You’re only as good as your endorsements

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CFI in cockpit

As a newly minted student pilot, you’ll naturally rely on your flight instructor to lead the process of becoming a pilot. You’ll entrust this individual with not only teaching the physical skill involved with flying an aircraft, but also the knowledge and process from which you can make safe, sound aeronautical decisions. While you likely haven’t spent a lot of time considering the matter, you also rely on your CFI to keep you legal as you learn the tangled web of Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations also known as the FARs.

While training under the watchful eye of a CFI implies shared responsibility for regulatory compliance, you should strive to fully understand the requirements to become a pilot (e.g. minimum flight experience, knowledge elements, certification standards, etc.). And you should also be familiar with the necessary endorsements required along your journey of becoming a pilot.

Student Pilot Certificate

One of your first encounters with a CFI will likely include accepting your student pilot application. The student pilot application should be initiated within IACRA (FAA’s online portal everything certification related). If you don’t already have an IACRA account, you’ll need to create one (FREE) during your fist visit. Before processing your student pilot application, the instructor must ensure you meet the age requirements (16 for airplanes) and English proficiency requirements and verify your identity via a government-issued photo ID likely your driver’s license or passport.

Your CFI will access your student pilot application using your FAA tracking number (FTN) which you’ll obtain after registering for an IACRA account so it’s best to keep this number at the ready. Your CFI will input your photo identification data and complete the application through IACRA. You can expect the temporary pilot certificate to be available for download and print within IACRA in just a few days and the permanent certificate to arrive in approximately five (5) weeks. Plastic student pilot certificates do not expire.

U.S. Citizenship Verification

Instructors must verify U.S. citizenship prior to initiating pilot training for Private, Instrument or Multiengine pilot training (49 CFR) § 1552.3(h). The flight instructor and/or flight school must keep a copy of the documents used to provide proof of citizenship for five (5) years OR make an endorsement in the student’s logbook and the instructor’s logbook or other record.

Non-US citizens (including resident aliens) must participate in the Alien Flight Student Program and undergo a security threat assessment outlined at FlightSchoolCanidates.gov.

Solo Requirements

Knowledge Test. Before flying solo (your first major milestone), must have completed a pre-solo knowledge test. Refer to § 61.87(b). A recommended pre-solo test is provided within Sporty’s Learn to Fly Course. At the conclusion of the test, the CFI must review all incorrect answers with you before authorizing the first solo. The test must address the student pilot’s knowledge of –

(i) Applicable sections of parts 61 and 91.

(ii) Airspace rules and procedures for the airport where the solo flight will be performed; and

(iii) Flight characteristics and operational limitations for the make and model of aircraft to be flown.

The pre-solo knowledge test endorsement will look something like this:

I certify that [First name, MI, Last name] has satisfactorily completed the pre-solo knowledge test of § 61.87(b) for the [make and model] aircraft.

DATE ____________________________ CFI ________________________________

CFI NO. ___________________________ EXP. ______________________________

 

Solo Flight Training. You must have received and logged flight training for the maneuvers and procedures that are appropriate to the make and model of aircraft to be flown solo. Refer to § 61.87. There are actually two endorsements necessary to cover the requirements of 61.87 – a one-time endorsement, as well as an endorsement that expires 90 days later. If you still require solo privileges after 90 days, your CFI will issue another endorsement. It would be wise to make a calendar notation for the 90 day endorsement expiration (this is easily overlooked). The endorsements verifying this has been complete will look something like this:

Pre-solo flight training: § 61.87(c)(1) and (2). ONE-TIME ENDORSEMENT

I certify that [First name, MI, Last name] has received and logged pre-solo flight training for the maneuvers and procedures that are appropriate to the [make and model] aircraft. I have determined [he or she] has demonstrated satisfactory proficiency and safety on the maneuvers and procedures required by § 61.87 in this or similar make and model of aircraft to be flown.

DATE ____________________________ CFI ________________________________

CFI NO. ___________________________ EXP. ______________________________

 

Solo flight (initial 90 calendar-day period): § 61.87(n). – INITIAL 90 DAY ENDORSEMENT

I certify that [First name, MI, Last name] has received the required training to qualify for solo flying. I have determined [he or she] meets the applicable requirements of § 61.87(n) and is proficient to make solo flights in [make and model].

DATE ____________________________ CFI ________________________________

CFI NO. ___________________________ EXP. ______________________________

 

A likely next step in your training will be the opportunity to travel to another airport solo. If the airport is within 25nm, it only requires a single endorsement. If the solo airport is beyond 25nm, it requires training and endorsements related to cross-country training. A generic, one-time endorsement is required to verify cross-country training has been received. An additional endorsement is required specific to each cross-country flight that verifies the planning and preparation has been reviewed and will note any further restrictions on the particular flight.

