Regulatory Brief -- AOPA petitions FAA to eliminate burdensome flight instructor certificate renewal requirements

Regulatory Brief

AOPA petitions FAA to eliminate burdensome flight instructor certificate renewal requirements

The issue:

Under the current regulations, a flight instructor certificate is issued with an expiration date of 24 calendar months from its month of issuance. Prior to expiration of the certificate, a flight instructor has a number of options for renewing his/her certificate. However, after the certificate�s expiration, an instructor�s only renewal option is a checkride with an FAA inspector or designee.

The importance to our members:

AOPA is concerned that a large number of flight instructors perceive the existing Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulatory requirements for certificate expiration and reinstatement as being a significant disincentive to renewing an expired flight instructor certificate. This has substantially reduced the number of otherwise qualified and experienced part-time flight instructors available to teach and promote general aviation.

Significant provisions:

To address the concerns of our membership, AOPA petitioned the FAA for a two-part change to the current regulations. AOPA�s rulemaking petition includes the following provisions:

Part 1 � Duration of flight instructor certificate:

  • The FAA annually processes more than 39,000 applications for flight instructor certificate reissuance. Consequently, the FAA annually expends more than 9750 salary hours to process the applications for renewal.
  • The majority of airman certificates issued under part 61 are issued without an expiration date. Instead, the exercise of an airman�s privileges is tied to recency of experience, or specific currency requirements. Removing the expiration date from the flight instructor certificate allows the agency to focus on the currency of an instructor�s privileges in the same manner as nearly all other pilot and mechanic certificates and ratings.
  • The elimination of the expiration date from the flight instructor certificate will not require any significant changes to the renewal process. To maintain currency for another 24 months, an instructor would still have the existing renewal options of demonstrating recent activity, attending a flight instructor refresher clinic (FIRC), adding an additional instructor rating, or taking a checkride.
  • The only substantive difference is that the instructional privileges would be renewed for an additional 24 months while the certificate remains unchanged and valid.
  • To address these concerns, AOPA petitioned for the elimination of the expiration date from the flight instructor certificate and replacement with an expiration of privileges of similar duration.

Part 2 � Reinstatement of expired flight instructor privileges:

  • Many instructors have difficulty scheduling and attending a FIRC before the expiration of their instructor certificate. Flight instructors are often faced with unforeseen circumstance such as family emergencies, illness, and conflicting business schedules. These circumstances can make it extremely difficult, or even impossible, for an instructor to attend a FIRC before the expiration of his/her certificate.
  • After the flight instructor certificate has expired, an instructor�s only renewal option is a checkride with an FAA inspector or designee. Instructors often encounter difficulties scheduling a checkride around bad weather, aircraft down for maintenance, and examiners with full schedules. Conflicting business schedules, family emergencies, and illness can add significantly to these problems. Ultimately, this process dissuades a large number of highly qualified and experienced flight instructors from renewing their privileges after expiration.
  • To encourage flight instructors with expired instructor privileges to rejoin the instructional community; AOPA proposed a three-month FIRC completion "grace period" after an instructors privileges have expired.
  • During the "grace period" and instructors privileges would obviously be expired and could not be exercised.

AOPA position:

AOPA maintains that the above listed changes to part 61 will directly benefit the public by creating consistency in the manner in which certificated airman renew their privileges. Additionally, the proposed changes will encourage a large number of flight instructors with expired flight instructor certificates to rejoin the instructional community by eliminating unnecessary financial burdens and administrative delays currently associated with the flight-instructor-certificate-renewal-process.

Most importantly, AOPA holds that the proposed changes will eliminate over 9700 salary hours of unnecessary administrative processing at the FAA Airman Certification Branch and countless man-hours and employee travel expenses at the FSDO level. Additionally, AOPA maintains that the aforementioned changes will not adversely affect the quality of flight training or flight safety.


  • On September 14, 1999, AOPA submitted a petition for rulemaking to the FAA proposing the above mentioned changes to part 61. AOPA will inform the membership when this proposal comes available for public comment.
  • Recently, the FAA assigned Docket No. 29775 to AOPA�s petition, and officially entered it into the rules docket. Members are strongly encouraged to submit their comments in duplicate to: Federal Aviation Administration, Office of the Chief Counsel, Attn: Rules Docket (AGC-10), Docket No. 29775, 800 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20591.
  • On February 7, 2000, the FAA denied AOPA�s petition on the grounds that the agency was "considering undertaking related action in the area of the rules that you recommend changing".
  • On March 13, 2000, AOPA resubmitted our petition stating that an FAA denial of our petition was contrary to the agencies stated goals as set forth in the FAA�s most recent Aerospace Forecast.

Related documents:

AOPA petition for rulemaking, September 14, 1999

FAA letter of denial, February 7, 2000 (requires Adobe Reader)

AOPA petition for rulemaking, March 13, 2000