I'm just finishing up Air Force Pilot Training (UPT).

The day after graduation we are issued commercial certificates for SEL and MEL.

The military does things pretty different from the civilian world though. I don't have any sort of physical log book of my military training in the T6 and T38.

Can I go rent a "high performance" "complex" airplane after I get my FAA commercial? I don't have any logbook or endorsements, but all of my training would surely meet these requirements. The T-6 was 1100HP, and the T38 is an after-burning, supersonic jet.

I was hoping to take my family out flying over the holidays in a Cessna Twin.

I was home a few weeks ago and went into a local FBO and asked about renting a twin over the holidays. They told me I didn't have the proper training in a "complex" "high performance" aircraft (they really acted like they didn't believe I was an Air Force pilot).

It almost seems like there's something about the civilian world that I'm not in the loop on.

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    $\begingroup$ Flying a Cessna 206 or other "light twin" is a lot different than a T-6 or T-38 (single engine ops for example are a lot easier when the engines are 3 feet apart and seriously overpowered). I wouldn't expect you to get checked out in one with less than 20 hours. Also a commercial certificate is not a PPL, so you would also need to get that. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Commented Oct 30, 2019 at 2:29
  • $\begingroup$ See this document, specifically page 17. Also see Part 61, 61.73, Military pilots or former military pilots: Special rules. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Commented Oct 30, 2019 at 2:31
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    $\begingroup$ @RonBeyer No, he doesn't need a PPL. He could rent a 172 & fly it IFR with his ratings as they are, but see my comment below on Centerline Thrust restriction on his MEL. $\endgroup$
    – Ralph J
    Commented Oct 30, 2019 at 3:59
  • $\begingroup$ @Ron Beyer - I don't see a page 17 in your first link. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 30, 2019 at 15:33
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelHall The 17th page in the document, which is listed as Appendix 4 A-6 for some weird reason. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Commented Oct 30, 2019 at 15:35

3 Answers 3


Well you’ll have to comply with the terms of §61.73 in order to convert your military pilot ratings over to civilian pilot certificates and ratings. You would also need to obtain a logbook endorsement to operate a complex and high-performance airplane legally under the FAA’s rules. This really should not be challenging for you. If you really want to rent a twin i.e. a Cessna 310, a Diamond DA 42, etc., I would approach your FBO and ask to do a check out in the aircraft that you wish to rent. The FBO instructor can include both the complex, and if necessary, a high-performance logbook endorsement along with the training. I don’t know how many hours total that you have - I assume it’s somewhere in the order of 200 or so hours, which s typical of UPT grads - but FBOs may have additional minimum hour requirements to rent said aircraft. They may also have to consult with their insurance policies to see if such a thing as feasible given how little time you have on light twin airplanes.

Keep in mind here that while you have time in real 'high performance' airplanes, GA aircraft are going to handle differently than what you’d have expected. This is particularly true of light twins which are going to be a lot more treacherous in the event of an engine failure than a centerline thrust jet like a T-38 would be. I’ve worked as a CFI in a couple of FBOs now and have had the opportunity to check out a number of military personnel on light GA aircraft. Out of all the people that come through those places, the highest number of accidents on smaller GA aircraft for rent were caused by airline pilots and military pilots simply because they are not used to the feel and control characteristics of smaller, lighter aircraft. A guy can have 1000 hours in F-22s and still struggle to land a Cessna 172 because the handling characteristics are so different. Said check out may take several hours both to get familiarized with the handling characteristics of the airplane as well as become familiar with the avionics and operation within the NAS as a civilian pilot.