Key takeaway = EVERY cross-country flight (more than 25nm for a student pilot) requires an endorsement.

Solo takeoffs and landings at another airport within 25 nautical miles (NM): § 61.93(b)(1).

I certify that [First name, MI, Last name] has received the required training of § 61.93(b)(1). I have determined that [he or she] is proficient to practice solo takeoffs and landings at [airport name]. The takeoffs and landings are subject to the following conditions:[List any applicable conditions or limitations.]

DATE ____________________________ CFI ________________________________

CFI NO. ___________________________ EXP. ______________________________

 

Solo cross-country flight general: § 61.93(c)(1) and (2). – ONE-TIME ENDORSEMENT

I certify that [First name, MI, Last name] has received the required solo cross-country training. I find [he or she] has met the applicable requirements of § 61.93, and is proficient to make solo cross-country flights in a [make and model] aircraft, [aircraft category].

DATE ____________________________ CFI ________________________________

CFI NO. ___________________________ EXP. ______________________________

 

Solo cross-country flight specific: § 61.93(c)(3). – SPECIFIC TO EACH CROSS-COUNTRY FLIGHT

I have reviewed the cross-country planning of [First name, MI, Last name]. I find the planning and preparation to be correct to make the solo flight from [origination airport] to [origination airport] via [route of flight] with landings at [names of the airports] in a [make and model] aircraft on [date] subject to the following limitations: [List any applicable conditions or limitations.]

DATE ____________________________ CFI ________________________________

CFI NO. ___________________________ EXP. ______________________________

 

There are additional student pilot endorsements required for operations in Class B airspace and flight training at night.

Private pilot

As you approach Private pilot certification, you’ll need to complete the written exam and be endorsed for the practical test. The written exam endorsement can take many forms including the option to utilize a completion certificate from a home study course in lieu of a logbook endorsement. The knowledge exam endorsement should look like this:

I certify that [First name, MI, Last name] has received the required training in accordance with § 61.105. I have determined [he or she] is prepared for the [name of] knowledge test.

DATE ____________________________ CFI ________________________________

CFI NO. ___________________________ EXP. ______________________________

Your CFI will attest that all required training for Private pilot training has been completed as part of the practical test endorsement.

I certify that [First name, MI, Last name] has received the required training in accordance with §§ 61.107 and 61.109. I have determined [he or she] is prepared for the [name of] practical test.

DATE ____________________________ CFI ________________________________

CFI NO. ___________________________ EXP. ______________________________

Additionally, each practical test requires an endorsement that you have “received and logged training time within two (2) calendar months” of the practical exam. Further, the endorsement should also attest to the fact that any knowledge areas shown to be deficient on the written examination have been brought to within standards through additional training.

I certify that [First name, MI, Last name] has received and logged the required flight time/training of § 61.39(a) in preparation for the practical test within 2 calendar-months preceding the date of the test and has satisfactory knowledge of the subject areas in which [he or she] was shown to be deficient by the FAA Airman Knowledge Test Report. I have determined [he or she] is prepared for the [name of] practical test.

DATE ____________________________ CFI ________________________________

CFI NO. ___________________________ EXP. ______________________________

 

Many commercially available logbooks will have endorsements pre-printed, but it’s always worth checking as to whether the correct regulation has been cited and that all variables have been filled in accurately. It’s best for endorsed names to match that of the photo ID that will be used to confirm your identity for the test (written or practical).

If you have gone the route of a digital logbook, most of the commercially available options will allow for endorsements to be generated. If you utilize your own electronic logbook, you may also choose to maintain a separate document inclusive of all of your required endorsements.

Remember, as you approach that first solo and your first PIC experience, you are required to have your applicable endorsements on your person in addition to your student pilot certificate, medical (or basic med) and photo identification. As an active participant in the process and understanding of the requirements, you can be confident and assured you’ve met your PIC obligations.

Safe flying!

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It was his first airplane trip at age seven that made Eric decide to become a pilot. "While boarding the airplane, a flight attendant noticed my interest in the flight deck and urged me to go talk to the pilot. I give a lot of credit to that pilot for my career choice." He earned a bachelor’s degree in finance and went on to an airline career. Eric now heads Sporty’s flight school and directs the University of Cincinnati’s Professional Pilot Training Program. In addition, Eric serves as a Captain in Sporty’s corporate flight department.