Fixing the “Flight Test Qualification Crisis”

In a previous blog we disclosed the dramatic “crisis of qualification” among applicants for practical tests. Senior DPEs at an OSH 22 meeting with the FAA estimated that 1/5th of test applicants fail to qualify to begin their practical tests due to insufficient (or poorly documented) flight experience and/or incorrect endorsements. This is a huge monetary and psychological blow to an eager applicant but is also a tragic waste of DPE availability. A 20% waste of DPE appointments severely damages the testing system stretched thin with record pilot training and testing. We need to optimize every available testing opportunity in this growing pilot environment. Training and recommending flight test applicants is a critical CFI skill that obviously needs improvement in the industry.

To help solve this problem, SAFE has created a series of “All-In-One” qualification templates available free to CFIs (and applicants). Each pdf contains all the required experience in a checklist format. Each pdf also includes the required CFI endorsements at the top of each sheet. This probably is not “foolproof” but if used properly, should come pretty close to eliminating this sad situation. These tools can eliminate unqualified applicants if CFIs apply this tool conscientiously.

These pdfs are available on the (free) SAFE Toolkit App and also on the SAFE WebsiteThe SAFE Toolkit App also contains more extensive guidance on the practical tests in an area called “Checkride Ready!™”. This is currently available for private, instrument and commercial-level practical tests. The SAFE Toolkit was originally designed as a guide for all CFIs preparing applicants for tests. It has incrementally been expanded to provide advice for applicants as well as weekly information to pilots at all levels seeking to increase their professionalism. Here are simple instructions to print these from your phone using the SAFE Toolkit App

Touch/hold to see “open link” (in browser), then from the browser “open page options” and select “print.” Look for a local air printer or send this pdf to your laptop with a utility like airdrop, mail or message.

We just ordered 6″ all-weather vinyl stickers with the SAFE logo designed for use on aircraft. These will be available at Sun ‘N Fun at the SAFE booth stop by the Hangar C, #19/20 for a sticker (and lots of other bling). If you are a member, please attend our FREE member breakfast. Reserve a seat here (before they are all gone). Fly safely out there (and often).

Enjoy the new courses available to members on the new safe website. And please download and use the (free) SAFE Toolkit App. This contains all the references a working CFI needs plus provides continuously new safety content.

SAFE developed an insurance program just for CFIs! When you are an independent CFI, you are a business (and have legal exposure). This program is the most reasonable but also comprehensive insurance plan you can have (and every agent is a pilot!)


Author: David St. George

SAFE Director, Master CFI (12X), FAA DPE, ATP (ME/SE) Currently jet charter captain.

11 thoughts on “Fixing the “Flight Test Qualification Crisis””

  1. The “Check Ride Ready” pdfs in the Tool kit are great! Thanks.

    One issue that keeps popping up is whether not training logged for an instrument rating 14 CFR 61.65(d) and 14 CFR 61.65(c) complies with the training required by 14 CFR 61.129(a)(3)(i) for a commercial pilot certificate.

    In Oord-AOPA, the FAA gives the following example of why training for an instrument rating 61.65(e) may not fulfill the requirements of 61.129 saying, “For example, the instrument training for 61.56(e) may not have included specific instrument training on recovery from unusual attitudes as required by 61.129.”
    And in Hartzell, the FAA is saying that instrument training for the instrument rating will meet some, if not most, or quite often all of the requirements for the commercial rating. “The interpretation did not establish an additive requirement for the number of hours of instrument training required to meet the aeronautical experience requirements of 14 CFR 61.129(a)(3)(i).”

    The argument that “an Instrument Rating is Not Necessarily Sufficient” for commercial pilot applicants could be true if an applicant doesn’t have 5-hours in airplane but otherwise all other aspects of the instrument rating required tasks can be found in the Instrument Rating ACS (using a view-limiting device including attitude instrument flying, partial panel skills, recovery from unusual flight attitudes, and intercepting and tracking navigational systems). And, if we want to specifically call out the FAA’s example used in Oord-AOPA, “unusual attitude training,” that training is required within the Instrument Rating Airplane ACS, IV Flight by Reverence to Instruments, Task B. “Recovery from Unusual Flight Attitudes.”

    So, which is it? If it’s a Required Skill in the Instrument ACS, and a person has passed their Instrument checkride, then other than the required five hours of the 10 hours required [14 CFR 61.129(a)(3)(i)] on instrument training that must be in a single engine airplane, wouldn’t the applicant’s logbook showing their instrument training and the passing of an instrument checkride comply with 61.129(c) without the necessity of including the written references to 61.129 during instrument training? It seems really absurd to send a commercial pilot packing before they begin a checkride for this ‘administrative’ bug-a-boo!

    Perhaps if or when the ACS is incorporated by reference into the regulations this will all become moot?

    1. I think the difference is that the regs have training requirements and the ACS has testing requirements, and testing may not or cannot fulfill the training.

      1. Yes, that is very true. And to your point, additional proficiency training never hurt anyone.

    2. Thanks Dorothy! The FAA interpretation for the Commercial in 61.129 is pretty consistent with how they regard private pilot “IFR training” ( a CFI can fly the private training because it is “aircraft control by reference to instruments”). SImple 61.65 (IFR) training does not count for the commercial because the skills required are “aircraft control” and beyond the (narcoleptic) “standard rate L/R” IFR-type training. See SAFE CFI NOTAMS

      I used to take my IFR students out and do steep turns and a stall series in the clouds with an ATC block altitude clearance (that gets their attention). This was also signed as 61.129 training – a bit more challenging than tracking a pink line on autopilot? (BIll Kershner used to do spin recoveries IFR…a bit far for me).

      1. Ha- Spin recoveries in IMC-no thanks! But Bill was the SPIN master!!! Wish, I had had the opportunity to train with him.

  2. These are very useful tools. On the PVT form one thing I would add is the cross-country requirement from Part 61 which “includes a point of landing that was at least a straight-line distance of more than 50 nautical miles from the original point of departure”. This was one of the most frequent errors I used to see. I would also encourage that the document be referenced from the start because it presents all of the objectives in one place and the learner will be motivated as progress is made toward the objectives shown (of course it has to be explained that most learners will exceed the minimum hours required).

    1. Thanks Warren. Obviously, we need to leave some obvious things out to stay on one sheet? We covered most of those “things every CFI should know” in “SAFE CFI NOTAMS.” (This is right in 61.1 definitions) There are many little “gotchas” that every CFI must know. The 10 hours either solo or “performing the duties of pilot in command” is another (these cannot be “mixed” since FAA says “OR”)

  3. I was going for my instrument check ride already scheduled by my instructor. I reviewed my logbook and I noticed I had not completed the requirements to take the test. We went up and did the required maneuvers before the check ride.
    I can see this happening, with people that have been to several flight schools.

  4. I’m struggling quite a bit to find these free qualifications PDFs for checkrides. Every link I click (including the one on this page) takes me to a page that does not have these PDF documents on it or takes me in circles. I know it mentions two ways to get them, one of which is in the app for iOS only, which I don’t have, and the other has a link to a website that does not have the PDF anywhere to be found. Is there any way to can reply with the direct link to these PDF documents or where they can actually be found?

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