FAA Proposes Changes to Flight Instructor Certificates

The alterations would make it easier for instructors to maintain proficiency and keep their certificates in line with other airman certificates that do not expire.

The FAA is seeking comments on proposed changes to flight instructor certificates, including the removal of expiration dates, according to a newly released Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM).

The FAA’s May 23 proposal outlined several changes that would make it easier for flight instructors to maintain proficiency while keeping their certificates in line with other airman certificates that do not expire. Among the changes is eliminating the 24-month expiration on flight instructor certificates and instead establishing recent experience requirements with a three-month grace period.

As it stands under FAR 61. 197, the CFI needs to complete a Flight Instructor Refresher Course (FIRC) every 24 calendar months to maintain privileges as an instructor in addition to the completion of a flight review every two years, which all pilots must abide by. Should a CFI allow their certificates to lapse, the only option to reinstate their flight instructor certificate is to pass a practical test.

With the proposed changes, CFIs may demonstrate recent experience through current renewal requirements outlined in 14 CFR 61.197, including passing a practical test; endorsing at least five students for a practical test with at least 80 percent passing on the first attempt; serving as a company check pilot, chief flight instructor, company check airman, or flight instructor in a Part 121 or Part 135 operation; completing an approved FIRC; or passing an official U.S. Armed Forces military instructor pilot or pilot examiner proficiency check. A sixth method to renew CFI certificates will include teaching under the FAA-sponsored Wings program.

In its NPRM, the FAA noted that organizations, such as the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), have long backed changes to instructor certificates. 

“Industry advocates have expressed support for removing the expiration date on a flight instructor certificate and amending the renewal and reinstatement requirements,” the FAA said. “These industry advocates asserted that requiring an expiration date on a flight instructor certificate is overly burdensome, costly, and provides no safety benefits.”

In 2007, a similar proposal to eliminate expiration dates was introduced but later retracted as the FAA determined that “revising its application procedures could achieve equivalent results.”  

According to AOPA, it has been discussing the measure with the FAA in recent months as the shortage of professional pilots (including instructors) has become more severe.

“AOPA appreciates the FAA’s recognition and proposed adoption of AOPA’s recommendations to make it easier for CFIs to remain current, proficient, and knowledgeable,” said AOPA president and CEO Mark Baker. “These steps will create significant savings in both time and money for thousands of CFIs, while maintaining the highest levels of pilot training and safety for the general aviation community.”

Additional changes in the NPRM include two new methods for flight instructors to qualify to provide training to other flight instructor applicants. One is to train and endorse at least five practical test applicants with at least 80 percent passing on their first attempt. The second requires the instructor to graduate from an FAA-approved, flight instructor-enhanced qualification training program and have at least 200 hours of flight training.

The NPRM is open for public comment until June 22.


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