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SAFE = Sharing Knowledge!

The mission of SAFE is to build pilot and CFI professionalism by sharing skills and knowledge (education) thereby enhancing aviation safety. This picture embodies the essence of that mission for me; two aviation professionals eagerly learning and growing. Michael Hare (blue hat) is a SAFE board member, who in addition to flying fighters in the Air Force, spent years as a captain with a legacy airline. In retirement, he is mentoring new CFIs and generously sharing his many hours of experience with pilots and schools (and working for SAFE). But he somehow got a bug about competing in the national aerobatics competition (with the stated goal of “just not finishing last”). So I introduced him to Jim Wells at Sun N Fun a few years back. Jim is a longtime CFI in everything with wings and has flown (and won) competitions at the national level. He now is an aerobatic judge for the national event and has lots to share with others. Sharing ideas and techniques, and spreading aeronautical goodness, is the heart of SAFE. Both of these talented individuals are aviation mentors to many new pilots and CFIs.

If you have the time and inclination to share your knowledge and experience, please sign up to mentor young CFIs on our new website; this is an area of critical need (and we have some eager learners here). This is the heart of our mission of raising CFI professionalism. Another opportunity is creating a course share on our new member resource center. The new website has quite a collection of fresh courses available for members, but we always need more, and I am always amazed at the diversity of our group. Creating a course is also a great way to enhance your resume for a Master Instructor accreditation. This kind of personal challenge keeps your learning and your motivation growing. Fly safely (and often) and please share our mission with other CFIs and pilots 🙏.


See our newly launched SAFE website HERE

Join SAFE and get great benefits. You get 1/3 off ForeFlight and your membership supports our mission of increasing aviation safety by promoting excellence in education.  Our FREE SAFE Toolkit App puts required pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smartphone and facilitates CFI+DPE teamwork. Our CFI insurance was developed by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business).

 

 

FAA Legal Interpretations “Starter Kit”

Aviation educators are regarded as the local authorities in the aviation community. Superior knowledge and familiarity with the regulations are essential for conducting the job of flight educator in a professional manner.

For example, 61.57(c)(1)(i) specifies that an instrument-rated pilot must conduct (and log) a minimum of six IAPs every 6 months in order to maintain his or her IFR currency. But what counts as an “instrument approach?” What if you break out at 600 feet, is that “an approach?” Check FAA InFo 15012 for the answer. (and watch those FAA urls, they move around faster than the stairways at Hogwarts). What is legal definition of “known icing?” A careful reading of CFR 61.1 (“Applicability and definitions”) resolves most of those noisy hangar flying arguments.

Rizner (1991)

  • What are the minimum qualifications required to act as a safety pilot?
  • FAA rules changed allowing Basic Med 2 days ago.

Hicks (1993)

  • Academy version of PIC time: sole manipulator and safety pilot

Harrington (1997)

  • “Building up of flight time may be compensatory in nature if the pilot does not have to pay the costs of operating the aircraft”

Kortokrax (2006)

  • Are students or instructors considered passengers for recency of experience requirement purposes?

Glaser (2008)

  • Do PAR and ASR approaches “count” for instrument training and currency?

Sisk (2008)

  • Does the long cross-country required for the instrument rating require any leg to be at least 50 nm?
  • Does a flight with multiple points of landing require any single leg to be over 50 nm to be considered cross-country?

Bell (2009)

Gebhart (2009)

  • Safety pilot logging PIC and cross-country time?

Glenn (2009)

  • Logging cross-country time as safety pilot
  • Logging SIC time as a safety pilot

Herman (2009)

  • Logging time while sole manipulator and appropriately rated, how about endorsements?

Hilliard (2009)

  • Cross-country time split with another pilot where both pilots take turns as PIC?

Mangiamele (2009)

  • Requirements for flying as a charitable fundraiser
  • Reimbursement for operating costs for business travel via private aircraft

Speranza (2009)

  • Logging PIC while sole manipulator on IFR flight plan, but not instrument rated

Van Zanen (2009)

  • Defining flight time to optimize cross-country time?

Coleal (2010)

  • “Preventative Maintenance” and the 31 items on the list in Appendix A to Part 43?

Hartzell (2010)

  • Can commercial instrument training requirements be met by prior instrument rating training? See also this AOPA article and “Oord Letter” below.

