PSI is Quietly Killing Your Local Test Center

A recent letter to all PSI testing centers announced a drastic reduction in the amount paid to private FAA Testing Centers from $65 per test to only $22 per test (and potentially less if the candidate does not use the full allotted time). Our local testing center has already decided it cannot afford to stay open with this rate change. (And this test center provided income that helped support a local flying club). With this new lopsided PSI contract, only larger academies will be able to afford to maintain an FAA testing center; the others will wither away.

The FAA awarded PSI monopoly control of all FAA knowledge testing in June 2018.  Their new contract with independent testing centers at local airports, effective Jan. 1, 2023, will essentially kill many of these approximately 800 local testing centers. There are huge costs to local businesses providing PSI tests: a quiet, dedicated room for testing, four computers (one required for monitoring), security systems (required), and live proctors present to qualify and monitor pilot applicants.  There are also the associated business expenses of rent, insurance, heat, etc. In this contract, PSI only supplies the electronic test. By paying themselves $45 more dollars on 207,000 tests (2022) PSI is giving themselves quite a raise!

The current FAA testing revenue partially supports our local aviation infrastructure at small airports across America. These facilities not only provide testing, they also provide local flight training and a place for pilots to gather and socialize. Applicants for an FAA Knowledge Test will have to drive hours to test, while local clubs and schools will be scrambling for lost income. This avoidable “ wreck scenario” guts the local GA community. I encourage every reader of this blog to write immediately to the ACTS email “AirmanKnowledgeTesting[a]faa.gov” and object to this change. Join the list below to provide the strength of numbers.

I wrote to the FAA address pointing out all of the above issues, and signed onto the AOPA appeal (on behalf of all the “alphabets”). The FAA response to SAFE,  basically said “we assigned a contractual monopoly to PSI with no control of how they should carry out their mission.” It seems the only specification was not raising the price to the testing candidate: very bad contract!

How the testing vendor decides to compensate testing centers, proctors, call center personnel, software engineers, administrative personnel, test content staff, or any other key position associated with carrying out the requirements in the SOW is at the complete discretion of the testing vendor and outside the scope of the FAA’s authority. FAA Reply

I’m not a lawyer, but assigning a monopoly contract with no protections for the end-user pilots seems like a pretty poor arrangement. GA will again suffer, just when the industry is finally experiencing a steady growth cycle. Get your local testing location on board by having them write the above address and also please join the list below. There is strength in numbers and we need to win this fight.


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Author: David St. George

SAFE Director, Master CFI (12X), FAA DPE, ATP (ME/SE) Currently jet charter captain.

9 thoughts on “PSI is Quietly Killing Your Local Test Center”

  1. Personally I absolutely hate this transition that has been made in our aviation community from the way it used to be run into what it is today, a financially based system with everybody acting independently with their collective hands in the pockets of anyone seeking to become licenced.
    Good God………I went through writtens by showing up at our local FAA office to take the test. They just stuck me in a room and gave me the test papers. When I was finished I said thank you, turned it in and went home. Flight tests the same thing. It’s a disgrace what is happening today. What was given either free or for a small fee before now represents a major expense.
    No wonder people think twice today about learning to fly !
    Hundreds of dollars to take a flight test? Give me a break !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Agree with Dudley. $800 for a check ride, $3-400 for retake, and PSI fee here over $100. Plus the DPEs are booked out to 2-3 months. Frustrating.

    1. I did the “deflationary index” from my pilot cert. in 1970 ($1999 with Piper “Blue Skies” program). That would be $15K in today’s dollars (pretty close to what it costs). I do think the quality of instruction was much better back then. I was lucky to have an old Navy pilot as my CFI. I took the knowledge test with pencil and paper at FSDO and waited weeks for the results (some things better, some worse). The internet can provide amazing learning opportunities (if curated carefully).

      I personally think the major problem with modern aviation is the increasing number of inexperienced CFIs doing all the teaching (often with no senior CFI supervision). Only 8% of CFIs are actively teaching and 2/3rds “active” CFIs (continuously) teach for less than a year (it is a churn and no CFI-Pros). I may be slow, but as a CFI I think it took me two years full time to really get good as an educator. Teaching aviation well is a complex challenge! I was lucky to have an excellent (tough) mentor.

  3. This isn’t the solution we would want to see, but can the testing location make a separate charge for their time and expenses? In some cases that may be better than closing the doors.

    1. I wish that were possible. The FAA is pretty rigid on the fixed fee to the applicant. Maybe a “Tip Jar?”

  4. The FAA knowledge testing system has been flawed for a long time but to allow PSI to basically dictated the contract terms (PSI was the only company that bid) is and was wrong. PSI is using its contract to restrain trade.

  5. Moving forward, we are only open one day a week. I can’t afford to hire proctors anymore. This is a slap in the face to all 3rd party vendors and flight schools in the aviation community. I wrote to my congress members, and I haven’t heard anything. Please wait till the 1st of August; they are taking over the DME portion of the exam and charging more on top of the fee. So who knows how much that will be… It’s to track all the money.

  6. In 1984 a federal judge, decided that AT&T was a monopoly and commenced to break up one of the largest companies in the U.S. I don’t see the difference here. If PSI is not a monopoly, I don’t know what is.

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