Are you interested in the Part 107 initial or recurrent knowledge test?
In this article we will discuss (1) the Part 107 initial knowledge test, (2) the Part 107 recurrent knowledge test, (3) the differences between both tests, (4) practice Part 107 initial and recurrent knowledge test, (5) actual language from 107.73, and (6) the FAA’s commentary on knowledge tests from the preamble to the Small Unmanned Aircraft Rule.
This article on the initial and recurrent knowledge test is part of an overall set of articles on each of the Part 107 drone regulations. Use these links below for navigation between the regulation pages.
Table of Contents:
- Initial Knowledge Test
- Recurrent Knowledge Test
- Difference Between the Initial and Recurrent Knowledge Test
- Initial Knowledge Practice Test Questions
- Recurrent Knowledge Test Practice Questions
- Actual Language of Section 107.73 initial and recurrent knowledge test.
- FAA’s Commentary from the Small Unmanned Aircraft Rule on Knowledge Test.
Part 107 Initial Knowledge Test
If you want to fly commercial in the United States, you’ll most likely be flying under Part 107 which requires a remote pilot certificate. To obtain for the first time a remote pilot certificate, you’ll need to take and pass a Part 107 initial knowledge test. If you are a current Part 61 certificated manned pilot, you have an option of going another method. See my step-by-step instructions page on how to obtain your remote pilot certificate.
The Part 107 initial knowledge test contains 60 questions and you have 120 minutes to take it. The subject areas on the exam are: (1) regulations, (2) airspace, (3) weather, (4) loading and performance, and (5) operations. You’ll need to pass the exam with a score of 70% or higher.
Part 107 Recurrent Knowledge Test
Individuals who have obtained their remote pilot certificates have to maintain their aeronautical knowledge currency by doing 1 of 3 methods. Section 107.65 says, a “person may not operate a small unmanned aircraft system unless that person has completed one of the following, within the previous 24 calendar months:
(a) Passed an initial aeronautical knowledge test covering the areas of knowledge specified in §107.73(a);
(b) Passed a recurrent aeronautical knowledge test covering the areas of knowledge specified in §107.73(b); or
(c) If a person holds a pilot certificate (other than a student pilot certificate) issued under part 61 of this chapter and meets the flight review requirements specified in §61.56, passed either an initial or recurrent training course covering the areas of knowledge specified in §107.74(a) or (b) in a manner acceptable to the Administrator.”
One of the methods is to take the Part 107 recurrent knowledge test. This article is focused specifically on the initial and recurrent knowledge test. I have addressed elsewhere other issues like:
- How to calculate when your aeronautical knowledge expires (with examples)
- Does your remote pilot certificate expire?
- I lost my knowledge test report. How do I figure out when my currency expires?
- How do I check if someone else is current?
The recurrent knowledge test consists of 40 questions. You have 1.5 hours to take the exam. The subject areas consist of regulations, airspace, and operations.
Differences Between the Initial & Recurrent Knowledge Test
The initial has 60 questions while the recurrent knowledge test has 40 questions.
The initial gives you 120 minutes while the recurrent knowledge test is 80 minutes.
Since the number of questions decreased and also the number of subjects tested with the recurrent knowledge test, this might cause confusion as to how to spend your time studying. There are two ways at looking at how you should focus your time: (1) comparing using the airmen certification standards and (2) using the actual subject areas of the regulations.
Comparison Using the Airmen Certification Standards (ACS)
Here is a table I created comparing the initial to the recurrent knowledge test using the ACS.
Please note that while Area I and Area II are being tested completely, in the recurrent knowledge exam, tasks A. Radio Communications Procedures and E. Physiology are not tested so it’s really not ALL of Area V.
Comparison Using the Regulations
Another way of determining how to spend your time studying is looking at what the FAA really wants you to know based upon what the regulations specifically list. Section 107.73 and 107.74 list out specific areas.
Remember that the current manned pilots aircraft pilots have another way of getting current. They can take the online training courses. I took the topics from the initial and recurrent knowledge test and the topics from the initial and recurrent online training course and compared them in a table below.
The FAA is really emphasizing the first 4 subjects. You should know those areas like the back of your hand.
The 5th, 6th, and 7th lines also give you a clue that you MUST know that if you are going for an initial or recurrent knowledge test.
Part 107 Practice Initial Knowledge Exam Quiz
Part 107 Practice Recurrent Knowledge Quiz
Actual Language of Section 107.73 initial and recurrent knowledge test.
