Article appeared in the King Schools Catalog April 2021 by John & Martha King
Dear Fellow Pilot,
As a pilot you will be interested to know that King Schools played an early role in the development of the Airman
Certification Standards (ACS) and scenario-based training and testing.
The beginning of King Schools was a wonderful era in Martha’s and my lives. We flew our own airplane to a circuit
of cities around the Midwest and West to teach the courses. We returned to most cities every other month, where we
would have the pleasure of meeting up again with dozens of pilots and spending an aviation weekend with them.
We began to understand the things that were killing pilots were not the things the FAA was asking on the knowledge tests.
The FAA wanted a bell-shaped distribution of knowledge test scores. Our highly motivated students
would come back to our classes (and the parties) and discuss with us what they had been asked on
their knowledge tests. We would immediately change our courses to do a better job of covering
anything they had missed. Consequently, our next students would not miss many questions. To get
applicants to miss questions, the FAA had to make the questions trickier and more difficult—and less
and less relevant to the risk management issues that pilots face in real life.
Martha and I began to realize that we were spending our weekends covering tricky questions and
trivia that was irrelevant to actual flight, while the things actually causing fatalities were not being
asked and therefore not being taught.
The performance questions required double interpolations when better risk management would
suggest just choosing more conservative numbers. ADF questions would ask reverse questions—even
on the private test.
Eventually the Society of Aviation and Flight Educators (SAFE) held a national meeting in Atlanta.
During the meeting, multiple speakers (including us) publicly lamented the poor quality of the FAA
test questions and the adversarial relationship with airman testing. Consequently, in 2011 an Aviation
Rule-Making Committee (ARC) consisting of both FAA and aviation community was formed to work
on improving the knowledge tests and the Practical Test Standards (PTS). And that’s how the much improved
and more practical Airman Certification Standards became the new standards for testing.