In a November 18 letter, PSI, the FAA knowledge test contractor, informed third-party providers that a change in fee structure would significantly reduce the current reimbursement rate to third-party test centers by more than 65 percent for most FAA exams, effective January 1.
PSI, a career development company focused on helping entities optimize the way they provide testing, was awarded the FAA Airman Certificate Testing Service contract in 2018 and tasked with supporting the FAA in automating and modernizing all aspects of FAA knowledge tests.
PSI currently has over 750 testing centers in its network that fall under its current fee structure. With this recent announcement, the company plans to expand that fee structure to the hundreds of third-party FAA knowledge test providers, many being small flight schools, and small businesses.
Concerned about the continued burdens to third-party testing centers and the significant impact it could have to FAA knowledge test accessibility, in a December 14 letter to PSI President Janet Garcia, AOPA and others asked for a delay to the fee structure change.
Third-party FAA knowledge test providers administered a significant majority of the 207,000 FAA knowledge tests completed throughout the United States in 2022.AOPA, third-party test providers, and other groups dedicated to aviation education are very concerned that this new fee structure will create substantial financial hardships and will result in the eventual stoppage of service at many of these testing centers. In fact, many third-party testing centers have confirmed with AOPA that they no longer plan to offer testing services as a direct result of this proposed fee structure change.
In the letter to PSI, AOPA and others wrote, “This network of third-party providers has several decades of knowledge, experience, and customer service in proctoring FAA knowledge tests to the 720,000 certificated pilots, 313,000 mechanics, 7,000 parachute riggers, 28,000 flight engineers, 23,000 dispatchers, 254,000 remote pilots, and the countless number who are and will be entering the aviation industry. If a portion of those providers close, significant burdens will be placed on those individuals who no longer have access to one of these third-party test centers.”
The letter notes that the these closures would increase the time required to schedule and travel to the closest test center, as well as the overall time to complete an applicant’s training. In at least one case that AOPA is familiar with, there remains only one testing center in a 300-mile radius.
The letter continues, “In addition to the negative impact to applicants, those testing centers that decide to continue providing tests may not have the resources, infrastructure, and workforce to handle an increase in demand. In a time of significant pilot and mechanic demand, burdens such as these will only create further workforce challenges.”
In addition to working with third-party testing centers to ensure FAA knowledge tests are accessible to the aviation community, AOPA will work with the FAA to review the current PSI agreement.