Proficiency Incentives

Maintaining skills at a higher level may require recognition.

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Junebug Clark & Jeff Hetler

Proficiency is a key aspect of aviation safety for all pilots. We all realize that flying once every two years doesn’t maintain proficiency or skills, but many pilots who don’t fly regularly for work or other reasons may need a little tap on the back to study and fly enough to keep their skills alive. The same is true for instructors and you may be surprised to know how many licensed instructors may not be proficient at teaching. According to the National Association of Flight Instructors (NAFI), fewer than 15 percent of the more than 93,000 active instructors in the United States sign off a student each year.

This statistic doesn’t necessarily mean that the thousands of instructors who don’t sign off students are not proficient at flying. Many airline pilots maintain the currency of their CFI certificates, but are prohibited by their employer from providing instruction. And there are also some instructors who give biennial flight reviews and provide instruction for endorsements other than a complete rating. The only legal requirement to maintain the CFI certificate (which is a difficult one to obtain) is the completion of a Flight Instructor Refresher Course (FIRC) every two years (which is quite easy to complete) in addition to the biennial flight review we all have to complete. So it’s no surprise that there are many certified instructors who aren’t what perhaps should be considered as active.

While it’s fine to maintain the legal requirements to maintain the CFI certificate and prevent having to take a checkride if and when you decide to begin teaching again, a better approach is to keep the skills alive. It’s easier to maintain a skill than to relearn it. To help instructors do just that and to provide a level of proficiency that they feel is appropriate to their members, NAFI has proposed a new program to the FAA, which incorporates the FAA Safety Team (FAASTeam). NAFI calls the proposed program the NAFI/FAASTeam Standardized Instructor Proficiency Recognition Program. “This proposal represents a non-regulatory, industry best-practices approach to enhancing proficiency in the flight instructor community,” said NAFI’s Executive Director Jason Blair.

In order to participate in the NAFI/FAASTeam Standardized Instructor Proficiency Recognition Program, the instructor would have to complete a CFI Proficiency Check based on the Practical Test Standards applicable to the CFI’s certificates, which would be similar to an Instrument Proficiency Check for instrument rated pilots. It would require a flight with a flight instructor to evaluate not only the flight proficiency of the instructor but also the instructional proficiency. Whether this program will actually be put in place we don’t know. But, taking the initiative to maintain a higher level of proficiency than is legally required is something we all should consider doing, whether we’re recognized for doing it or not.

Or do we all need incentives?