Lamb-2 (2010)

  • What is “incidental?” Getting paid for your flying?

Theriault (2010)

  • Can you fly an aircraft not rated for IFR on an IFR flight plan in VMC?
  • Can commercial instrument training requirements be met by prior instrument rating training?
  • Can the night cross-country from private pilot training be used to satisfy the requirement for night cross-country flight for a Commercial Pilot Certificate?

Haberkorn (2011)

  • Finding passengers via social media
  • Clarifying “common purpose”

MURPHY (2011) and LETTS 2017

The FAA’s view of the “anti-collision light system” (when is it “inoperative?” ALSO in Murphy: can a student pilot X-C be used for Comm. certificate experience? (“mining” logbook time)

Walker (2011)

  • Logging PIC and actual IMC while sole-manipulator in IMC, but not instrument rated
  • Logging time as an instrument-rated PIC while not sole-manipulator
  • Safety piloting in actual IMC

Roberts (2012)

  • Is a safety pilot required to pay pro-rata share while logging PIC?

Pratte (2012)

  • Is the list of acceptable instrument approach types for instrument training in Glaser (2008) exhaustive?

Trussell (2012)

  • What can a safety pilot log if the pilot flying elects to remain acting PIC?
  • What obligation does a safety pilot have to share expenses?

Hancock (2013)

  • Does loaning an airplane to a pilot count as “compensation?”
  • Does the owner of an airplane have the responsibility if a person borrowing the airplane violates FARs?

Kuhn (2014)

  • “Performing the duties of pilot in command” with a CFI on board?
  • How can a CFI log time while riding along with a commercial student “performing the duties of pilot in command”?

Rohlfing (2016)

  • Do the three hours of instrument training from private pilot training apply to instrument rating training?

Fitzpatrick – Spartan College (2018)

  • Parachute for spin training for CFI initial? No, “regardless of what certificate or rating the applicant is seeking”.

Oord – AOPA (2018)

  • Can commercial instrument training requirements be met by prior instrument rating training? (Proper endoresements…)
  • Depends on Theriault (2010), Theriault (2011), and Hartzell (2010)

And these interpretations *do* change, so stay current!

The resulting February 28 [2022] memorandum overruled two prior FAA legal interpretations of FAR 61.65, specifically reversing interpretations in 2008 and 2012 that required the use of “three different kinds of navigation systems” to meet the requirements of 61.65 (d)(2)(ii)(C). In the first case, the FAA had determined that three different navigation systems had to be used, and the 2012 interpretation affirmed that conclusion—and went a step further by determining that precision approach radars and airport surveillance radars do not count as “navigation systems” for the purposes of satisfying the applicant’s required experience. AOPA

An AOPA membership is a great way to stay current on these legal issues (their benefits and advocacy are essential to every pilot).


Other helpful info:

InFO 15012: Logging Instrument Approach Procedures

  • This InFO clarifies the conditions under which a pilot may log an IAP in his or her logbook

AOPA Legal on Basic Med. for checkrides.

CFII teaching “simulated instrument flight” with Basic Med.

This just changed 2 days ago and will be legal 30 days after publication in the Federal Register (told you those stairways move frequently). If you can’t find what you’re looking for in the most common above, try searching the FAA’s Legal Interpretations website. Fly safe out there (and often).

Mark Kolber has written many excellent legal articles for IFR Magazine. I find his following example of “legal vs safe” a vindication of all the risk management/judgment standards SAFE has helped embed into the testing standards:

a technically legal operation can be “careless and reckless” under 91.13, depending on the circumstances. The warning is not hollow. In a 1993 case, George Murphy was tired of waiting for his IFR release from a nontowered airport, so he took off uncontrolled IFR into low ceilings with passengers, figuring he would reach VMC before entering controlled airspace at 700 AGL. The violation for operating without a clearance was dismissed, but that did not stop the NTSB from giving him a 90-day flight vacation for careless and reckless operation.


See our newly launched SAFE website HERE

Join SAFE and get great benefits. You get 1/3 off ForeFlight and your membership supports our mission of increasing aviation safety by promoting excellence in education.  Our FREE SAFE Toolkit App puts required pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smartphone and facilitates CFI+DPE teamwork. Our CFI insurance was developed by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business).

