Acting on a recommendation from the General Aviation Coalition, the FAA has promised that first-time flight instructor (CFI) candidates will be able to schedule a practical test ("checkride") within two weeks of the request.
The GA Coalition, chaired by AOPA President Phil Boyer, told FAA Administrator Jane Garvey during a September 6 meeting that the FAA should change policies to ensure that new CFI candidates don't have to wait an inordinate amount of time to schedule a practical test.
"With the increasing shortage of flight instructors, we're pleased that the FAA has reacted so quickly to resolve this problem," said Boyer. "The coalition told Administrator Garvey that some new flight instructors had to wait months to schedule a practical test with an FAA inspector. That was hurting general aviation."
(The General Aviation Coalition is composed of 16 aviation associations ranging from AOPA and EAA to the National Association of Aircraft Resellers. This year the coalition has focused on two broad areas, certification and protecting airports, that affect all of general aviation.)
FAA policy since 1987 has been that an FAA inspector must conduct the practical test for an initial (first-time) flight instructor certificate. Designated flight instructor examiners (FIE) were only permitted to give checkrides to renew or reinstate flight instructor privileges.
But some flight standards district offices (FSDOs) had many more new CFI applicants than inspectors.
The logical solution, according to the GA Coalition, would be to allow highly experienced FIEs to conduct initial flight instructor checkrides. In a "Flight Standards Handbook Bulletin for General Aviation" issued September 29, FAA headquarters directed FSDOs to do just that.
The FAA said it was still the agency's intent that FAA inspectors check first-time flight instructors. However, the bulletin also directs FSDOs to approve "the designation of highly qualified FIEs to give initial CFI practical tests to ensure that the FAA meets its responsibility for conducting such practical tests within a timely manner...."
If an FAA inspector cannot schedule an initial CFI practical test within two weeks from the original request, FSDOs are instructed to allow a designated FIE to conduct the checkride.
The bulletin stated that "this initiative is deemed necessary to ensure that the FAA continues to meet its obligations to initial CFI applicants in a timely manner while providing the highest level of safety."
Said AOPA President Boyer, "This is a perfect example of FAA/industry cooperation to solve a common problem. AOPA encourages the FAA to expand the use of designated examiners in all areas to reduce backlogs and better serve pilots and aircraft owners."
The 360,000-member Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association is the world's largest civil aviation organization. More than one half of the nation's pilots and three quarters of U.S. aircraft owners are AOPA members.
October 3, 2000