U.S. Flight Training Offers Opportunities For The World By Randy Rowles

I’ve been privileged to fly in different countries around the world. You gain a perspective on the good, bad, and ugly of our aviation system here in the United States. With that said, I haven’t been anywhere outside of the U.S. where opportunity for all citizens to experience aviation is more available than here in the States. You are not excluded from aviation because of your gender, race, ethnicity, religion, or any other differentiating factor. Additionally, many physically challenged persons find themselves successful in aviation as well.

As a long-time FAA pilot examiner, I have conducted many flight examinations for non-U.S. citizens. Additionally, I’ve had the privilege to conduct FAA exams for men and women of all colors, religions. etc. You name it, I’ve conducted an FAA exam for them. The reason none of those discriminators matter is simple. Our industry is based upon the proficiency of the individual to safely and effectively master their flying machine. This simple use of proficiency metrics in aviation is a common-sense process; an inability to perform the tasks required to safely maneuver an aircraft would place lives at risk in the air and on the ground.

As the FAA develops new Airman Certification Standards (ACS) to measure the performance of helicopter pilot applicants, additional tools are being implemented to measure pilot judgment, aeronautical decision-making, and many other tasks. Each task within the ACS is designed to provide clear objective metrics to find either a satisfactory or unsatisfactory outcome.

Randy Rowles has been an FAA pilot examiner for 20 years for all helicopter certificates and ratings. He holds an FAA Gold Seal Flight Instructor Certificate, NAFI Master Flight Instructor designation, and was the 2013 recipient of the HAI Flight Instructor of the Year Award. Rowles is currently the Lead Instructor with, and Director of Training at Epic Helicopters located in Ft. Worth, Texas. He can be reached at

The interesting part of evaluating an objective task is when individual subjectivity is required to determine the outcome. An example would be a pilot’s judgment; a measurable task contained within FAA certification standards. You may find that you disagree with a pilot on their method of landing a helicopter in a confined area. That pilot with whom you are debating this topic may have minimal confined area experience solely gained during primary helicopter training. In contrast, you have extensive experience in confined areas because you are the instructor or examiner. You may agree that all the objective tasks were completed successfully, however you feel subjectively that poor judgment was used by the pilot applicant, thus the task was unsatisfactory.

The process I’ve just laid out happens daily within pilot applicant certification. This is normal and very good for the industry. However, when subjective decisions begin to reflect the individual more than the process, the integrity of the decision is in question!

Simply stated, there is no room for discrimination based upon anything other than individual performance in aviation. Everyone gets the same opportunities to be successful and may suffer the same agony of defeat when they fail. This is the reality of our industry.

The U.S. is an amazing learning platform for aviation. With some states larger than the size of most countries in Europe, the diverse experience gained by training in the U.S. can make you successful anywhere in the world.

The ability to fly in the U.S. is wide open to anyone who desires to train here and follow the legal path of entry. When required, obtaining TSA approval and a student visa are the only methods of receiving flight training in the U.S. as a foreign national.

No matter who you are, the U.S. aviation industry welcomes you! There is one caveat to our welcome offer though. To obtain a U.S. pilot certificate, you must read, write, speak, and understand English. It’s a regulation.

If you have any comments or questions, please let me know at

88 Sept/Oct 2018

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