Certificates, Ratings, and Endorsements

Flight Instructor Endorsements

The authority and responsibility for flight instructors to endorse initial learner certificates, logbooks for solo and solo cross-country, additional aircraft ratings, and flight privileges are outlined in Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) part 61. In addition, Advisory Circular (AC) 61-65, Certification: Pilots and Flight and Ground Instructors, provides guidance for pilots, flight instructors, ground instructors, and examiners on the certification standards, knowledge test procedures, and other requirements of 14 CFR part 61. By utilizing AC 61-65, the flight instructor does not omit any required endorsement for the rating sought, which ensures standardization. It is important for the flight instructor to understand and use AC 61-65 in the certification process.

Instructors should note that evaluations include an English language component. If the instructor doubts that a learner meets the FAA English Language Standard (AELS), the instructor should not endorse the review or check as complete. The instructor may also reach out to their local FSDO for assistance if the learner's continued operation could affect safety of the NAS. For further guidance on this subject refer to FAA AC 60-28, FAA English Language Standard for an FAA Certificate Issued Under 14 CFR parts 61, 63, 65, and 107.

The regulatory requirements for recording and logging time come from several different regulations that should be viewed together.
  • 14 CFR part 61, section 61.189 requires flight instructors to sign the logbook of each person to whom that instructor has given flight training or ground training. That section also contains instructor requirements for maintaining a record of endorsements given to the applicant.
  • 14 CFR part 61, section 61.193 authorizes instructors to make endorsements applicants need for various certificates or ratings.
  • Subparts of 14 CFR part 61 detail the training an applicant needs to log in order to qualify for a rating or privilege. For example, 14 CFR part 61, subpart C, section 61.87(c)(1) requires a student pilot to receive and log flight training in specific maneuvers and procedures.
  • 14 CFR part 61, section 61.51 details the information required for logbook entries.

Flight instructors may also provide training and make logbook endorsements for pilots who are already certificated such as sport, recreational, private, commercial, and instrument rated pilots, as well as for other flight instructors. Typical endorsements include but are not limited to flight reviews, instrument proficiency checks, the additional training required for high performance, high altitude, and tail wheel aircraft, and types of glider launches.

Additional rating applicants (e.g., multiengine add-on, seaplane add-on, glider add-on, helicopter add-on) are rated pilots and not considered student pilots nor do they need a student pilot certificate.
  • In accordance with 14 CFR part 61, section 61.31(d)(2), applicants without the appropriate rating require an instructor's logbook endorsement prior to solo flight.
  • 14 CFR part 61, section 61.63 contains the requirement for an endorsement for an applicant prior to testing for an added rating.

Sample practical test endorsements are listed in AC 61-65. Any requirement for an applicant to receive and log a practical test endorsement is cited in the relevant 14 CFR subpart for each rating. For example, 14 CFR part 61, subpart F, section 61.123(c) requires an endorsement from an authorized instructor for an applicant for a commercial pilot certificate. Note that when giving an endorsement, there is no rule that prevents an instructor from adding a requirement.

The flight instructor may need to customize the endorsement due to an applicant’s special circumstances or changes in regulatory requirements, but it is recommended all endorsements be worded as closely as possible to those in AC 61-65. At a minimum, the flight instructor needs to cite the appropriate 14 CFR part 61 section that has been completed. [Figure 1]

Certificates, Ratings, and Endorsements
Figure 1. This is a sample logbook endorsement for pre-solo aeronautical knowledge

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspectors and designated pilot examiners (DPEs) rely on flight instructor recommendations for learner or pilot applicant testing. These recommendations are accepted as evidence of qualification for certification and proof that a review of the subject areas found to be deficient on the appropriate knowledge test has been given by the flight instructor. Recommendations also provide assurance the applicant has had a thorough briefing on the Practical Test Standards (PTS), Airman Certification Standards (ACS), and the associated knowledge areas, maneuvers, and procedures. If the flight instructor has trained and prepared the applicant competently, the applicant should have no difficulty in passing the written and practical tests.

