It is commonly taught that there are three definitions of “night” that pilots need to be concerned with. They involve logging flight time, carrying passengers, and periods for required illumination of aircraft lighting. There aren’t three definitions: there is only one. Let’s take a three-minute trip through the wonderful world of Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs).
My first pilot job, like many fresh pilots in the United States, was as a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI). Back when I was first hooked on flying helicopters, I did thorough research to find the steps I wanted to take to achieve my goal of making a career as a helicopter pilot. The end goal was to be either a utility pilot or emergency medical service pilot. Figuring out how to get there was the challenge.
The Notices To Airmen (NOTAM) Publication—updated every 28 days—contains NOTAMs that are not given during pilot briefings unless specifically requested by the pilot.1 As such, it is our responsibility to review these already published NOTAMs for applicable information for every flight, in addition to new NOTAMs. Some of these are easily forgotten or poorly reviewed in helicopter flight training, yet we are held responsible to comply with these notices: they are regulatory.
A Gold Seal on a Certified Flight Instructor’s (CFI) certificate indicates that they have a high level of personal qualifications and good records as an active CFI. There are also plenty of great instructors without a Gold Seal, either because they never applied for one or simply don’t have enough students taking check rides within the specified time period. No special privileges come with this added seal, but it does renew your CFI certificate for an additional two years when obtained.
If you are a current Certified Flight Instructor (CFI), you probably are aware of the existence of the Ground Instructor certificate described in Subpart I of Part 61 in Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). However, you’re probably asking yourself: “Why would I want a Ground Instructor certificate when I have my CFI certificate already?” Let’s look at the types of Ground Instructor certificates available and their respective privileges.
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.