Are practical skills tests ok or are they too weak?

Bruce Landsberg, the President of the AOPA Air Safety Foundation, makes a case on the AOPA Air Safety eJournal that pilots across the pond should take note of. He argues that the FAA Practical Test Standards (PTS) are still sufficient for today’s flying complexities because in his words “the basics of not crashing airplanes haven’t changed in decades but the legalities have.” He further points out that the current PTS focuses on physical flying skills and its guidance is fairly clear. Thus, if pilots just adhered to the basics, Bruce argues that there would be almost no takeoff and landing accidents (which by the way, account for roughly half of all accidents).

However, Bruce does criticize the “artificial world” of checkrides where a “superficial assessment is made of judgment or decision making” -  a major cause of serious accidents. He also challenges readers to prove the existence of:

A pilot applicant who passed a checkride after a crash, where there wasn’t a mechanical problem, and the applicant was manipulating the controls, a prize is in the offing. Suitable proof and not just hearsay must be presented (That was a loophole slamming shut and there’s probably one I’ve missed).

And he concludes by saying:

If everyone adhered to the basic skill level in the various PTS, we’d have many fewer accidents. Do we need stiffer requirements? I don’t think so. In almost every case the accident pilots weren’t flying to the standards we already have. Are you up to the standard? Could you pass a checkride on your next flight? Might be fun to try.

Bruce’s entry has already drawn a number of interesting comments – including one person who is taking him up on his challenge of finding a pilot who passed a checkride after a crash – specifically a mid-air collision.

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