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The CFI who wasn’t, part 2

Common mistakes that lead to invalid training

In the first part of this series we talked about some of the potential ways a CFI may provide invalid training, sometimes intentionally and sometimes as the result of neglecting to maintain their certificates. We discussed how that may affect a flight training provider and how it may be able to be avoided. In this article we are talking about a few common mistakes CFIs make in understanding how to use their certificates that can lead to the conduct of invalid flight training.

No instrument, commercial training unless the CFI is a CFII

Like pilot certificates, CFI certificates are issued with varying levels of privilege and limitations. A CFI cannot provide any and all training on a basic initial CFI certificate.

To provide instrument training, other than the basic training for example in a private pilot certificate, the CFI must be qualified as an “instrument” instructor also.

FAR  61.195 offers limitations on what training CFIs may provide. One of those limitations states that “A flight instructor may conduct instrument training for the issuance of an instrument rating...or the instrument training required for commercial pilot and airline transport pilot certificates…” if …”the flight instructor must hold an instrument rating appropriate to the aircraft used for the instrument training on his or her flight instructor certificate.”

This means that CFIs who have not added instrument privileges to a flight instructor certificate may not provide instrument training toward an instrument rating or commercial pilot certificate, even if that instrument training is in VFR conditions. If they do, it may be considered invalid at the point of time when a review of aeronautical experience requirements is conducted by someone who catches it.

Some operators try to get around this by logging VFR instrument time as “simulated instrument time” while also logging “dual received” with a non-instrument-rated CFI, calling it “safety pilot” time. While this can be used toward total instrument flying experience, it cannot be used toward any time that is specifically to be provided by a CFII. In many cases, this has left students short of requisite instrument instructional time for either the commercial certificate or instrument rating.

Limiting CFI staff options to provide training

FAR 61.195(h) has some stipulations on when a CFI may provide training for a student seeking to obtain an initial flight instructor certificate. The major points here are that the instructor has been an instructor for more than 24 calendar months and has given at least 200 hours of flight training. A CFI who has not done this may not provide the training required for an applicant seeking an initial flight instructor certificate.

Some flight schools use instructors who don’t meet these requirements to provide the bulk of the training for an applicant and just a qualified instructor to complete the final signoff. But, if a flight training provider digs deeper and wants to fully meet the requirements of the regulations, it means that the instructor who is “signing off the applicant” must have provided at least some training in all the required areas for the initial CFI certificate—not just have reviewed the training and signed off the end endorsement. A savvy examiner might catch the differences here if a flight training provider is not properly meeting the requirements and documenting that training.

A FLIGHT instructor certificate, not a ground instructor certificate

There are different instructor certificates. Some allow flight training, and others allow ground training. A ground instructor certificate does not allow the holder to conduct flight training, but in many cases, a flight instructor certificate allows the holder to conduct ground training. It sounds confusing.

Ground instructors don’t have as many training requirements to become certificated, and as such, they are limited in what they can do.

In a few cases, training providers have had staff members who hold ground instructor certificates providing in-air flight training or simulator training. Read closely and make sure what your staff is doing is within the limitations of the certificates they currently hold.

I am an ATP; I can give instruction, right?

FAR 61.167, which focuses on airline transport pilot privileges and limitations, offers that “A person who holds an airline transport pilot certificate and has met the aeronautical experience requirements of § 61.159 or § 61.161, and the age requirements of § 61.153(a)(1) of this part may instruct…” “Other pilots in air transportation service in aircraft of the category, class, and type, as applicable, for which the airline transport pilot is rated and endorse the logbook or other training record of the person to whom training has been given…”

It is worth noting here that this regulation specifically notes that these conditions apply when instructing other pilots in “air transportation service.” This does not allow instruction toward ratings and/or certificates for primary or added instruction. An ATP is not the same as a CFI.

The CFI doesn’t have a current medical

There are a few things a CFI can do without having a current medical, but they are pretty limited. In general, they include commercial pilot training when the student can remain PIC in VFR conditions. A few other exceptions include when a CFI is acting as a sport pilot CFI, but other than that, to act as an instructor in flight operations, they need to meet some sort of medical requirement.

This can be done with a minimum of a third class FAA medical or equivalent compliance with BasicMed. If the CFI has allowed these to lapse or has had his or her medical compliance revoked, any further instruction may be invalid.

A good business providing CFI staff to students will typically track this in their records, in case the CFI misses it. This can keep you on top of your CFIs when they need to get a new medical.

The CFI’s flight review isn’t current

Just because you can sign other people’s logbooks doesn’t mean you don’t need a signature in your logbook. This applies to CFIs and their own currency also. Flight reviews sometimes get missed for CFIs who are actively providing training and don’t get any for themselves.

Like any other pilot, a CFI needs to have a flight review conducted to be eligible to be a pilot. To act as a CFI, a valid pilot certificate must be kept current. This means getting that flight review every 24 months. Fail to make sure that is done, and the CFI is providing invalid training.

Putting together the details of how to move forward when any of these hiccups happen can be challenging. It takes a little bit of logbook audit and some adjusting entries to properly record time.

Two examples

A student receives 30 hours of instrument training by an instructor who is a CFI, but not a CFII. That same applicant has obtained 10 hours of training from a CFII. One might initially think the applicant had 40 hours of instrument training that could be applied to an instrument rating. In this case, the first hours could not be used toward instrument instruction requirements. The first 20 hours with a non-instrument qualified instructor might be able to be considered “safety pilot” time, but that would leave the student short of instrument instruction time [15 hours] required toward an instrument rating.

Now the situation where a CFI does not have a current flight review and is technically ineligible to act as a CFI, based on the fact that his pilot certificate was not valid without a flight review. In this case, any time that had been obtained with the instructor and any solo time that was obtained on the “endorsement of a non-qualified CFI” will not be eligible to be used. It is invalid time because the requirements for the provision and conduct of the flight time were not met when they were conducted.

A student, in this case, could find themselves needing to re-fly all of his or her pilot experience to meet FAA requirements. Naturally, a customer faced with this will probably ask the question, “Who is going to pay for this?” It is an awkward situation to have to answer why you provided a customer invalid training. In some cases, it has led to legal disputes over the expense of the training, the time lost, and one might even make the case for loss of career earnings with a savvy attorney.

Many of these issues can be remedied by a little record keeping diligence on the part of a flight training business. Even something as simple as a file for each CFI with photocopies, or folders on a computer with scanned copies, or the staff member’s CFI and pilot certificates and their medical certificates can help keep a little order. A basic spreadsheet of data can track upcoming expirations

As a flight training business, it is important to not just trust that all of your CFIs know all the intricacies of the regulations. Help them to make sure your customers are getting the proper training to ensure quality customer service, and avoid that dreaded, “that flight time you paid for doesn’t count” scenario.

Jason Blair is a National Association of Flight Instructors master flight instructor and a designated pilot examiner.

Jason Blair

Jason Blair is an active single- and multiengine instructor and an FAA designated pilot examiner with more than 6,000 hours total time, 3,000 hours of instruction given, and 3,000 hours in aircraft as a DPE. As examiner, he has issued more than 2,000 pilot certificates. He has worked for and continues to work with multiple aviation associations focusing on pilot training and testing. His experience as a pilot and instructor spans nearly 20 years and includes more than 100 makes and models of aircraft flown. Jason Blair has published works in many aviation publications with a focus on training and safety.

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