FAA Removes Requirement of Demonstration of Complex Aircraft on CFI Initial and Single-Engine Initial Commercial Pilot Practical Tests

Today the FAA published FAA Notice N8900.463 which specifically addresses a change in policy in the Commercial Pilot ACS and the CFI PTS documents to allow for completion of a practical test without requiring demonstration of a complex aircraft on certain tests.

This represents a significant change of interest to flight training providers. While the changes to the ACS and PTS documents in no way (at this time) eliminate the regulatory requirement for training toward a rating or certificate in a complex aircraft or the completion of an endorsement for such a certificate, it does eliminate the requirement to bring this type of an aircraft with for a practical test. The change allows greater flexibility for training providers to utilize different aircraft in the completion of “complex aircraft training” or endorsements during the training that will not be required to be used on a practical test.

It is important to note that, “There is no change to the complex airplane training and endorsement requirements of § 61.31(e) or to the commercial pilot aeronautical experience requirements of § 61.129(a)(3)(ii) or part 141 appendix D.”

The changes are only applicable to the demonstration requirements that now previously required the demonstration of use of a complex aircraft on single-engine initial CFI and Commercial practical tests. Continue reading

Dangers of Relying On Oxygen Systems in Middle-Altitude Flying

“What’s the highest you have had this plane?” It’s one of the most common questions I get when I tell someone I fly a friend’s Cessna 340. As if there is some special badge of accomplishment I get if I have managed to get it all the way to the published service ceiling. The reality is that flying higher comes with some additional risks, ones that can be fatal if not carefully managed, or mitigated.

One of the riskiest segments of general aviation flying is what I call, “middle-altitude flying”. This is the flying that begins at altitudes where the FAA requires oxygen up to and including the middle FL20’s. For a select grouping of aircraft in our general aviation fleet, aircraft typically with turbocharged engines and some type of oxygen systems, operation at these levels becomes possible. Some examples include the Cessna 400 series, the Piper Navajo, some AeroCommanders, and a few Beech Barons and Dukes to name a few. Obvious benefits can be gained by flying at these altitudes, but one risk that seems to keep hurting pilots (and their passengers) is an encounter with hypoxia-related problems. Sometimes, these are fatal. Many times, the risks could have been mitigated.

Flying an aircraft above FAA oxygen-requiring altitudes comes with all the potential aeromedical risk we have all learned about in our training. I won’t dive into the specific risks here, but when flying at middle-altitudes pilots may be lulled into thinking that they are less of a risk because they aren’t flying at extreme altitudes. In fact, the risks may be greater! Continue reading

Myths and Complaints About Designated Pilot Examiners Discussed

As someone who has been acting as a DPE for a significant period of time and still currently provide CFI services to clients, I hear all kinds of assumptions and myths about DPEs.

After recently encountering a few of these myths, I thought I’d try to help explain the job that DPEs do and the services we provide to the aviation training community. There are many myths and misconceptions about why DPEs do some of the things they do, and I think it is important to help dispell them.

While I don’t claim to speak for all DPEs, I wouldn’t be surprised if many examiners would agree with my observations on the following.

Examiners Charge too Much, Need to Charge Less, or Should Provide Practical Tests for Free

Yes, we actually get told that examiners should do this for free, should not charge any more than a flight instructor charges per hour, or that the FAA should have a capped national price level.

Ok, “free” is just a silly recommendation. As an examiner, I can come back and say, “then why don’t flight training providers provide their aircraft for free?” Their answer is that they are in business to make money. The same is true of examiners. We work hard to gain the skill and experience to become examiners, keep our qualifications current, and provide the service. Charging for that service is a business endeavor. If examiners couldn’t expect reasonable compensation, why should they do the job?

I personally wouldn’t bother to go through all of the work and take on the liability that comes with being an examiner for free. Continue reading