Off to School

Every two years flight instructors must renew their credentials in order to continue teaching. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) provides three ways to accomplish this task. The easiest way is by providing documentation of flight activity showing at least an 80 percent success rate; the next easiest method is by attending a Flight Instructor Refresher Clinic (FIRC); and finally, a flight instructor can opt to complete another FAA checkride to renew.

In order to accomplish renewal by either of the first two methods, the renewal must take place before the expiration of the individual’s flight instructor certificates. Once a flight instructor certificate as expired, the only option available for renewal is by flying another checkride.

In the course of my career, I have used all three methods. When I was a young flight instructor flying more than 100 hours per month and recommending students for checkrides with regularity, I would walk into the FAA’s offices with my logbooks and apply for a new certificate. Just as with the Staples commercial message, “That was easy.”

The only time I had to take another checkride to renew my certificate was in 1985. While stationed in Guantanamo, my CFI lapsed. I was unable to attend a FIRC due to the problems involved in taking leave and arranging transportation to the United States. While I was home on leave later in the summer, I arranged to borrow my friend’s Cherokee to take the ride with the FAA.

The flight with the FAA was uneventful. My education from the event came in the moments before the flight. The inspector with whom I was to fly, along with a couple of his colleagues, was berating someone as I walked into the offices. Later, he would tell me the reason for the verbal dressing down was that this person was a CFI who had signed his student off for a cross country without properly checking the student’s work.

Evidently, the CFI endorsed his student’s log without actually seeing or properly evaluating the cross-country. He quizzed his student about the route the night before over the telephone. The student plotted his course through the middle of the restricted airspace at the Avon Park bombing and gunnery range. Unfortunately, the Air Force scheduled four F-16s to use the range at the same time the student pilot flew through the area. As the lead Falcon rolled in “hot” on the target, he saw the Cessna 150 fly into his gun sights.

In the end, the FAA stripped the CFI of his teaching credentials, his pilot certificate, and his medical. They also told him he could fly again after beginning his training from scratch—in a couple of years.

Most of the time when it came to renewing my certificates, I have elected to attend the FIRC presented by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA). I keep threatening to try out their online service, but I like attending in person for only one reason. I get to meet friends I may not have seen over the past couple of years.

Additionally, I like to meet the new instructors who may be attending for the first time.


©2011 J. Clark

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1 Response to Off to School

  1. Jeanne says:

    Have fun at school Joe! Remember to sit up front so you can learn the most and stay out of trouble:)

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