I have just completed the biennial process of renewing my FAA flight instructor certificate, the only aviator’s certificate issued by the FAA with an expiration date. If you don’t renew before your certificate expires, you must take a flight instructor practical test again.
I used the most common method for completing the process, an online flight instructor renewal clinic (FIRC). Online FIRCs are the least painful means of keeping a CFI certificate up-to-date. You can work at your pace, review the material in any order, and complete the course from any location where you access to the web. The courses typically cost about $100, a big savings over in-person clinics, which often involve travel, with all its related expenses and pressures.
For the first time, I used the Gleim course, produced by a company that publishes many training programs for pilots and maintenance technicians. It’s the most straightforward FIRC I’ve completed. No fancy graphics or videos that can gum up other programs I’ve used in the past. Each of the 16 modules in the current course begins with a 20-question, true-false quiz to get you thinking about the topics at hand. Next, you review an annotated outline (typically about 25 pages) that highlights changes to rules, procedures, and technology. It also emphasizes issues that have led to accidents and incidents. When you’re ready, you take a 10-question multiple-choice test on the content of that module. You must score at least 70% to pass.
FIRCs, whether online or in-person seminars, must follow standards established by the FAA in Advisory Circular 61-83G, and the FAA must approve the content of each course. The FAA now mandates that each FIRC cover at least 10 core topics (see below); FIRC providers may offer additional, optional topics. The course also must take at least 16 hours to complete.
I especially like online FIRCs because I can work through the modules in any order and at any time. I’m not tied to the rigid, full-day schedules associated with in-person courses. Although you don’t get to interact with other instructors and a presenter, you can work at your own pace. Although some online FIRCs (see links to several providers below) emphasize snazzy graphics and video, I prefer the efficiency of the Gleim approach, which minimizes technical glitches and works well even over a slow Internet connection. Gleim also provided excellent, prompt email replies to my comments and suggestions as I worked through the modules. It was a relatively painless way to meet the requirements, and, as always, I learned (or re-learned) some important details.
Required FIRC Core Topics
- Navigating in the 21st Century: Pilotage to GPS.
- Security Related Special Use Airspace: What’s Going on Where, and How to Stay Clear.
- Transportation Security Administration (TSA): What Flight Instructors Have to Know to Stay Out of Trouble.
- How to Teach Effectively and Build a Culture of Safety in Your Students and Your Workplace.
- Safety Trends in GA: How CFIs Can Directly Contribute to Aviation Safety.
- Pilot Deviations: Their Causes and How to Teach Your Students to Plan Ahead to Avoid Them.
- How to Make the Best Use of the FAASTeam and the WINGS—Pilot Proficiency Program in Your Program of Instruction.
- Regulatory, Policy, and Publications Changes and Updates.
- How to Give an Effective and Useful Flight Review.
- Ethics and Professionalism in the Role of the Flight Instructor.
Selected List of FIRC Providers