TIME FLIES! Since the first Part 107 remote pilot certificates were issued back in August 2016, many remote pilots like myself must soon take a recurrent knowledge test. The FAA requires remote pilots to take a recurrent knowledge test every 24 months in order to continue to exercise their remote pilot certificate privileges.
The Initial Knowledge Test vs. the Recurrent Knowledge Test
There are clear differences between the initial knowledge test and the recurrent knowledge test in terms of length and topics covered. However, the format of both tests is the same (multiple-choice questions with one correct answer among three answer choices), and the testing fee associated with both tests is the same at $150.
On the initial knowledge test, “15-25 percent of the questions cover regulations, 15-25 percent cover airspace and requirements, 11-16 percent cover weather, 7-11 percent cover loading and performance, and 35-45 percent cover operations.”
The recurrent knowledge test is much more focused on certain topics from the initial knowledge test (airspace, airport operations), while dropping other topics entirely (weather, loading and performance).
According to the FAA, 30-40 percent of the recurrent knowledge test questions will cover general operations, operating rules, eligibility for remote pilot certification with an sUAS rating, and waivers; 30-40 percent cover airspace classification and airspace operational requirements; and 20-30 percent cover airport operations, emergency procedures, aeronautical decision making, and maintenance and inspection procedures.
For a comparison of the subject areas covered by the initial knowledge test versus the recurrent knowledge test, have a look at the FAA’s Remote Pilot – small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Airman Certificate Standard.
In addition, while the initial knowledge test consists of 60 questions with a two-hour time limit, the recurrent knowledge test consists of 40 questions with a 90-minute time limit.
Five Tips for Recurrent Knowledge Test Takers
While some of the tips from our previous article on the initial knowledge test apply to the recurrent knowledge test, I would like to suggest five tips specifically for the recurrent knowledge test:
- Don’t second-guess yourself. I know this is easier said than done, but the FAA is notorious for including some tricky answer choices, so while it is important to move slowly and make sure you pick the best answer for the question, try not to second-guess yourself. Two of the three questions that I missed on my recurrent knowledge test were due to second-guessing myself.
- Watch for tricky answers. Be sure to read the questions carefully and the answer choices even more carefully. Answer choices with the correct numbers but wrong measurement units (e.g. knots vs. mph, MSL vs. AGL) may be included in order to trick you.
- Know the details. When I took the initial knowledge test in September 2016, there were questions that asked about examples of special use airspace. The recurrent knowledge test is much more specific, and may ask about the kind of activities to be expected in each specific type of special use airspace (with tricky answer choices, of course).
- Be prepared for oddballs. Much like what we discussed in our previous article, you will always get some unexpected questions that may only be relevant to a minority of remote pilots. Remember not to panic if you run into these questions, since you only need 70 percent to pass the test!
- Know your sectional charts and airspace. Even though supposedly only 30-40 percent of the questions are about airspace, according to the FAA, it felt like over 50 percent of the questions on my recurrent knowledge test were about airspace. So, definitely know how to read a sectional chart, and be prepared to decipher the symbols and figures in some of the most complex and congested airspaces in the country.
Overall, I feel that the recurrent knowledge test is a vast improvement from the initial knowledge test, in the sense that there are many more operations and airspace questions that are specific to small unmanned aircraft systems. As more industry professionals and educators operate their sUAS in the national airspace, it is important to ensure that every operator has foundational knowledge in subject areas like airspace, operations, and crew resources management. The recurrent knowledge test is, in my opinion, a good tool to motivate remote pilots to maintain currency in these critical topics.
Work reported in this article are supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant ATE #1700552. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.