In my experience training and testing pilots working towards becoming Certified Flight Instructors (CFIs), I discovered more than a handful that had a difficult time explaining the records they were required to keep once acting as such. We all know the requirements for logging time, takeoffs, landings, and specific operations as a pilot, but extra things must be recorded once acting as an instructor. Let’s look at the regulation addressing this.
14 CFR 61.189: Flight Instructor Records
- A flight instructor must sign the logbook of each person to whom that instructor has given flight training or ground training.
- A flight instructor must maintain a record in a logbook or a separate document that contains the following:
- The name of each person whose logbook that instructor has endorsed for solo flight privileges, and the date of the endorsement; and
- The name of each person that instructor has endorsed for a knowledge test or practical test, and the record shall also indicate the kind of test, the date, and the results.
- Each flight instructor must retain the records required by this section for at least 3 years.
Sign Your Student’s Logbook
The first part of that regulation specifies that we must sign the logbook of each person we give flight or ground training. Since logbooks can be print or digital, it is imperative that we are familiar with the format our student chooses to use. Digital logbooks LogTen Pro1 and ForeFlight Mobile2 both “lock” the flight entered once it is signed, and any editing of the flight’s data deletes the signature, helping to ensure the record matches what we signed originally. With print logbooks, it can be a little trickier to manipulate an entry after signing, but still doable and not any more secure than digital, in my opinion.
Tip: Don’t let our student leave without signing their logbook, even if they say: “I don’t have enough time.” Also, don’t begin a lesson without ensuring the student has that logbook present. This protects us and the student.
I once was tasked with giving a mock check ride to a student pilot getting ready for his Private Pilot practical exam. He took more hours than average in training, and he had three instructors throughout his time—two had left to other jobs outside of the state. I examined his logbook to make sure he met the flight time training requirements of 14 CFR 61.109(c), and found at least a dozen entries without signatures from the two CFIs that had left.
That was a failure on the instructors’ part for sure, but also somewhat on the student as he later admitted he would occasionally forget to bring his logbook to train. The student had to get those signatures, and to my understanding it took quite some time to find the instructors and get that to happen since they weren’t around anymore. Let’s always setup our students for success and make sure they have and we sign their logbook for each flight.
Maintain an Instructor Logbook (“Record”)
The second part of that regulation gives us some creative control on how we keep these next records. We can designate a section of our normal logbook to record the required items of 14 CFR 61.189(b), or we can have a separate “record” such as a separate book or perhaps a digital document. Personally, I keep all of these records in a simple Microsoft Word Document, backed up to the “cloud” and two other devices.
Instructors Required to Record Three Things, for Three Years
I don’t need to explain anything about keeping these records for at least three years, and the three required items to record are surprisingly simple to remember:
- Solo Flight Endorsements
- Student’s Name
- Date Endorsement Given
- Knowledge Test Endorsements
- Applicant’s Name
- Kind of Test
- Practical Test Endorsements
- Applicant’s Name
- Kind of Test
Personal Advice for Instructor Records
First, I’m amazed they don’t require us to record all endorsements given. That said, I recommend that we take the time to record all of them, just to cover our own butts and to help us track meeting endorsement requirements for each student and their pilot certificate/rating sought.
Second, I’d keep the entries in chronological order rather than alphabetical order, though we can create a spreadsheet to make sorting by any field an option with the requisite skills. The reason I suggest keeping them in chronological order is to help us track whether or not we meet the requirements for a Gold Seal added to our CFI certificate, since it is based upon activities within the last 24 calendar months.3
Finally, make it easy for the Aviation Safety Inspector (ASI) verifying our Gold Seal application and have each student’s FAA Tracking Number (FTN) included in the record, as well as a simple format displaying the date of the practical they took, what rating it was for, it’s outcome, and the name of the Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE). Having this info readily available will make the verification of our eligibility quick and painless when the time comes.
- Coradine. (2016). Is the Signature Feature Compliant with FAA Advisory Circular 120-78? [FAQ Post]. Retrieved December 6, 2016 from http://help.coradine.com/kb/common-questions-answers/is-the-signature-feature-compliant-with-faa-advisory-circular-120-78
- ForeFlight. (2016). Logbook in ForeFlight Mobile, Sixth Edition [Internal PDF Document]. Retrieved December 6, 2016 from ForeFlight Mobile [iOS App].
- Federal Aviation Administration. (July 24, 2013). Order 8900.1, Volume 5, Chapter 2, Section 13. Issue a Gold Seal Flight Instructor Certificate. Retrieved December 6, 2016 from http://fsims.faa.gov/PICDetail.aspx?docId=8900.1,Vol.5,Ch2,Sec13