McMinnville, Oregon, August 29, 2016 – Beyond a chain link fence, tucked behind a hanger full of gleaming Cessnas, is a small outbuilding with a German Shepard sleeping on the front porch. Jerry Trimble Helicopters, located directly across from the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville Oregon, is one of the first FAA testing centers to offer the 14 CFR Part 107 Remote Pilot Exam in Oregon. I arrived at 9:45am and, after stepping over a dog and two baby kittens, was surprised to find that I was the first person in that day to take the Unmanned Aircraft – General (UAG) test. The staff was friendly and as I waited to complete my paperwork we discussed my reasons for taking the test; to support commercial UAS use at Oregon State University.
The FAA announced the Part 107 rules in June of this year and I signed up immediately. Study material was sparse at first. What should I study? Am I really going to need to know everything in the 726-page Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM) just to fly my drone commercially? Did I just spend $150 on a test I wasn’t going to be able to pass?
Luckily study material became available about a month before the test and I got to work. I learned to properly read the FAA’s Sectional charts, decode meteorological reports (METARS), and use an aviation radio to listen in on ATC communications. Even with all of my studying I walked in to Jerry Trimble’s Helicopters nervous that I wasn’t prepared.
After finishing the initial paperwork, I was led to a small room in the back of the building that contained a few computers loaded with the Computer Assisted Testing Service (CATS) program. The test consisted of 60 questions chosen randomly from a larger pool. I was given 2 hours to complete the test and after a few more signatures and instruction, I began. The actual test went quickly and I completed it in just under a half hour.
I will include links to the study material I used at the bottom of this article. When testing I wasn’t hit with any “curveballs” or questions I didn’t expect, but I was surprised at the test subjects. In my case, the majority of the questions centered on reading sectionals and understanding airspace. Many of the questions presented a situation where, as the Pilot in Command (PIC), you would be expected to make decisions about safety and legality. Additionally, I encountered questions regarding aircraft performance, weather and environmental factors, and crew resource management (CRM). After finishing the system gave me my score; I missed 9 out of the 60 questions but I passed.
As someone who’s self-taught I’m very happy with that score. I was able to review the questions I missed and I now know what I need to study up on. I would encourage anyone who plans on testing to spend as much time as you can familiarizing yourself with the FAA’s Sectional Aeronautical Charts. The test covered almost everything you are likely to find when using the charts to evaluate your airspace. The goal of the Part 107 rule is to help Remote Pilots safely integrate their operations into the National Airspace System (NAS) and I believe this test will ensure just that.
I’m now waiting the 24-48 hours required for my test information to arrive to the FAA at which point I’ll apply for my certificate. This will most likely be the step that involves TSA vetting, a requirement that the FAA has been largely silent on. If all goes well I’m hoping to be one of the first FAA certified Remote Pilots in Oregon, and maybe in the United States. I’m hoping to use my knowledge to prepare others at the University for certification so we can continue to grow a community at Oregon State focused on the safe and legal use of drones.
Please visit this page if you are interested in taking the Part 107 Knowledge Test: CATS
You will find study material along with practice questions and a link to sign up. Good luck!