(a) An initial aeronautical knowledge test covers the following areas of knowledge:
(1) Applicable regulations relating to small unmanned aircraft system rating privileges, limitations, and flight operation;
(2) Airspace classification, operating requirements, and flight restrictions affecting small unmanned aircraft operation;
(3) Aviation weather sources and effects of weather on small unmanned aircraft performance;
(4) Small unmanned aircraft loading;
(5) Emergency procedures;
(6) Crew resource management;
(7) Radio communication procedures;
(8) Determining the performance of small unmanned aircraft;
(9) Physiological effects of drugs and alcohol;
(10) Aeronautical decision-making and judgment;
(11) Airport operations; and
(12) Maintenance and preflight inspection procedures.
(b) A recurrent aeronautical knowledge test covers the following areas of knowledge:
(1) Applicable regulations relating to small unmanned aircraft system rating privileges, limitations, and flight operation;
(2) Airspace classification and operating requirements and flight restrictions affecting small unmanned aircraft operation;
(3) Emergency procedures;
(4) Crew resource management;
(5) Aeronautical decision-making and judgment;
(6) Airport operations; and
(7) Maintenance and preflight inspection procedures.
FAA’s Discussion on Section 107.73 Initial and recurrent knowledge test from the Final Small Unmanned Aircraft Rule
The FAA notes that weight and balance, weather, and preflight requirements will be tested under § 107.73. The FAA agrees with the commenter that technical topics such as principles of flight, aerodynamics, and electrical theory may enhance the knowledge and technical understanding of the remote pilot. However, these topics are not critical subject areas for safe operation of small UAS. The FAA includes many of these topics in the curriculum of part 61 knowledge testing because they are critical knowledge areas for persons operating an aircraft with passengers over populated areas that may need to respond to an emergency resulting from engine failure, unexpected weather, or onboard fire. Conversely, small UAS operations take place in a contained area in a light-weight aircraft that has no people onboard, so these topics are not applicable to the same extent as they are to a manned-aircraft operation. However, the remote pilot in command should familiarize him or herself with all of the necessary information to be able to fly the unmanned aircraft without causing damage to the aircraft.
The NPRM proposed requiring applicants for a remote pilot airman certificate with a small UAS rating to pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test to demonstrate that they have sufficient aeronautical knowledge to safely operate a small UAS. The FAA adopts the provisions as proposed with three changes. First, as discussed in III.F.2.i below, the FAA exempts part 61 pilot certificate holders from the requirement to complete an initial knowledge test as long as they satisfy the flight review requirements of their part 61 pilot certificate and complete an online training course within the preceding 24 months. Second, as discussed in III.F.2.h below, the FAA will require that pilots with military experience operating unmanned aircraft pass an initial knowledge test in order to obtain a remote pilot certificate with small UAS rating, and pass a recurrent knowledge test every 24 months subsequent in order to continue to exercise the privileges of that certificate.
Many commenters, including National Association of State Aviation Officials, NAAA, ALPA, and NAMIC, supported the FAA’s proposal to require an initial aeronautical knowledge test in order to operate a small UAS. Conversely, several commenters opposed the initial aeronautical knowledge test. Commenters argued that initial testing is “overkill” and the FAA should treat small UAS pilots like part 103 ultralight vehicle pilots and not require airman certification or testing. The commenters further argued that all testing is unnecessary and inappropriate.
The FAA disagrees with the commenters who asked that the knowledge test be abolished. Title 49 U.S.C. 44703 requires the FAA to ensure that an airman certificate applicant is qualified and able to perform the duties related to the position to be authorized by the certificate.
Here, in order to meet its statutory obligation to determine that an applicant for a remote pilot certificate possesses the knowledge necessary to safely operate in the NAS, the FAA is requiring that those persons pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test. Knowledge testing is the most flexible and efficient means for ensuring that a remote pilot possesses the requisite knowledge to operate in the NAS because it allows the applicant to acquire the pertinent knowledge in whatever manner works best for him or her. The applicant can then take and pass the aeronautical knowledge test to verify that he or she has indeed acquired the pertinent areas of knowledge.
NAFI recommended that an applicant should be required to obtain an instructor endorsement to take the initial aeronautical knowledge test. SkyView Strategies suggested that to protect the public from a poorly prepared UAS operator who receives a passing grade but gets important questions wrong, the UAS operator should be required to present to a flight training instructor his or her written test results, noting areas where knowledge is lacking.
