Role of the Examiner

The subject of the PTS also offers the CFI an opportunity to discuss the role of the examiner who plays an important role in the FAA’s mission of promoting aviation safety by administering FAA practical tests for pilot and flight instructor certificates and associated ratings. To satisfy the need for pilot testing and certification services, the FAA delegates certain of these responsibilities to private individuals who are not FAA employees.

Role of the Examiner and Certificated Flight Instructor

Appointed in accordance with 14 CFR section 183.23, a designated pilot examiner (DPE) is an individual who meets the qualification requirements of the Pilot Examiner’s Handbook, Order 8710.3, and who:

  • Is technically qualified.
  • Holds all pertinent category, class, and type ratings for each aircraft related to their designation.
  • Meets requirements of 14 CFR part 61, sections 61.56, 61.57, and 61.58, as appropriate.
  • Is current and qualified to act as pilot in command (PIC) of each aircraft for which they are authorized.
  • Maintains at least a third-class medical certificate if required.
  • Maintains a current flight instructor certificate, if required.

Designated to perform specific pilot certification tasks on behalf of the FAA, a DPE may charge a reasonable fee. Generally, a DPE’s authority is limited to accepting applications and conducting practical tests leading to the issuance of specific pilot certificates and/or ratings. The majority of FAA practical tests at the private and commercial pilot level are administered by DPEs, following FAA provided test standards.

DPE candidates must have good industry reputations for professionalism, integrity, a demonstrated willingness to serve the public, and adhere to FAA policies and procedures in certification matters. The FAA expects the DPE to administer practical tests with the same degree of professionalism, using the same methods, procedures, and standards as an FAA aviation safety inspector (ASI).

Role of the Certificated Flight Instructor (CFI)

The FAA places full responsibility for student flight training on the shoulders of the CFI, who is the cornerstone of aviation safety. It is the job of the flight instructor to train the student in all the knowledge areas and teach the skills necessary for the student to operate safely and competently as a certificated pilot in the NAS. The training is not limited to airmanship skills, but includes pilot judgment and decision-making and good operating practices.

A pilot training program depends on the quality of the ground and flight instruction the student receives. A competent instructor must possess a thorough understanding of the learning process, knowledge of the fundamentals of teaching, and the ability to communicate effectively with the student. He or she uses a syllabus and teaching style that embodies the “building block” method of instruction. In this method, the student progresses from the unknown to the known via a course of instruction laid out in such a way that each new maneuver embodies the principles involved in the performance of maneuvers previously learned. Thus, with the introduction of each new subject, the student not only learns a new principle or technique, but also broadens his or her application of those principles or techniques previously learned.

Insistence on correct techniques and procedures from the beginning of training by the CFI ensures the student develops proper habit patterns. Any deficiencies in maneuvers or techniques must immediately be emphasized and corrected. A CFI serves as a role model for the student who observes the flying habits of his or her flight instructor during flight instruction, as well as when the instructor conducts other pilot operations. Thus, the CFI becomes a model of flying proficiency for the student who, consciously or unconsciously, attempts to imitate the instructor. The CFI’s advocacy and description of safety practices mean little to a student if the instructor does not demonstrate them consistently. For this reason, CFIs must observe recognized safety practices, as well as regulations during all flight operations.

An appropriately rated CFI is responsible for training the pilot applicant to acceptable standards in all subject matter areas, procedures, and maneuvers included in the tasks within the appropriate PTS. Because of the impact of their teaching activities in developing safe, proficient pilots, flight instructors should exhibit a high level of knowledge, skill, and the ability to impart that knowledge and skill to students.

Additionally, the flight instructor must certify that the applicant is able to perform safely as a pilot and is competent to pass the required practical test. Throughout the applicant’s training, the CFI is responsible for emphasizing the performance of effective visual scanning, collision avoidance, and runway incursion avoidance procedures.

Anyone who enrolls in a pilot training program commits considerable time, effort, and expense to earn a pilot certificate. Many times an individual judges the effectiveness of the flight instructor and the success of the pilot training program based on his or her ability to pass the requisite FAA practical test. A truly professional flight instructor stresses to the student that practical tests are a sampling of pilot ability compressed into a short period of time. The goal of a CFI is to train the “total” pilot.