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    $\begingroup$ Plus, the MEL rating from the T-38 will have a Centerline Thrust Only restriction, so about the only twin he could rent would be a Cessna Skymaster. If his next aircraft is a multi with engines on the wings, the first Form 8 would be enough to remove the restriction; otherwise it'd take an FAA checkride to remove it. $\endgroup$
    – Ralph J
    Commented Oct 30, 2019 at 3:57
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    $\begingroup$ I went that route... take the Military Equivalency exam, and presto, instrument + commercial multi w CL thrust restriction. I didn't train in the T-6, so no commercial SEL - still had PPL only for that from pre-AF days. A Form 8 from a Herk checkride removed the CL thrust limit, but as you say an F-15 or F-22 wouldn't. Renting SEL may be easier for the OP if he's bound for a jet like those. $\endgroup$
    – Ralph J
    Commented Oct 30, 2019 at 4:27
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    $\begingroup$ I took up a friend who was a C-130 pilot (and some other stuff for training) in a C-172. His initial judgements were WAY off (approach at 100 kts, flare at 100 ft...). On the other hand I had to correct him exactly ONCE for each thing and he immediately got it. If I told him an airspeed, the ASI just went there and stuck! He was a very good pilot with no experience in a light single and both showed! $\endgroup$
    – Adam
    Commented Oct 30, 2019 at 14:23
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    $\begingroup$ This needs some clean up... It reads mostly as a wall of text, and there are some phrases (like "by airline pilots in military pilots") that don't make much sense. $\endgroup$
    – T.J.L.
    Commented Oct 30, 2019 at 15:13
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    $\begingroup$ No argument there! I have been in his shoes and asked those questions myself... BTW, I had a CL thrust restriction from getting my commercial multi based on EA-6B time. However, when I did my ATP checkride in a light piston twin the "boot full 'O rudder" needed on a SE missed approach felt actually about the same. I assumed it would be worse. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 1, 2019 at 16:23

As far as the FAA is concerned, if it isn't in your logbook, it didn't happen. I suggest trying to get a copy of your military flight records and recreating a logbook (electronic or paper) of your experience to date. You may want a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) to work with you on the first few entries to ensure you're doing it the standard way.

Endorsements are for things that aren't significant enough to require a separate checkride with a Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE) but still significant enough that you need proof of having received training on them from a CFI, which means that CFI signing a statement to that effect in your logbook.

Again, it doesn't matter whether you have had the relevant training. What matters is having proof of that training.

There's also the matter of insurance, which most FBOs will need proof of before you can rent from them. And insurance companies will want to know your experience level before insuring you: total time, time in category, class and type, and time in various other categories such as complex. All of this will come from your logbook. The FBO will also need to do a "checkout" flight for any new renter, mostly for insurance purposes.

The good news is that the same few hours in the desired type with a CFI will count toward your time in type, complex and HP ratings, and checkout: this will make the FBO, insurer and FAA all happy, plus it will make sure you're actually prepared to fly that plane safely.

Also, I would suggest getting a copy the FAR/AIM (PDF on the FAA web site or dead tree edition). FAR 61 ("how to get your license"), FAR 91 ("how to lose your license") and the entire AIM are expected knowledge for civilian pilots. The military is exempt from so many of the rules that it is worth some review.

  • $\begingroup$ Good answer, I was typing mine at the same time! $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 30, 2019 at 15:50

Regarding how endorsements work, CFR 61.31 says this about complex aircraft. "No person may act as pilot in command unless":

(i) Received and logged ground and flight training from an authorized instructor in a complex airplane, or in a full flight simulator or flight training device that is representative of a complex airplane, and has been found proficient in the operation and systems of the airplane; and

(ii) Received a one-time endorsement in the pilot's logbook from an authorized instructor who certifies the person is proficient to operate a complex airplane.

Similarly, regarding high performance aircraft it says:

(i) Received and logged ground and flight training from an authorized instructor in a high-performance airplane, or in a full flight simulator or flight training device that is representative of a high-performance airplane, and has been found proficient in the operation and systems of the airplane; and

(ii) Received a one-time endorsement in the pilot's logbook from an authorized instructor who certifies the person is proficient to operate a high-performance airplane.

There are a couple exemptions it mentions, if you have logged time before 1997, or have completed a part 135 checkride you are good to go. Otherwise you need a log book endorsement.

I'm a little surprised the USAF doesn't use paper logbooks. My opinion is that it would be in your best interest to create one, even if it is a 3 ring binder with printouts of all your flight hours, checkrides, etc. I believe that a checkride in a complex high performance military aircraft from an authorized military instructor would meet the requirements of part 61.31, but as you have noted, any FBO renting you an airplane will give you some sort of checkout. They will also require a certain minimum number of hours in type before they just hand you the keys. That checkout out might as well include whatever endorsement is needed.

By the way, although you didn't mention this being an issue, the FAA is doing away with the centerline thrust restriction. Check out the memorandum here: http://www.sheppardair.com/download/Centerline%20thrust%20restriction%20removal%202018.pdf


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