The FAA disagrees with the recommendation that an applicant should be required to obtain an instructor endorsement to take the initial aeronautical knowledge test. While an instructor endorsement is generally required for part 61 pilot certificates, the significantly reduced risk associated with small UAS operations conducted under part 107 would make this framework unduly burdensome in this case. Instead, a stand-alone knowledge test is sufficient to verify the qualification of the remote pilot certificate applicant.
Because the aeronautical knowledge test will determine whether an applicant possesses the knowledge needed to safely operate a small UAS, a separate flight instructor endorsement should not be required to take the knowledge test. The FAA also notes that the costs associated with failing and having to retake the knowledge test will provide an incentive to applicants to pick a method of study that maximizes the chance of them passing the aeronautical knowledge test on the first try.
The FAA also does not agree that a certificate applicant should be required to present to a flight instructor his or her knowledge test results for remedial training. The FAA maintains that if a candidate is “poorly prepared,” then that person is unlikely to pass the knowledge test.
The University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture suggested that a more appropriate “aeronautical knowledge exam” needs to be developed with input from UAS users. It further suggested that the FAA should periodically revisit the scope of the aeronautical knowledge test as operational experience data increases. FAA knowledge test banks are continuously updated to address changes to the industry, safety, and special emphasis areas. While the FAA responds to industry and user community feedback, the small UAS knowledge test bank is developed internally within the agency to protect the integrity of test.
g. General Requirement for Recurrent Aeronautical Knowledge Test
The FAA proposed that a certificated remote pilot must also pass a recurrent aeronautical knowledge test every 24 months. Like the flight review requirement specified in § 61.56, the recurrent knowledge test provides the opportunity for a remote pilot’s aeronautical knowledge to be reevaluated on a periodic basis. The FAA adopts this provision as proposed, with one change. As discussed in III.F.2.i, the FAA exempts part 61 pilot certificate holders from the requirement to complete recurrent knowledge tests as long as they satisfy the flight review requirements of § 61.56 and complete an online training course every 24 months .
ALPA, AOPA, AUVSI and several other commenters supported the requirement for a recurrent knowledge test. Conversely, Colorado Cattlemen’s Association and a few individual commenters argued that a recurrent knowledge test is unnecessary. The Colorado Cattlemen’s Association explained that small UAS operations present a substantially reduced risk as compared to manned-aircraft operations. Therefore, the commenter argued, it is appropriate to impose different, and in some instances lesser, operational requirements.
The FAA disagrees with the notion that no periodic reevaluation of knowledge is necessary. Knowledge of rules, regulations, and operating principles erodes over time, particularly if the remote pilot is not required to recall such information on a frequent basis. This is a fundamental principle of airman certification, and it applies to all FAA- certificated airmen. For part 61 pilot certificate holders, the flight review, conducted under § 61.56, specifically requires “[a] review of the current general operating and flight rules of part 91” in addition to maneuvers necessary to safely exercise the privileges of the certificate. Likewise, the FAA considers a recurrent knowledge test to be an effective means of evaluating a remote pilot’s retention of knowledge necessary to safely operate small unmanned aircraft in the NAS. Because of the reduced risk posed by small UAS, the FAA is not requiring remote pilots to demonstrate a minimum level of flight proficiency to a specific standard or recency of flight experience in order to exercise the privileges of their airman certificate.
Drone Labs suggested extending the time period between recurrent tests to 5 years, and/or making the test available online to ease recertification. Kansas Farm Bureau recommended a 6-year interval between recurrent tests, similar to the interval for renewal of a driver’s license.
The FAA does not agree that the recurrent testing interval should be longer than two years. Unlike the privileges afforded by a driver’s license, which are exercised on a frequent basis by most drivers, many holders of remote pilot certificates may only exercise their privileges occasionally or may not regularly conduct operations that apply all of the concepts tested on the aeronautical knowledge test. For example, a remote pilot in command may spend years never operating outside of Class G airspace, and then may move to a different location that requires him or her to begin conducting small UAS operations in Class D airspace. Based on experience with manned pilots, those persons who exercise the privileges of their certificate on an infrequent basis are likely to retain the knowledge for a shorter period of time than those who exercise the privileges of their certificate on a regular basis.
Further, as unmanned aircraft operations increase in the NAS, the FAA anticipates the possibility of further changes to rules and regulations. By requiring evaluation on a two-year cycle, the FAA is able to ensure that remote pilots are aware of the most recent changes to regulations affecting their operations.
The FAA acknowledges, however, the burden associated with in-person testing every two years. As such, the FAA intends to look at (in the Operations of Small Unmanned Aircraft Over People rule) alternative methods to further reduce this burden without sacrificing the safety benefits afforded by a two-year recurrent knowledge check.