator for in case of an emergency. However, one of my favorite features is the ability to gather weather information quickly while in the air. ADS-B will provide not only precipitation information, but also up-to-date ATIS and METAR reports, cloud information, freezing levels, AIRMET and SIGMETs, amongst other invaluable weather information.

Long gone are the days of minimal technology in the cockpit. I’ve found that the modern tech that I’ve tested and use every flight have made my time in the air more comfortable, less stressful, and much safer overall. From the convenience of the Flight Outfitters Bush Pilot bag to the increased situational awareness from a Stratus, life has never been easier as a pilot than it is now. 


FAA issues new SAFO amid multiple runway safety events

cirrus taxiingAmid a number of notable and high visibility runway safety events in the last several months, the FAA has issued a new Safety Alert for Operators (SAFO), Safety Call to Action.

Six serious runway incursions have occurred since January 2023, including an incident at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York involving a taxiing aircraft narrowly avoiding a departing aircraft and a landing aircraft coming within 100 feet of a departing aircraft at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport in Texas.

Senior leaders from the FAA, other government agencies, commercial and general aviation operators, and others attended a Safety Summit on March 15, 2023. Attendees discussed these recent incidents, as well as ways to enhance aviation safety. The Safety Call to Action asks all stakeholders including pilots to review the following items and consider taking additional steps to ensure operations are conducted at the highest level of safety:

Access the SAFO here.

Video tip: How to determine the wind direction for takeoff and landing

When departing or approaching an airport, it’s important that you choose a runway that allows you to take off or land into the wind. This week’s tip looks at some common wind direction indicators found on the ground at many airports, along with how to use the radio to tune into automated weather reporting systems.

The video tip is from Sporty’s 2023 Learn to Fly Course

Lazy Eights: Commercial flight maneuver spotlight

The lazy eight is one of several maneuvers you’ll learn to fly during your training towards the Commercial Pilot certificate. It is designed to develop the proper coordination of the flight controls across a wide range of airspeeds and attitudes and will give you a new appreciation for energy management and precise airplane control.

This clip appears in Sporty’s Commercial Pilot Course, which includes comprehensive knowledge test prep, flight maneuvers guide, oral exam tools and a comprehensive aviation library.