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Expiring Flight Instructor Certificate…Why Replace the Card?

Posted 2 years 302 days ago ago by Admin

Every 24 calendar months, each person holding a valid Flight Instructor certificate must demonstrate to the FAA they continue to meet the minimum standards of the Flight Instructor PTS or an equivalent renewal criterion. Once competency is demonstrated and application processed, the FAA issues a new Flight Instructor certificate, exactly like the previous one, but with a new date. Why?

After a few questions to FAA types, the answer seems to be “it’s just the way we do it”. There is no additional tracking or oversight and no perceived improvement to safety. The processing of a new Flight Instructor certificate facilitates the ability to engage the holder of the certificate and validate by visual means on the certificate itself that it is valid. The intent as described makes sense. Since there are other date-based currency requirement that are similar, are they handled the same way?

One such currency requirement with the same duration limitation as the Flight Instructor certificate is the 14 CFR Part 61.56 Flight Review which states […no person may act as pilot in command of an aircraft unless, since the beginning of the 24th calendar month before the month in which that pilot acts as pilot in command]. Since an FAA Pilot certificate does not expire, it seems the FAA is comfortable with pilots maintaining the required currency using a logged record.

Wouldn’t this same process work for a Flight Instructor certificate? Absolutely!

Once a flight instructor completes the required training or checking events to satisfy the requirements for renewal of a Flight Instructor certificate in accordance with 14 CFR Part 61.197, they would be good to go. Maintain the Flight Instructor certificate you hold and place the records of completion for all required training and checking events in your logbook or file. Done! Those records could easily be uploaded to IACRA if the FAA desired a direct copy on file.

As with most issues regarding FAA process where common sense is possible, the regulations get in the way. The word expires, expired, reinstatement, and others are written throughout regulation meaning any possible change would potentially require an act of Congress.

The FAA supports this initiative, and it is my belief this change will be forthcoming. Many factors will drive such a change, but none more powerful than reducing the cost to the government.

Much debate has occurred on the removing the expiration of the Flight Instructor certificate, but not the training and checking requirements to maintain it. I fully agree.

The training a flight instructor receives to renew a Flight Instructor certificate varies widely. Renewal can be obtained by attending a 16-hour Flight Instructor Refresher Course (FIRC), graduating 4 out of 5 student 1st time passing, duties and responsibilities of the position you hold, and others. In all cases, the training and checking is critical to safety, instructional knowledge, and good stewardship of education.

Whether a Flight Instructor certificate expires or not has no bearing on safety or the quality of instruction the person holding the certificate provides. The quality of the person holding the Flight Instructor certificate will have a direct impact on both!         

About Randy: 
Randy Rowles has been a FAA pilot examiner for 20 years for all helicopter certificates and ratings. He holds a FAA Gold Seal Flight Instructor Certificate, NAFI Master Flight Instructor designation, and was the 2013 recipient of the HAI Flight Instructor of the Year Award. Rowles is the owner/president of Helicopter Institute.

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