Great Tools for New CFIs!

Here are 10 essential ideas CFIs need to embrace to acquire the important skills and grow  *after* they pass their initial CFI FAA evaluation. These tips represent the real-life “on the job” reality we teach in SAFE CFI-PRO™ live seminars. In a recent blog I emphasized that the FAA CFI temporary is – like all certificates – a “license to learn.” I also offered some examples of how the preparation for the FAA CFI Initial evaluation actually reinforces skills that are quite contrary to effective education (e.g. encouraging the CFIs to micromanage the controls and radio). These are some of the major points we convey in our popular CFI-PRO presentations.

  1. The Initial CFI, like every other certificate, is a “license to learn!” In every other country (e.g. Canada) New CFIs are only allowed to teach under the direct supervision of a senior CFI until they progress from Class 3&4 (initial) to Class 1&2.
  2. The “pilot skills” that served you so well in earning all your pilot ratings are *very different* from the “CFI skills” you need to be an effective educator. You have two pieces of FAA plastic: Pilot and CFI.
  3. The pilot personality is geared toward almost aggressive precision, error correction, and immediate action. By contrast, the CFI personality takes time to develop and requires amazing patience and compassion to endure some pretty bad flying and awkward radio calls. It takes time for your “learner” to get good at flight control and comm.
  4. Flight instruction can initially be quite frustrating for the new CFI (what did I sign up for?). You are not flying (and should not be handling the controls a lot, if at all) you are teaching and guiding your learner with careful (mostly verbal) instruction!
  5. The “CFI skills” we teach every applicant to pass the initial CFI evaluation, though necessary (handling the controls and radio while talking non-stop), are *not* how we really teach flying. Many of these habits need to be unlearned to be an effective educator (hands off). Learners do not learn by watching the CFI fly – they must do it themselves (and make mistakes).
  6. Pursuant to all the above considerations, the #1 error of new CFIs is monopolizing the controls and radio, (like they were taught) and not allowing their “learner” experience flight. New CFIs are often incessant micromanagers. It takes a while to gain confidence and get off the controls (and radio).
  7. The pace of exposure and progress is *very* different for each unique learner (unlike what a standardized syllabus might suggest). Most people are not ready to experience slow flight and stalls on their third flight! “Lesson 3” might actually be the 5th or 6th time in flight depending on your learner’s skill and confidence.
  8. There is a real danger of scaring a student. No person learns while panicked and there is also a danger of “student lock-up.” This is a common (and dangerous) flight training problem .”Lock-up” is when your learner panics and refuses to release the controls. 65% of SAFE CFIs surveyed had experienced this phenomenon.
  9. To avoid student lock-up, build trust with your learner and practice the transfer of controls. They must immediately relinquish control to the CFI when requested (you need to build this habit) and never scare your student.
  10. The best methodology for instructional success is “incremental mastery.” This involves the CFI turning over aircraft control and flight management in a very explicit fashion once competence is achieved: “this is your responsibility now…I will not help with this – you are the pilot!” This method creates both a sense of confidence and mastery in your learner (and reduces dropout). It also creates the pathway to a “powerful PIC” (confident, independent and fully in charge). Most flight test applicants are clearly “not fully in charge” but pretending (usually poorly) to be PIC.

Please get in touch w/SAFE for a CFI-PRO™ presentation at your location! New CFIs should also see this popular blog: “10 Rules for New CFIs


See our newly launched SAFE website HERE

Join SAFE and get great benefits. You get 1/3 off ForeFlight and your membership supports our mission of increasing aviation safety by promoting excellence in education.  Our FREE SAFE Toolkit App puts required pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smartphone and facilitates CFI+DPE teamwork. Our CFI insurance was developed by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business).

How to Become a CFI-PRO™

Truly excellent CFIs are unfortunately quite rare. On the one hand our aviation training world has an abundance of totally green “hour builders” still learning their craft with their eyes set on an airline career (2/3s of all active CFIs have taught less than one year). These people are amazingly enthusiastic and usually have excellent recent knowlege. They are fun to fly with and usually full of energy. Unfortunately, they are usually pretty scared in the cockpit and tend to micro-manage errors, monopolize the radio and controls, and chatter non-stop (that is exactly what we taught them to do for their FAA test…). It takes a while to learn how to *really* be a CFI.

