Safety Publications/Articles

My Certificate's On A Moving Van!

And I Don't Know When It Expires

Here at the AOPA Air Safety Foundation, we get a number of calls each day from CFIs who have questions about FAA renewal procedures and other issues. Many have privileges that are about to expire and are looking for options - they want to avoid taking the dreaded practical test like the plague. Some claim the FAA left the expiration date and all of their ratings off of their certificate. We ask them to look at the back of the certificate where all this information is printed. The response is usually, "Never mind." A few have lost their CFI certificates and don't know the expiration date. The Airman Certification Branch at Oklahoma City will fax a copy if you call 405/954-3261.

Just as a review, there are several ways to renew your CFI certificate. One method, of course, is to take a practical test for one of the ratings listed on your flight instructor certificate or for an additional flight instructor rating (FAR 61.197).

Instead of taking a practical test, you can qualify for renewal if you have endorsed at least five students for the practical test within the past 24 months and at least 80 percent of those you have endorsed have passed on the first try. One caller had endorsed 10 students of which six had passed the first time. She claimed she should be renewed because five of her students passed the first time. No, that's not the way it works. It's an 80 percent pass rate the first time for all of the students you endorsed in the 24-month period prior to your certificate's expiration. Her pass rate was only 60 percent.

Another way to renew is to demonstrate that within the last 24 months you have served as a company check pilot, chief flight instructor, company check airman, or flight instructor in a Part 121 or Part 135 operation, or in a position involving the regular evaluation of pilots. Note that it doesn't say a Part 61 or Part 141 operation, and the "regular evaluation of pilots" for Part 121 or 135 is determined by the FAA Flight Standards Inspector.

The FAA recently enacted a policy that permits you to renew your certificate if you have provided a total of at least 15 hours of flight instruction to at least five pilots for the FAA Pilot Proficiency Program (better known as the Wings program) during the past 24 months. In order to exercise this option, you must be an active participant in the Wings program yourself, or you must have completed all of the Wings phases.

The renewal method we at the Air Safety Foundation naturally recommend is to spend a weekend with us at one of our Flight Instructor Refresher Clinics (FIRCs). You gain information and insight, and you walk away with a wealth of materials you don't get with the other renewal methods permitted by the FAA. CFIs who regularly attend our programs will tell you that one of the most valuable aspects of our FIRCs is the opportunity to share ideas with dozens of other CFIs who have a wide range of experience and knowledge.

Occasionally there is heated debate among the CFIs about some aspect of flight instruction. Do you control airspeed with pitch or power? So far we haven't had to take sharp objects from the participants, but we have been close. Lots of business cards are exchanged, meaning that new working relationships and friendships are being forged.

The FIRC instructors are tops in their fields, and they include designated pilot examiners, airline captains, flight school operators, and professors in the aeronautical departments of major universities. They come from all over the country, and when their luggage gets lost you may see them in various forms of attire. Once an instructor spoke while wearing a hotel maid's uniform, but the show must go on. Graduates of our program tell us they leave the session with new approaches for teaching difficult tasks, updated knowledge, and a good review of what it takes to be an exceptional flight instructor.

The Air Safety Foundation has conducted FIRC programs longer than anyone else. This year we are celebrating our twenty-fifth anniversary as a FIRC provider. It all began at Champaign, Illinois, in August 1976 when ASF, in cooperation with the University of Illinois, conducted its first flight instructor refresher clinic. Before that, the FAA conducted the clinics itself. Since then, ASF has awarded more than 150,000 graduate certificates to CFIs seeking to renew their privileges.

The expertise ASF has developed over the last quarter-century of conducting FIRCs has even been noted overseas. In April, ASF conducted the first joint FIRC in Australia. In cooperation with the Air Safety Foundation Australia and the Australian Aviation Underwriters Pool, an ASF instructor traveled down under to assist in conducting two two-day FIRCs for instructors in Australia. Normally, flight instructors in Australia renew with a practical test, but because of the unusually high accident rate, the Australians are looking to enhance their present renewal procedure to include seminars providing theoretical knowledge, updates, safety information, and teaching techniques.

Weekend courses aren't for everyone. So for those who don't like to travel or just prefer to work at their own pace, ASF has teamed up with Jeppesen to offer a comprehensive online renewal experience.

With decades of CFI renewal experience between the two organizations, innovative interactive graphics and solid teaching techniques are in store for those who sign up. The program contains dozens of hot links to primary sources of aviation information and simulation. One link takes you to NASA's interactive Foilsim where you can view airflow and lift at various angles of attack. Check out the free introductory lesson at ( ).

There is no place in the world that allows so many options for flight instructors to renew their certificates as in the United States. And, there is also no country that allows you to renew as inexpensively. What a country.

By Richard Hiner

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