I know there has been some cases where a flight instructor is sued after a current or former student does something that gets themselves (the student) killed or causes damage.

I know that there have been cases where a flight instructor has been acquitted by proving that they took due care in their flight instruction, and the accident was not a result of poor instruction.

What specifically would a prudent flight instructor do to ensure they are keeping detailed enough records to prove that they are providing adequate instruction and that a resulting accident would not be due to poor instruction?

What are the records a CFI is legally required to keep, and what are the records they should keep in addition to that?

This question is in context of CFIs in the United States.

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Have a well defined syllabus, and then a daily activity sheet where you write down the lesson you did, the time it took, and how the student performed. If anything peculiar happens, make a note.

Have a well-written lesson binder too. Even if you don't need to use the binder to teach a lesson (like steep turns, that's not really much of a ground lesson), have it in there anyway to show that you know what you're talking about. If you have a page that only says "Teach steep turns" and a lawyer gets a hold of it, there's nothing to prove that you actually know how to teach steep turns.

AS for legally required records:

  • You must sign the logbook of anyone you have given flight or ground training.
  • You must maintain a record of the following:
    • The date and name of each person whose logbook/student pilot certificate you endorse for solo flight privileges (I keep a record of every endorsement).
    • The date and name of each person you endorse for a knowledge/practical test, and the kind, date, and result of the test.
  • You must keep the records for at least 3 years.
  • How much detail would you recommend for the lesson plans in the binder? Going with the steep turns example, is it enough to say something like "Ref. FAA Airplane Flying Handbook, 9-1", or should the maneuver objectives, parameters (aircraft configuration, airspeed, bank angle, etc.), & performance requirements (from the PTS) be spelled out explicitly? – voretaq7 Jan 31 '14 at 7:46
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    @voretaq7 - I'd spell it out. It's a small bit of insurance that takes 15 minutes and lasts forever. Looks better during your checkride too. – StallSpin Jan 31 '14 at 8:04

Our 141 school keeps records digitally, but before that we used curriculum binders. Each flight in the course had its own lesson plan listing:

  • The planned lesson time
  • The actual lesson time
  • The elements or maneuvers to be accomplished
  • What level of proficiency the student would need to demonstrate on each element in order to be considered satisfactory
  • A space for the student's actual proficiency level per element
  • A space for remarks

Once the flight was complete, after filling out the logbook, both the instructor and student would sign the lesson sheet. When everything in the binder was PTS or better, the student could be endorsed for the checkride.

As to the second half of your question, I just copied this directly from StallSpin's excellent answer.

AS for legally required records:

  • You must sign the logbook of anyone you have given flight or ground training.
  • You must maintain a record of the following:
    • The date and name of each person whose logbook/student pilot certificate you endorse for solo flight privileges (I keep a record of every endorsement).
    • The date and name of each person you endorse for a knowledge/practical test, and the kind, date, and result of the test.
  • You must keep the records for at least 3 years.

Even though the minimum is 3 years, I keep the records forever.

  • 1
    What do you use to keep the records digitally? Is there a specific software program you use or just a bunch of Word/Excel files? – Canuk Jan 31 '14 at 19:16
  • 1
    @Canuk - talon-systems.com – Steve V. Jan 31 '14 at 19:20

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