Let's say I were to a day VFR flight with a new instructor, in hopes of eventually pursuing Sport Pilot - Airplane privileges (U.S.A.)

During the flight, I notice the plane has a minor airworthiness problem. It doesn't affect the safety of the flight, but something required is missing. The magnetic compass, for example, is loose in the glove box instead of mounted on the instrument panel. I bring it to the instructor's attention, he downplays its significance and says he plans to get it fixed in a few weeks.

The flight goes otherwise well. The instructor fills out & signs my logbook in the usual way.

Is this legal instruction time? If this instructor were to get in trouble over instructing in an un-airworthy plane, could that void those instruction hours' applicability towards the sport pilot hour requirement?

(and the more subjective question: practically, how worried should I be over something like a missing compasss? Is it really as minor as I think? Anything I should be looking more closely for before I fly again with him?)

  • $\begingroup$ You might be interested in What about hours flown solo without a student pilot certificate? $\endgroup$ – a CVn Nov 4 '18 at 11:20
  • $\begingroup$ I don't know about the legality, and certainly not in the US, which is why this is not an answer, but even though it doesn't see a lot of use in VFR/VMC, a compass is still awfully handy at times. Certainly I've been asked by the instructor to make a 180° turn on occasion; even a plain old magnetic compass sure makes it a lot easier to confirm that you've made a 180° turn and not, say, 160° or 200°. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Nov 4 '18 at 11:26
  • $\begingroup$ The ability to actually confirm that you've made a 180° turn (plus or minus a small margin of error) is awfully useful if you ever somehow find yourself in IMC, since even without an artificial horizon, you can just focus on your magnetic heading, vertical speed and to some extent your airspeed, and do your best to ignore your other senses. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Nov 4 '18 at 11:26

According to 14 CFR 61.51(j), the aircraft requirements for logging flight time are:

(j) Aircraft requirements for logging flight time. For a person to log flight time, the time must be acquired in an aircraft that is identified as an aircraft under § 61.5(b), and is -

  • (1) An aircraft of U.S. registry with either a standard or special airworthiness certificate;

  • [or a foreign aircraft, a military aircraft, or a public aircraft, subject to caveats.]

So, as far as logging flight time goes, the aircraft is only required to be of US registry and have a standard or special airworthiness certificate; it's not required to actually be airworthy. (That doesn't mean that it's legal to fly an aircraft that's not airworthy; but if you do fly it, then you can log the time.)

(The above-quoted paragraph, 14 CFR 61.51(j), is why you can't log time in a Part 103 ultralight. It's legally impossible for a Part 103 ultralight to have an airworthiness certificate.)

  • $\begingroup$ if it's not legal to fly, I wonder if that wouldn't implicitly void any paragraph that follows... $\endgroup$ – jwenting Nov 5 '18 at 9:04

It can’t void the time, but if an Inspector ever caught a CFI doing something like that, he’s in big trouble. And more importantly, that CFI should know better than to do something like that in front of a student.

  • $\begingroup$ Or even if a student isn't there.... $\endgroup$ – Lnafziger Nov 4 '18 at 15:19

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