I was pretty excited for a 5 hour flight in a piper arrow in a new school this coming weekend but my instructor that I have not flown with before texted me saying that he will not sign me off after one flight and would like to narrow down the time to 2 hours only. Although I was not expecting to get signed off after one flight, I canceled the flight as I didn't want to fly with an instructor with a definitive mindset of not signing off. I would have liked to fly with an instructor who'd judge me based on my performance and learning capability during the flight and ground training and then decides whether to endorse me or recommend further training. Not only I have had bad experience with one of my "time builder" instructor as a student pilot, I have heard from other pilots that some instructors can give us hard time and not be fair.

So I wanted to ask two questions.

  1. Is there a FAA recommended list of maneuvers/training material for each endorsement? So that if a student fulfills all the requirements and fly all the maneuvers safely, he'd get endorsed?
  2. How do we keep instructors/DPE in check? Obviously they are experienced and safer pilots but it is quite possible that in one out of hundred scenarios they are wrong and pilots receiving training are right?
  • $\begingroup$ It sounds like a miscommunication. It is more than likely that the instructor is following the rules for renting a complex aircraft at that school and its insurance company. If all you wanted is a complex endorsement and don’t want to rent the aircraft for solo flight, then you should make that clear to the instructor. I got my complex endorsement with an hour of flight and no ground. But, even though I have over 250 hours of complex time, I was still required to have 5 hours of instruction and 5 hours solo to be added to the insurance policy of a friends Arrow. $\endgroup$ – JScarry May 27 at 22:37

To answer question #1:
A complex endorsement is just that. It’s an endorsement. There are not any prescribed maneuvers to receive the endorsement. But, the instructor is holding himself liable for your performance after receiving the endorsement. Primarily, the areas where that liability may prove hazardous to the instructor, their certificate and career is on every single one of your takeoffs, landings, and go-arounds after the instructor is no longer in the aircraft. The flows and checklists for that aircraft have to be consistent and second-nature to you even without the instructor’s prompting.

A 2 hobbs-hour flight from start-up to shut-down is typically the limit of learning for most people. Two 2-hour flights along with a couple of hours of ground instruction seems reasonable for satisfying your instructors confidence in your ability. That is all conditional to your actual performance. It is also a very subjective assessment.

To answer question #2:
As far as correcting someone with more knowledge and experience than yourself, that can and should be done if (big if) they are wrong. Many things in life and aviation are subjective. There can be multiple right answers. In the case that an instructor gives you a wrong answer, be courteous and cordial in your correction. But, your answer must be backed up with fact. You should question your own answer until it can be: backed up with a regulation or recommendations out of the FAR/AIM; documented from an FAA handbook, publication, advisory circular, or other official document; referenced from the POH, AFM, owner manual, or other manufacturer source; cited from a reputable source.

If the question can not be answered objectively, the answer may only be a matter of opinion, style, or personal technique. Or, it could be a quirk of that particular aircraft or environment. Either way, it would probably be best to tailor your training to the criteria of your evaluator.

Remember, your instructor is human. They are fallible. But, so are you. And, they have been doing this aviation thing safely way longer than you. But, regulations do change. Take a slice of humble pie before you have to eat crow. You both may learn something new or improve upon something old. And remember, a good pilot is always learning.

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FAR Part 61, 61.31(e) says:

(e) Additional training required for operating complex airplanes.

(1) Except as provided in paragraph (e)(2) of this section, no person may act as pilot in command of a complex airplane, unless the person has—

(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.

(2) The training and endorsement required by paragraph (e)(1) of this section is not required if—

(i) The person has logged flight time as pilot in command of a complex airplane, or in a full flight simulator or flight training device that is representative of a complex airplane prior to August 4, 1997; or

(ii) The person has received ground and flight training under an approved training program and has satisfactorily completed a competency check under §135.293 of this chapter in a complex airplane, or in a full flight simulator or flight training device that is representative of a complex airplane which must be documented in the pilot’s logbook or training record.

I cannot find anything that provides a list of maneuvers you must demonstrate. Complex is defined as plane with constant speed propellor, flaps, retractable landing gear.

Lots of planes have 2 out 3 of those, so you are really just adding the retractable landing gear to your repertoire. Do you need a 5 hour flight to demo enough take off and landings to perform that at the appropriate speeds and for the school to be confident you not belly it in and cost them an engine tear down, prop replacement, belly damage repair, etc? Or for you to know enough emergency procedures to get the gear extended if something fails and it wont come down with normal procedures. Probably not, hence the 2 hour checkout request from the instructor.

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  • $\begingroup$ May be I wasn't clear @CrossRoads, the 2 hour checkout from instructor was just got get familiar with me and not endorse me. He specifically said he won't be endorsing me unless he went out few times with me. $\endgroup$ – sahmad May 27 at 22:59
  • $\begingroup$ Seems reasonable to me. He works for the flight school, yes? He's protecting your life, his livelihood, and their airplane and insurance premiums (and loss of airplane rental time while it is being repaired, assuming it can be). The saying goes there are 2 types of pilots who fly retractables - those who have and those who will (land gear up). You don't want to be in the first category too quickly. $\endgroup$ – CrossRoads May 27 at 23:06
  • $\begingroup$ How is he protecting? I wasn't going to get checked out in their airplanes. Complex airplanes at my local school only 2 minutes away has hour limit so I can't fly. This school is 60 miles away. Just wanted to go there for endorsement. Which could be done in one day, two flights, three days. But the mindset was questionable here. $\endgroup$ – sahmad May 27 at 23:09
  • $\begingroup$ @sahmad - If all you want to do is to just get some time in a complex airplane, do it. If you want to get an endorsement without an expectation of flying solo, call around to other local instructors. You may find that it is difficult to find a complex, single-engine trainer available. If you are looking for a complex airplane to fly solo, expect a 5 hour checkout. My local flying club requires a minimum of 5 hours with the club instructor on each complex airplane regardless if you already have a complex endorsement or have been checked out in another club aircraft. $\endgroup$ – Dean F. May 27 at 23:24

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