Sport Pilot

Many consider the advent of the sport pilot certification to be one of the most significant changes to the airman certification structure to have occurred in over 50 years. Because of the growing cost to acquire the private pilot certification, more and more aviation enthusiasts are considering the sport pilot as an alternative. Many aircraft already meet the light sport aircraft criteria, and many manufacturers are now producing modern light sport aircraft. Flight instructors should review 14 CFR part 61, subparts J and K, for the requirements for, and privileges and limitations of, the sport pilot certifications.

14 CFR part 61, subparts J and K, also describe the process for sport pilots and flight instructors with a sport pilot rating to add additional category/class privileges. Light sport aircraft meet certain criteria, and a well-informed flight instructor should be acquainted with the basic requirements.

FAA Forms 8710-1, 8610-2, and 8710-11

Forms 8710-1, 8610-2, and 8710-11 are versions of the Airman Certificate and/or Rating Application. The instructor should ensure the applicant is prepared for the test and has met all the regulatory requirements, including knowledge, proficiency, required endorsements, and experience requirements before the application process. The applicant then either completes the 8710 or 8610 paper form by hand or uses the Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application (IACRA) electronic application system available at iacra.faa.gov/IACRA/Default.aspx.

Whenever possible, applicants should use the IACRA system to make their application. The system provides internal checking, and reduces the error rate. Any mistake or omission on a paper application form may cause a significant delay in the issuance of an FAA certificate.

Instructor Records

14 CFR part 61, section 61.189 requires the flight instructor to maintain a record that includes information on the type of endorsement, the name of the person receiving the endorsement, and the date of the endorsement. This information may be kept in a logbook or a separate document. For a knowledge or practical test endorsement, the record must include the kind of test, the date, and the results. Records of endorsements must be maintained for at least 3 years.

Knowledge Tests

14 CFR part 61, section 61.39(a)(1) requires that the applicant pass a knowledge test. When preparing an applicant for certification (e.g., recreational, private, commercial or instrument), the flight instructor may provide the learner with an endorsement to certify he or she has the required knowledge in accordance with 14 CFR part 61, section 61.35. Bear in mind that some additional ratings do not require a knowledge test. For information concerning additional aircraft certifications not requiring knowledge tests, refer to AC 61-65. Flight instructors (not including sport pilot instructors) take an FOI knowledge test or an aircraft subject matter test as required by 14 CFR part 61, sections 61.183(e) and 61.183(f). Added flight instructor ratings require a knowledge test on subject matter (part 61, section 61.183(f)), but the current added rating tests are shorter than the original flight instructor certification test under part 61, section 61.183(f) .

Sport pilot applicants take a knowledge test required by 14 CFR part 61, section 61.307(a). The regulation requires a logbook endorsement from an authorized instructor in order to be able to take the knowledge test. 14 CFR part 61, section 61.405(a) requires a logbook endorsement from an authorized instructor for sport pilot instructor applicants. A Fundamentals of Instructing test may also apply in accordance with part 61, section 61.405(a)(1).

If the applicant fails a knowledge test, the applicant needs an endorsement from an authorized instructor who gave additional training in accordance with 14 CFR part 61, section 61.49(a) in order to retake the test. There is an unsigned endorsement provided on the knowledge test report that may be utilized by the instructor.

Additional Training and Endorsements

Flight instructors may provide training and endorsements for certificated pilots. AC 61-98, Currency Requirement and Guidance for the Flight Review and Instrument Proficiency Check, contains relevant information for certificated pilots and flight instructors for flight review required by 14 CFR part 61, section 61.56 or meeting recent flight experience requirements of section 61.57.

The AC includes general guidance in each of these areas, references to other related documents, and sample training plans that are pertinent to this type of training.

Flight Reviews

The requirements for a flight review are contained in 14 CFR part 61, section 61.56. The flight review is the aeronautical equivalent of a regular medical checkup and ongoing health improvement program.

Effective pilot refresher training should be based on specific objectives and standards. The objectives should include a thorough checkout appropriate to the pilot certificate and aircraft ratings held, and the standards should be at least those required for the issuance of that pilot certificate. Before beginning any training, the pilot and the instructor should agree fully on these objectives and standards, and, as training progresses, the pilot should be kept appraised of progress toward achieving those goals.

