I’m right in the middle of studying to renew my flight instructor certificate, and thought I’d take a break to explain why. I became a CFI (Certificated Flight Instructor) back in 1980; one of the main motivations at that time was to find a way to build flying time without paying for every hour out of my own pocket. It’s a time-honored tradition.
Other pilot certificates, such as the private pilot license, commercial license or Airline Transport Pilot, have no expiration date. Once you earn them, you never have to repeat all that training. It is true that to exercise the privileges of your private pilot license you must be within two years of a Biennial Flight Review (BFR), but there’s no check ride involved.
The CFI has an expiration date printed right on it. Every two years, the holder of the certificate must apply for renewal. If it lapses, even by one day, the only way to get a new one is to repeat the entire course of training and a check ride. For an active flight instructor, renewal is just a matter of stopping by the FAA office and showing a record of the number of pilots you’ve trained (assuming they passed their check rides).
But I’m not an active instructor. I haven’t taught a student from scratch for almost 20 years. I used to give occasional instrument competency checks to instrument rated pilots, but I haven’t even done that in the last five years. My option is to complete a refresher course, either by attending a live weekend seminar (24 hours of classroom time) or by completing an on-line course of study and tests. I’m in the process of completing the on-line course, and just took a break to write this.
Why go to the trouble to renew a certificate I don’t use? The bottom line is that I just worked too hard to get it. Besides the basic CFI, I also added the instrument instructor and multi-engine instructor ratings. In the flying world, you’ll often seen this certificate represented as CFIIME (Certificated Flight Instructor, Instrument, Multi-Engine). Plus, truth be told, it’s really not a bad idea to occasionally review the basic elements of teaching and learning. I’m kind of enjoying it and soon I’ll have a new certificate, with an expiration of 10-31-13.