airman certificate

Big changes coming to FAA airman certificate test process for all pilots (including drone pilots)

Big changes are coming to the Federal Aviation Administration’s process for testing pilots who want their airman certificate, beginning next month.

The changes, which kick in on Jan. 13, 2020, apply to all certificated pilots, whether drone pilots, manned aircraft pilots, and people applying for mechanic, parachute rigger and dispatcher certifications. 

Beginning Jan. 13, all applicants for an FAA pilot’s license need to obtain a FAA Tracking Number (FTN). You can do this by creating an Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application (IACRA) profile prior to registering for your written knowledge test.

Why is the FAA requiring tracking numbers?

The FTNs are designed to cut down on errors associated with the test applicant’s name. “The FTN allows the applicant and any certifying officer the ability to pull up airman information in a consistent format, leaving little room for errors associated with an applicant’s name,” according to a statement from the FAA. “Previously, name inconsistencies could lead to returned files and lengthy delays in the certification process.”

Currently, applicants taking a knowledge test who submit ID where the name differs from the one provided on the paper application means a returned file, as well as delays in the certification process.

Additionally, the FAA said the changes come simply because so many more people are seeking FAA certificates.

“The increasing numbers of airmen pursuing FAA certification from all over the world creates a need to make standardization enhancements to the knowledge test portion of the certification process enabling the FAA to better track an airman consistently through their entire certification process and collect better data to support risk-based decision-making,” the FAA said.

The changes are unrelated to other big changes coming to the drone industry in relation to the FAA’s testing of drone pilots. The FAA last year announced that hobby operators would have to pass an online aeronautical knowledge and safety test and carry proof that they have passed the test with them while operating a drone (commercial pilots already have to pass a test). More details on that are expected to come out next year.

The FAA today hosted the first in a series of webinars to explain the new system. Registration is on a first-come, first-serve basis via GoToWebinar.

The next round of webinars will be held:

For more information about the new testing system, either visit Airman Certificate Testing Service (ACTS) or email

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