When preparing a student or applicant for the private pilot certification or higher grade rating (i.e., commercial or instrument) a test is required to ensure the student has adequate aeronautical knowledge in those subject areas listed in 14 CFR part 61. The instructor may provide the student with an endorsement to certify he or she has the required knowledge to pass the test. Some additional ratings do not require a test. For information concerning additional aircraft certifications that do not require knowledge tests, refer to AC 61-65, Certification: Pilots and Flight and Ground Instructors. Flight instructors must take a short test for each additional category.
An instructor should remember he or she is held accountable for a deficient instructional performance. This is important for any instructor who signs recommendations for applicants who were not trained by that instructor.
If the applicant fails a test, the aviation instructor must sign the test after he or she has provided additional training in the areas the applicant failed. The applicant is given a retest. Prior to certification, the aviation instructor must make a statement that he or she gave the required training in the preceding 60 days and the instructor reviewed those areas of deficiency on the applicant’s knowledge test.
Provision is made on the airman certificate or rating application form for the written recommendation of the flight instructor who has prepared the applicant for the practical test involved. Signing this recommendation imposes a serious responsibility on the flight instructor. A flight instructor who makes a practical test recommendation for an applicant seeking a certificate or rating should require the applicant to thoroughly demonstrate the knowledge and skill level required for that certificate or rating. This demonstration should in no instance be less than the complete procedure prescribed in the applicable PTS.
When the instructor endorses the applicant for the practical test, his or her signature on the FAA form 8710-1 Airman Certificate and/or Rating Application is valid for 60 days. This is also true with the flight proficiency endorsement that is placed in the applicant’s logbook or training record (AC-61-65). These two dates should be the same.
Completion of prerequisites for a practical test is another instructor task that must be documented properly. Examples of all common endorsements can be found in the current issue of AC 61-65, appendix 1. This appendix also includes references to 14 CFR part 61 for more details concerning the requirements that must be met to qualify for each respective endorsement. The examples shown contain the essential elements of each endorsement. It is not necessary for all endorsements to be worded exactly as those in the AC. For example, changes to regulatory requirements may affect the wording, or the instructor may customize the endorsement for any special circumstances of the applicant. However, at a minimum, the instructor needs to cite the appropriate 14 CFR part 61 section that has been completed.
If a flight instructor fails to ensure a student pilot or additional rating pilot meets the requirements of regulations prior to making endorsements to allow solo flight or additional rating, that instructor is exhibiting a serious deficiency in performance. The FAA holds him or her accountable. Providing a solo endorsement for a student pilot who is not proficient for solo flight operations, or providing an endorsement for an additional rating for a pilot not meeting the appropriate regulatory requirements, is also a breach of faith with the student or applicant.