Friday, February 18, 2011

AOPA to FAA: Let CFI-S Hours Count for the Private License!

There’s been some controversy lately regarding FAA’s mandate that flight training towards the Sport Pilot license is not allowed to count toward the Private Pilot (PPL) and higher licenses and ratings unless the instructor is a certificated CFI, rather than a CFI-S (as FAA delineates Sport Pilot-only instructors).
Recently, AOPA petitioned the FAA to change the regulations and allow those hours to count for all higher levels of certificated airmanship.
The pilot member organization picked up support along the way from EAA, GAMA (General Aviation Manufacturers Association), and NAFI (National Association of Flight Instructors), all of which are now petitioning FAA to change these regs: FAR Part 61.99 and 61.109. 
Should hours logged with a CFI-S count toward the Private - and beyond?
The specific language asks FAA to “permit the instruction time received in pursuit of a sport pilot certificate to be credited toward the instruction requirements of additional certificates and ratings.”
Of course, getting advanced ratings requires training from a qualified CFI.  The petition only addresses Sport Pilot training as given by a CFI-S.
The crux seems to be FAA's 2009 ruling reinterpretation that revised its own 2002 take that held ultralight flight time logged by Sport Pilots would count toward higher-level certificates. 
The 2009 statement posited that allowing CFI-S training to count toward the PPL in effect constituted permission for CFI-S to provide training for the PPL.
No way, said AOPA, proclaiming that aeronautical experience gained in pursuit of the SPL provides “a valuable foundation for the additional requirements of the private pilot certificate.”
Nobody’s suggesting that CFI-S can legally take a student through the PPL.  Buy why shouldn’t the skills taught by one count?
Does any pilot logically believe that good instruction doesn’t make them a better pilot from Day One?
FAA’s narrow view is akin to making a student retake 7th grade algebra before he takes geometry in the 9th grade, because he was taught by middle school instructors instead of in high school. 
Math is math and teaching is teaching. 
Aeronautical skills and knowledge, as with riding a bicycle, don’t simply evaporate because they were initially learned from someone with a CFI-S-only credential.
The group goes on to say allowing sport pilots to move smoothly up to higher-level licenses and ratings not only doesn’t compromise safety, but gives Sport Pilots greater incentive to pursue those skills and in fact enhances safety.
Works for me.  What do you think?


Anonymous said...


The FAA's ruling, which makes no sense from the point of view of flight instruction or safety, might make sense if it were simply an effort to protect CFIs from competition - but NAFI has the integrity to want this changed.

Since this ruling was an "interpretation," not an actual rule, someone in authority at the FAA should simply reverse it and not waste any resources on defending it, or on a rulemaking process before changing it.

James Lawrence said...

Thanks, great points. Let's hope logic prevails.
I'd like to hear from any pilots who've in fact come against this "non-bankable" hours issue.

Anonymous said...

I've come up against it. I looked into getting a Sport Pilot Instructor rating but concluded I'd be doing no-one any favors if they couldn't use the hours they flew with me!

- Thomas

hamike said...

It's great that AOPA is getting in on this! The problem is not so much an interpretation as a reading on the "Letter" of the law. ie, which FAR subpart paragraph a CFI falls under in order to instruct for Private or higher. As it is written now, CFI-S doesn't fall into that paragraph/category. The rule should be rewritten.
That being said, The "interpretation" letter talked about the "Original Intent" of the Sport Pilot CFI-S rule as not allowing the CFI-S train people for higher ratings. However, the FAA lawyer who wrote the letter obviously never talked to any of the FAA, EAA, industry leaders and pilots who actually crafted the rule. The "original intent" always was that dual given for a Sport Pilot by a CFI-S rating should count for the "applicable" portions of higher ratings. In other words, the manuevers/training required for Sport Pilot that are also applicable to Private pilot should count. The standards for the common maneuvers are identical for that very reason! There is no logical reason for those portions of Sport Pilot training not to count!

I applaud all the groups who are working to correct this problem!!!

James Lawrence said...

Thanks for the deeper insights, hamike. This does indeed seem like one of those imprecise wording things that gets reinterpreted later, and the spirit of the law gets hammered by the letter of the law. Then we all run around for awhile yelling "The sky is falling!" until logic reasserts itself.