On the other hand you have the jaded, self-important CFI, frequently burned out and often unmotivated. This  part-time lifer is often quite rusty on maneuvers and scary on their lack of recent  knowledge. Where is the “sweet spot” for CFI excellence and how does a working professional avoid the trap of becoming a “legend in their own mind?”

The only secret I have found to stay fresh as a CFI (and DPE) is to keep learning and challenging yourself, as a pilot and as an instructor. I write this as I am (once again) acquiring another type rating (and silently cursing myself for this decision). If you continuously put yourself in the role of a learner, you have to stay humble and (hopefully) sharp. It requires again putting everything on the line; submitting to training and testing (just like your students). Michael Maya Charles in his amazing audio production “Artful Flying” calls this “beginner mind;” actively maintaining a curious and open attitude toward the world. Students in training and flying in general present many daily challenges if we keep our eyes wide open.

The SAFE Master Instructor Program is also an excellent pathway to keep learning. The required Contining Education Units required to be accredited every two years keep you searching for “learning opportunities” and actively challenging yourself.

For more thoughts on this subject, join our FAA webinar on Wednesday, November 9th at 11am EST (clocks changed this morning). The Orlando FSDO “Enhanced CFI Program” will be live (and available later on YouTube). BTW, the picture above was created by Master CFI Jeremy Walters for *his* YouTube channel “Breaking the Chain” which he created as a SAFE Master Instructor. Keep learning, fly safe (and often)!


Join SAFE and get great benefits. You get 1/3 off ForeFlight and your membership supports our mission of increasing aviation safety by promoting excellence in education.  Our FREE SAFE Toolkit App puts required pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smartphone and facilitates CFI+DPE teamwork. Our CFI insurance was developed by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business).

“Fear/Stress Inoculation” For Pilots

Overcoming stress and fear is one of the first and most important steps in becoming a successful pilot. If the first couple lessons are not handled very carefully, a CFI can easily frighten an already scared learner. This leads directly to a loss of motivation -“I thought this was fun!”- and quitting (80% drop out rate). Extreme fear puts the human brain into “fight or flight” mode and prevents any learning. And for the already trained pilot, extreme fear, beyond the level of training and comfort, prevents effective survival action as happens during “startle.” One of the most critical components of basic training in all branches of the military is fear inoculation (the “warrior’s edge”). 80% of soldiers in combat are not effectively firing their weapons.

“I was always afraid of dying. Always. It was my fear that made me learn everything I could about my airplane and my emergency equipment, and kept me flying respectful of my machine and always alert in the cockpit.” – Chuck Yeager

As we build skills during aviation education, greater understanding and confidence overcome initial (very normal) fear and create a “comfort zone” for normal, effective flight operations. Skill and confidence are both essential to safe, successful flying. This comfort allows perception of “true risk; “the wings actually seldom fall off and there is inherent stability in normal flight.” Proficiency and confidence with all the basic flight maneuvers are then followed in training by a careful exposure to emergencies (often the “scary stuff” for learners). Pilots need to be comfortable in this wider flight envelope to be safe over time.  All pilots also need to maintain their proficiency and fear inoculation over time (proficiency training). Extending the flight envelope even further than the FAA minimums (with dual instructor assistance) is highly recommended for all part 91 pilots (a greater margin of safety). This can also be additional ratings or flying more demanding maneuvers within the capacity of your aircraft.  The FAA has mandated this training for airline pilots so it is greatly encouraged for non-professionals as well.

As defined by Dave Grossman in another of his books, On Combat, stress inoculation is a process by which prior success under stressful conditions acclimatizes you to similar situations and promotes future success.

Normalization of deviance” is the further (and unsafe) development of inappropriate comfort in the face of even greater risk and/or non-standard procedures. Just watch some YouTubes of extreme sports to see “normalizing” in action; the most bizarre and risky behaviors can become familiar and comfortable despite the statistical risk factors.

Aviation has a very well established catalog of what is normal, what is emergency and what is considered dangerous. To some degree this depends on the interactions of the experience and skill variables in the P – A- V – E checklist (Pilot, Aircraft, enVironment, and External pressures). A very experienced pilot new to an airframe in a challenging environment should only accept very minimal challenges (skill in one area does not automatically transfer to another – unfortunately!) The key to all safety is knowing where to to draw that bright red limitation line, and only carefully extend your minimums further. Good dual instruction is the “water wings” that supply safety while a pilot explores new challenges.

