News - Best Practices for Implementation of New Student Pilot Certificate Requirements for Flight School Operators

by Jason Blair

As you probably already know, the FAA recently released a final rule that will require student pilots to have a plastic student pilot certificate issued prior to soloing an aircraft. The new rule will become effective on April 1, 2016.

To learn more about the specific changes, view an AOPA article (FAA Finalizes Rule of Student Pilot Certificates or See the AOPA Chart for Specific Comparison of Changes).

In consideration of the changes that have taken place, FSANA recommends that flight training providers consider some changes to their operations that may help mitigate potential negative impacts of the rule changes.

Start the Application Process Early in or Prior to Student Training -

The FAA final rule indicates that an estimated turnaround time for student pilot certificates can be reduced to an average of 3 weeks or less, which may be longer than many traditional periods of time from a first flight to a solo flight for students. The best practice for flight training providers will be to help a potential or new student complete an application for a student pilot certificate as soon as training has begun or even before. This may minimize the potential that a student would be ready to solo before receiving the plastic pilot certificate in the mail that is now required to be in possession during a solo flight.

Dedicate a Staff Member to Manage and Complete Student Pilot Certificate Applications -

To minimize potential common errors in the pilot application process that could lead to discrepancies in future applications for additional pilot certificates, ratings, or knowledge tests, we strongly encourage flight training providers to dedicate a specific staff member who will be proficiency in the application process and requirements.

Ensure the Correct Permanent Address of Residence; Consider Listing a Different Mailing Address -

While some students will be training at a location near their permanent address, this is not necessarily the case for students who are attending college or university training programs, accelerated training programs, or are living and/or working at a location different than their permanent residential address. In these cases, listing a mailing address that will more expeditiously allow the certificate to be received by the student can reduce potential delays experienced by a certificate being mailed to a different address and needing to be forwarded to the applicant. This can also reduce the potential for loss of the certificate. For training providers who are willing, or if applicants do not have a reliable mailing address, it may be considerable to have the mailing of the certificate be directed to the flight training provider's business address.

Follow Up on Student Pilot Applications -

A good practice for a flight training provider will be to keep a detailed record of applicants submitted and processed. This should include dates submitted and addresses used. With this information, the flight training provider can follow up with the students actively to determine if certificates have been received and if not, contact the FAA Airman Certification Branch when necessary if certificates are not received in a timely period.

Consider Changing Training Curriculum Order to Account for Waiting for Student Pilot Certificate Arrival -

As flight training providers await arrival of student pilot certificates for their students, it may be necessary to complete other portions of training prior to allowing students to solo. This could include conducting cross-country dual flights, night flight training, and/or instrument training requirements prior to solo while awaiting the student pilot certificate. This may be more necessary in accelerated training environments than in more traditional operations.

Each of these recommendations may help mitigate some of the effects of the changes to rules regarding student pilot certificate issuance and use. FSANA will continue monitoring these changes and how they affect flight training providers and students receiving training. As more information develops, we will share any more information or recommendations with you in future publications.

To see the text of rule the FAA finalized, click here.