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Sun, Mar 17, 2024

FAA Publishes 2023 Testing Trends

High Demand for DPEs to Continue Into Forseeable Future

The FAA's 2023 stats regarding the pass rate of knowledge and practical tests have been published, granting a nice little window into the state of the industry at the ground level.

Takeaways this year: The industry is smaller than one would expect, with less than 807,000 pilots of all stripes. Flight instructors come in at a fraction of that, with 131,577 of them active. Instrument-rated pilots only amount to 332,313 instrument ratings in total, just a little bit less than the total number of remote pilots in the country. Overall, the demographics of the nationwide pilot base have trended younger in recent years, with an average age of 42.8. A decade ago, that sat a full two years higher, at 44.8.

In the 2023 calendar year, there were 206,680 total pilot certificates and additional ratings issued, with 22,265 of them going to CFI's and 64,507 to remote pilots. Non-pilots, like mechanics, controllers, repairman, riggers, engineers saw the issuance of 22,783 certificates, the bulk of which were given to mechanics at 14,451. (Flight engineers were rarest of all, with only 16 certificates issued. Even they outnumbered the smallest group of licenses shipped out, the recreational pilots, of which only 6 were minted in 2023.)

Pass rates have been interesting to see, too. Overall, 2023 saw a general pass rate of all pilot certificates of 79.2% when performed by a DPE, which sits a good deal lower than the pass rate for those checked out by an Inspector at 90.5%. That trend seems to continue across the board, with DPE approval rates lagging Inspector rates by about 10% to 12%. Flight instructors didn't come out without their black eye, either - only 76.6% managed to pass the first time.

Jason Blair dug into the numbers further, showing some of the trends year to year - his tracking shows that things aren't all that bad, since totals across the board have increased year over year. "We can see that in 2021 examiners were issuing 13891 disapprovals overall, and in 2023 that had increased to 22860. That means that examiners had to conduct at least 9869 additional tests to make up for the disapproval rate. The private pilot disapproval numbers that needed retests increased 46.78% from 2022 to 2023 alone! Ok, this is where I need to be clear also. This is not to indicate that the failure rate went up 46.78%, it is the number of disapprovals that were issued. The failure rate went up 3.5% from 2021 to 2023. This is probably leaving you asking, well then why did the total disapproval numbers go up that much? The answer is that the overall private pilot certification rate went up significantly also. In 2023 we issued 31950 original issuance private pilot certificates, and in 2022 we issued 24405. That is an increase of overall certification of 7545 more private pilots in 2023 compared with 2022; an increase of 30.9%. This is why I say that the numbers don’t directly correlate. We have a moving total certification number but at the same time a dropping pass rate. The two integrate somewhere in the mix. In either case, one might surmise that pushing through more certifications does not necessarily result in an increase in quality. Many DPEs I have talked with anecdotally were indicating that they thought here was at least some dropoff in quality, these numbers seem to in part back up that feeling."

Of additional note is his "DPE Pressure Ratio, which shows that DPEs now have to complete more than twice what they did in years past in order to work through the total number of student pilots looking for certification. In 2012, all 944 DPEs on the books had a leisurely average of 65 tests per year to complete the mountain of checkrides across the land. In 2023, that corps increased a scant amount to 969 DPEs in all, while the checkrides to complete more than doubled. The result? DPEs today have to complete an average of 145 rides just to keep up with the backlog of students looking to attain a license.

FMI: www.jasonblair.net

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