The classic FAA depiction of skills vs the demands of the task should always be kept in mind by every safety-conscious pilot. A good question to continuously ask: “is the activity I am attempting within my pilot skill level or is this operation depending on luck?” I personally think most pilots “get away” with many more operations than their abilities would permit (luck). Murphy’s law actually offers great forgiveness (and I confess I have benefitted from this).

Practicing the “hard stuff” is a good tonic for every pilot. It’s why professional pilots head back to the schoolhouse every 6 months. Challenge restores our skills and confidence. But there are also many fun opportunities available that provide challenge and improve skills; learning gliders of seaplanes? Fly safely out there (and often)!


Join SAFE and get great benefits. You get 1/3 off ForeFlight and your membership supports our mission of increasing aviation safety by promoting excellence in education.  Our FREE SAFE Toolkit App puts required pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smartphone and facilitates CFI+DPE teamwork. Our CFI insurance was developed by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business).

Managing “Extreme Fear” (Startle/Lock-Up)

We have seen some recent accidents where “student lock-up” is a strongly suggested causal factor. This fear reaction is common in flight training; 65% of SAFE CFIs surveyed reported forcibly taking the controls from their panicked learner . “Lock-up” is a result of “extreme fear” which puts the brain directly into the “fight or flight” mode. This neurological state is identical to the “startle response” that any pilot may encounter with a surprise upset incident. “Startle” is a major cause of Loss of Control Inflight (the #1 pilot killer).

Obviously we all need to understand (and avoid) this built-in reaction to extreme fear (both dual and solo) for greater safety. Here are several SAFEblogs dealing with this topic (all hyperlinked). As a CFI it is essential to avoid frightening our learner. Not only is their a distinct danger of lock-up, but no learning is happening if your client is severely fearful. For experienced pilots, self-calming techniques are an essential safety resource. Here is a typical NTSB (non-conclusive) dual lock-up accident.

 

For deeper understanding of this subject, I recommend this book by Jeff Wise. BTW, many important resources for pilots are not specifically in the aviation ecosystem. Learning more about human psychology and basic educational techniques are a huge benefit for every pilot and educator. Review the books and courses (free) in our SAFE public resource center and on the SAFE Toolkit App; #flySAFE!


Join SAFE and get great benefits. You get 1/3 off ForeFlight and your membership supports our mission of increasing aviation safety by promoting excellence in education.  Our FREE SAFE Toolkit App puts required pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smartphone and facilitates CFI+DPE teamwork. Our CFI insurance was developed by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business).

Struggle for Control; CFI (Or YOU!)

Your mind on FEAR!

Most senior CFIs have at least one story of forcibly taking over control of an aircraft from a locked-up, panicked learner. A SAFE survey of CFIs revealed that 65% had at some point forcibly taken back aircraft control from an irrational student! One CFI/DPE revealed a crash where he struggled and lost this battle resulting in a dramatic crash. A person overcome by fear becomes a powerful and irrational animal in your cockpit. Step one is to avoid ever scaring your student. Step two is staying ever vigilant and be prepared in case this does happen.

The grieving father of a young female CFI who died in a dual accident shared his story and inspired several SAFEblogs on this topic. Unfortunately, new “millennial flight schools” tend to be all excitement and hope with the new growth in aviation. They never cover or train this dark side of the CFI profession. Please watch this recent Air Safety Institute”early analysis” dissecting a recent instructional accident and share it with other CFIs.The possibility of student lock-up is real, and probably more common than currently recognized. (Recent KSMO accident?)

If you are a senior CFI, please mentor your proteges on the possibility of student lock-up and discuss recovery techniques. This is not an excuse for micromanaging the controls but a reminder to never get complacent; the CFI job has many rewards but also provides some “exciting moments.”

If you are a solo pilot, the other side of this same fear equation is surviving startle. Panic is possible for anyone when exposed to a new and shocking flight experience outside their comfort zone. Self-calming is an important first step to regaining control. Every pilot should practice specific techniques like deep breathing and positive self talk to empower a systematic recovery in frightening situations. Even in a crash scenario, survival requires flying the plane all the way to a stop and never giving up. This is the burden of pilot in command during the “not fun” experiences that are always possible when we defy gravity.