A flight review is an excellent opportunity for a flight instructor to review pilot decision-making (ADM) skills. To get the information needed to evaluate ADM skills, including risk management, give the pilot multiple opportunities to make decisions and ask questions about those decisions. For example, ask the pilot to explain why the alternate airport selected for a diversion exercise is a safe and appropriate choice. What are the possible hazards, and what can the pilot do to mitigate them? Be alert to the pilot’s information and automation management skills as well. For example, does the pilot perform regular “common sense crosschecks?” For more ideas on generating scenarios that teach risk management, visit www.faa.gov/regulations_policies/ handbooks_manuals/aviation/pilot_risk/.

AC 61-98, Currency Requirement and Guidance for the Flight Review and Instrument Proficiency Check, provides guidance for conducting a flight review. An appendix in the AC includes a sample flight review checklist, which contains portions of 14 CFR part 61, section 61.56 and a sample endorsement. At the conclusion of a successful flight review, the logbook of the pilot should be endorsed, as recommended. [Figure 2]

Certificates, Ratings, and Endorsements
Figure 2. This sample logbook endorsement is for completion of a flight review

Instrument Proficiency Checks

Instrument rated pilots who fail to meet instrument currency requirements of 14 CFR part 61, section 61.57(c) for more than 6 calendar months are required by 14 CFR part 61, section 61.57(d) to complete an instrument proficiency check (IPC) in order to regain their instrument flying privileges. This does not apply to pilots meeting certain exceptions outlined in section 61.57(e).

14 CFR part 61, section 61.57(d) contains the requirements for an IPC. AC 61-98 contains guidance for the conduct of an (IPC). The Instrument Rating Airman Certification Standards (ACS) provides additional IPC information.

Aircraft and instrument ratings appropriate to the aircraft being flown need to be listed on the flight instructor’s instructor certificate as indicated in 14 CFR part 61, section 61.57(d)(2).

Instructors as Certifying Officials for Student and Remote Certificates

14 CFR part 61, section 61.85(b) and part 107, section 107.63(b)(1) allow instructors to accept a Student Pilot or Remote Pilot Application. AC 61-141, Flight Instructors as Certifying Officials for Student Pilot and Remote Pilot Applicants, has process details for instructors and applicants.

Aircraft Checkouts/Transitions

Certificated pilots depend on flight instructors for aircraft checkouts and transition training including high performance airplanes, tail wheel airplanes, motor gliders, and aircraft capable of flight at high altitudes. The flight instructor who checks out and certifies the competency of a pilot in an aircraft for which a type rating is not required by regulation accepts major responsibility for the safety of future passengers. Many newer light airplanes are comparable in performance and complexity to transport airplanes. For these, the flight instructor’s checkout should be at least as thorough as an official type rating practical test. Other considerations include:
  • AC 90-109, Transition to Unfamiliar Aircraft, contains information help plan the transition to any unfamiliar fixed-wing airplanes, including type-certificated (TC) and/or experimental airplanes.

For the conduct of an aircraft checkout, it is essential the flight instructor is fully qualified in the aircraft used and thoroughly familiar with its operating procedures, AFM, and operating limitations. An instructor who does not meet the recent flight experience prescribed by regulations for the aircraft concerned should not attempt to check out another pilot.

The flight instructor should utilize a plan of action and a written training syllabus based on the appropriate ACS/PTS, and record in the pilot’s logbook the exact extent of any checkout conducted. This record serves a twofold purpose: it benefits the pilot concerned and it protects the flight instructor if questions arise later. In the event the instructor finds a pilot’s performance to be insufficient to allow sign-off, the pilot should be thoroughly debriefed on all problem areas and further instruction scheduled. In some cases, a referral to another instructor may be appropriate.

Pilot Proficiency

Professional flight instructors maintain knowledge and skill as instructors and as pilots. The flight instructor is at the leading edge of the aviation industry’s efforts to improve aviation safety through additional training.

Instructors planning to take the ATP multiengine airplane knowledge test may refer to AC 61-138, Airline Transport Pilot Certification Training Program, for further guidance.

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