The National Association of Flight Instructors (NAFI), representatives of other aviation organizations, and flight instructor renewal clinic (FIRC) providers met with representatives from the FAA’s AFS-800 division in Washington, D.C., this week to discuss updating the flight instructor renewal process to increase safety and reduce the number of GA accidents.
According to NAFI officials, the meeting was the result of the FAA’s indication that it has “been reviewing indicators that suggest that the process currently in place (by which flight instructors renew their certificates) may lack sufficient effectiveness in ensuring that CFIs are being provided the best information in the most useful manner.”
“The impetus behind the meeting wasn’t that the FAA sees a significant problem with flight instructors, but that it was part of the agency’s overall goal to reduce the accident rate in general aviation, which has been flat in recent years per 100,000 hours of operational activity,” said NAFI Executive Director Jason Blair. “The FAA sees flight instructors as an important part of the solution of helping to decrease that overall accident rate.”
Participants were initially concerned whether the FAA would continue to allow flight instructors to renew their certificates using the FIRC process, NAFI officials said. There also was concern that the FAA was attempting to increase the requirements and continuing education processes flight instructors would be subjected to in order to renew their certificates.
While Blair said the FAA didn’t indicate that it considers the FIRC process to be broken, the agency is looking ahead. “Changes are coming, and the FAA will evaluate what it needs to do to address training in those upcoming changes,” he said.
Agency officials indicated that, in some cases, FIRCs have served a great service over the years and help keep instructors up to date — maybe better than renewals granted through the active-instruction renewal process, Blair said, noting that requiring instructors to attend FIRCs every two years to promote continued involvement in regular educational updates is on the table.
“The FAA indicated that it’s not expected that any regulatory change will be made in the renewal process at this time,” Blair said. “The discussion was focused on continually improving the quality of material that flight instructors encounter in their renewal process.”
The goal is professional, knowledgeable flight instructors who can provide effective instruction for their clients, Blair said. “NAFI certainly agrees with this goal, along with the continued ability of flight instructors to renew their certificates under current regulatory processes until such a time that any more appropriate process can be validated by the FAA or through collaboration with the industry.”
Last week NAFI conducted a survey of its members to explore some of the discussions expected at the meeting. The results of this survey and the comments received from its members helped NAFI explain the concerns of the flight-instructor community. “It was my pleasure to share the comments and concerns of the NAFI membership with the FAA and other industry representatives at this meeting,” Blair said.
The survey results, along with comments submitted to the FAA at the outset of the meeting, can be viewed at NAFInet.org.