Practicing flight out of the comport zone is one purpose of flight reviews and recurrent training. Extended Envelope Training allows a pilot to be comfortable and prepared when encountering these surprising flight attitudes (read “upsets”) Build your bravery; get a good CFI and practice. Fly SAFE out there (and often)!


Join SAFE and get great benefits. You get 1/3 off ForeFlight and your membership supports our mission of increasing aviation safety by promoting excellence in education.  Our FREE SAFE Toolkit App puts required pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smartphone and facilitates CFI+DPE teamwork. Our CFI insurance was developed by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business).

Pathway to DPE!

If it is a great time to be a pilot, it might be even a better time to become an FAA Designated Pilot Examiner. If you have the required ratings and experience, please follow the procedures in the current standard; register and apply on the DMS website to get your name in the pool for selection. If you are a regular reader, you have been warned here of the less obvious hazards  of this profession. What follows are just my personal observations on the job.

After 25 years serving in this capacity, I will let you know right up front, the DPE job is not what most applicants envision (god of the aviation universe dragging bags of money to the bank). There are obvious rewards and it is an honor to be an FAA examiner, no question. And being a DPE will certainly test your discerning evaluative skills – your extensive aviation experience is also necessary (but only part of the job). Being a DPE also requires a lot of patience, compassion and tolerance for the “FAA legal machine.” There is also a lot of “behind the scenes” studying and preparation required.

As a DPE you become a representative of the FAA, and right up front you have to be comfortable with that role. Your every action is viewed as an FAA representative. Real honesty and a strong moral compass is a serious requirement; the FAA puts a lot of trust in their designees. And for many people, delivering the disappointment to unsuccessful applicants (as gently as you can) is one of the most difficult tasks. (DPEs that enjoy this task are not on my personal holiday card list).

Check these links on the FAA ACS site for clarification…

Many people think DPEs specialize in asking the most difficult and tricky questions they can find; nope! It would actually be quite easy to fail any applicant if that were the goal – we have flying for years and they are usually just beginners. But the stated DPE mission is to carefully follow the FAA testing standards and get beyond the obvious nervousness to reveal what an applicant actually knows (and if it is enough to be a safe pilot as defined by the FAA).

Your personal “standard of aviation excellence” does not apply when you are wearing the DPE hat; this is the FAA’s test, not *your* test. And there is a very strict FAA emphasis on *NOT* teaching. In fact, when you feel the need to step in and teach, this is one of the first signs the evaluation is not going well and the applicant is not performing to the standards. One of the fastest ways to lose your DPE designation currently is taking over the flight controls and saying “watch this.” Those days are gone. Teaching is the CFI job, the DPE is only the scorekeeper. The three (required) DPE briefings are a good place to add the “wisdom and counsel. Leave the teaching and demos to the CFIs.

The FAA standard is pass/fail; the FAA constantly reminds every DPE: “perfection is not the standard.” It is sometimes painful, but if an applicant’s performance is a clear D- they still get a temporary airman certificate; we have a duty to be fair. Personal opinions and viewpoints need to be carefully avoided (as do any personal prejudices). And be prepared to work; one examiner reportedly flew 56 evaluations last month (and that is up north – who knows what the “record” might be?) Your life can get pretty busy. Caution is advised, however, on putting all your eggs into the FAA basket since any pilot examiner can be terminated at any time for “no cause:” (see ya!) Read the newest 8000.95 carefully.  I would also review the DPE guidance on the FAA ACS page, it gives a good overview of the DPE mission and process.

Here are the current requirements for admission on the general level:

When I was going to write this article last week, I did not see item #7 above (welcome to “door number 3”). Just about any senior CFI meets those standards. But more minimums in each class also (further down in the standard). Look at these carefully; they are the minimums.

The actual FAA selection process is then a different story, and unique toevery FSDO (the great mystery). Being a good “aviation citizen,” known by the FAA in your district, is important to your selection process, since trust is an important part of designating DPEs. (There used to be a knowledge test which is now long gone). Being a part of the FAA Safety Program (helpful/trustworthy) is going to help your case for designation. Also helpful is a CFI Gold Seal, any GA program award, or 141 evaluation history. The recent FAA ARAC on DPEs spent a lot of time with what the proper qualifications should be for an examiner. If I had a personal say, an important qualification would be a “warm heart.” The best examiners are not only technically qualified, they actually care. But it is hard to calibrate compassion on form, so there is an interview process and usually a group meeting so many personalities get to meet and interact with the candidate.

Lastly, there must also be a proven “need” in your FAA district for a new examiner. This is theoretically to avoid the well known “politics” that creeps into every human activity. The reason you see a lot of 141 instructors or 121 check airmen moving into the FAA evaluator role as DPEs is they are already executing the FAA standards in their daily jobs; you are a step up if you already hold these positions. Being comfortable and familiar with the FAA process makes your transition to DPE a lot easier and the FAA has a track record of trusted judgement and honesty.

In my case, three FAA inspectors came to the flight school one day and asked me to be a DPE (I had not even applied). I already was a 141 Chief Instructor and had earned my Master Instructor Accreditation in the first group. I definitely recommend the Master Instructor as another way to raise your level of excellence and visibility with the FAA. Best of luck; fly safely out there (and often)!


Join SAFE and get great benefits. You get 1/3 off ForeFlight and your membership supports our mission of increasing aviation safety by promoting excellence in education.  Our FREE SAFE Toolkit App puts required pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smartphone and facilitates CFI+DPE teamwork. Our CFI insurance was developed by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business).

No CFI ACS; Here’s Why!

You have probably wondered why you have not seen the new CFI ACS (promised for the last 4 years) or any changes to the current standards? A Department of Transportation interpretation (December 20, 2018) classified the current (and proposed) Airman Certification Standards as “Official Guidance Material.” This DOT interpretation coupled with a presidential proclamation from the last administration, requires all ACS/PTS documents to refer directly to Federal Regulations for support. Consequently, any change or update to an ACS was subject to the NPRM process (Notice of Proposed Rulemaking). This is a year-long process requiring publication (with public comment and response) for any change. This draconian interpretation prevents any flexibility in the creation and/or updating of the flight training standards. This cumbersome process, preventing flexibility or rapid update of the standards, jeopardized the safety and the evolutionary improvement of the training process. These standards are were essentially “frozen” until just now; progress is finally being made with a legal workaround called “incorporation by reference.” (Glad I’m a pilot not a lawyer…) But it is about to get really weird for testing as these new standards are (incrementally) published and approved (more soon).

DOT advised the FAA that all future ACS or PTS documents, including updates, will require that the FAA either (1) remove any tasks and maneuvers not explicitly required by regulation; or (2) issue a rule that would make those tasks and maneuvers regulatory.

As is apparent in the Aviation Mechanic release above, we will probably see a confusing progressive release of future testing standards as they achieve approval after being published in the Federal Register (stand by for more). Fly safely out there (and often)!


Join SAFE and get great benefits. You get 1/3 off ForeFlight and your membership supports our mission of increasing aviation safety by promoting excellence in education.  Our FREE SAFE Toolkit App puts required pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smartphone and facilitates CFI+DPE teamwork. Our CFI insurance was developed by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business).

New (Free) Course: “IFR Preflight Self-Briefing”

This comprehensive FAA WINGS Course has a ton of valuable resources and is right up to date with the newest technological tools for pilots (highly recommended)!

Prepare to spend some time working through this (4 hour) course, it is a solid presentation from FAA Flight Services. Please share this with pilots and learners.

“This is a very large course (4 hours) that can be broken up into pieces and returned to at will, as long as the user is signed in to the FAA WINGS website. While we recognize that such a large course is not ideal, we also recognize that to make anything less than comprehensive is to be self-defeating and counter-productive.

The course primarily consists of scenario based training designed to put you in plausible scenarios where the correct “Go/No-Go” answer isn’t always immediately clear. This is an excellent tool for CFI’s, CFII’s, IFR Students, or ANY pilot looking for a refresher.”


Join SAFE and get great benefits. You get 1/3 off ForeFlight and your membership supports our mission of increasing aviation safety by promoting excellence in education.  Our FREE SAFE Toolkit App puts required pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smartphone and facilitates CFI+DPE teamwork. Our CFI insurance was developed by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business).

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