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Becoming a Sport Pilot Examiner

by Martin Weaver
Reprinted with permission from FAA Aviation News

Since the new Sport Pilot regulation was signed, a common question we have received in the FAA's Light Sport Aviation Branch (LSAB) is, 'How do I become a Sport Pilot Examiner?' The answer to the question is simple, but complex. Our initial response is, 'You need to complete a Light Sport Standardization Board - Designated Pilot Examiner Candidate Application, FAA Form 8710-12.'

The instructions are included with the application and occupy about four pages. It is very important that the applicant read the instructions in detail because, if the form is not filled out properly, the application will be returned to the individual. The flight experience must be completed with actual times and be verifiable with logbook entries or flight records. Many applications are not accepted because the flight experience is rounded up to the nearest 1,000s. The flight experience will be verified when an applicant is accepted into the Sport Pilot Examiner Initial Seminar.

Once the application is received by the Light Sport Standardization Board (LSSB), the application will be placed in the 'hold' file for the next Board meeting. Currently, the LSSB meets once a quarter. The LSSB reviews each application to determine the experience level of each candidate and ranks the candidates with a numerical value. The Board places the applicant on a list that identifies the individual in order of numerical rating from the highest to the lowest. Applicants are sent a letter asking them to take the appropriate airman knowledge test for the primary category/class aircraft the applicant could be accepted as an examiner. If the applicant already holds a flight instructor certificate, the applicant will be asked to take the Sport Pilot Examiner test. If the individual does not hold an FAA flight instructor certificate, the applicant will be asked to take the appropriate initial Flight Instructor Knowledge test. Upon successful completion of the knowledge test, the applicant will mail the original copy of the results to the LSSB. After the LSSB receives the knowledge test report, the applicant is placed on the S port Pilot Examiner Initial Seminar selection list.

The Sport Pilot Examiner Initial

Seminar is scheduled by the Light Sport Standardization Branch to meet the needs of the Sport Pilot community. The seminars are held in Oklahoma City during the summer months. The 2006 schedule will be posted by January and will list the dates of the seminars. Attendance in the seminars is by invitation only.

The next step in the process is the manager of the LSAB selects six to eight applicants to become candidates for the Sport Pilot Examiner Program. The applicants are invited to one of the scheduled courses via a letter. Enclosed with the letter are a copy of the appropriate Sport Pilot Practical Test Standard, a pre - course study guide, a Sport Pilot Examiner Handbook (FAA Order 8710.7), and the location of the academic portion of the seminar. The applicant is also advised of the aircraft that will be used during the training. The aircraft will vary depending on the availability of manufacturer support. If the applicant accepts the offer to enroll in the seminar, the cost of the seminar is $150.00 for the academic portion. The aircraft rental costs depends on the type of aircraft available.

The seminar schedule is very busy. The seminar curriculum covers all of the subjects the examiner needs in order to perform as a designee of the FAA Administrator. The first day begins with a review of the appropriate regulations that the candidate will need to know in order to conduct pilot certification. If the examiner candidate has a good background in Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) part 61 then it is not as overwhelming as someone who has minimum exposure to this regulation. After this presentation, the examiner candidates are asked to demonstrate their knowledge as a pilot and flight instructor. If the individuals hold an FAA pilot and flight instructor certificate in the category and class of the examiner privileges they are seeking, they are required to pass a validation practical test. This test is a sampling of the examiner candidate's technical knowledge to ensure the candidate has the ability to evaluate pilots and possibly flight instructors. If the individual does not have an FAA pilot and/or flight instructor certificate, such as a transition flight instructor from an FAA recognized organization, then the examiner candidate is given an initial pilot and/or flight instructor practical test. Beginning in 2006 an examiner candidate will not be invited to the initial seminar unless they hold an FAA flight instructor certificate.

Upon completion of the practical test, the course continues with lectures on the practical test standard s, FAA certification files, and the Sport Pilot Examiner Handbook. The four lectures up to this point in the course are used to give the examiner candidate the basic knowledge needed in order to conduct a practical test in accordance with FAA regulations, policy, and guidance. These tools are essential in order to continue with the training of the examiner candidate. At this point, the seminar changes focus to the actual certification procedures. The lecture now covers the development of a plan-of-action that is required for every certification evaluation. The presentation provides the procedures to be used by the examiner candidate in developing the plan of-action. It gives helpful hints in organizing the evaluation and conducting the oral and flight portions. The examiner candidates are asked to develop a plan-of-action that will be used in a practice flight portion of the practical test in their category/class aircraft. Prior to conducting the flight portion, the instructors review the individual plans-of action and provide feedback to the examiner candidates.

The flight portion of the practical test is designed to give the examiner candidate the opportunity to practice evaluating one of the FAA instructors' ability to fly an aircraft using the plan-of-action the examiner candidate developed. Sometimes the FAA instructor is doing the best he or she can do and still not meet the practical test standard tolerances. The examiner candidate is expected to determine whether the maneuvers are satisfactorily accomplished or not. The challenge for the examiner candidate is to be able to properly determine if the standards are met. Candidates quickly learn that gray areas do exist, but they are no longer flight instructors when performing the role as a representative of the Administrator.

As stated previously, the last exercise for the examiner candidates is to develop a flight instructor plan-of-action. During this exercise, they outline the general organization of the practical test and develop flight instructor knowledge test questions that they will use during the oral portion of the practical test. This is probably the most challenging and fun part of the course. The examiner candidates try to get the FAA instructor to answer the questions at the application level. The examiner candidates learn quickly that it is a lot harder then it appears and realize that preparation is essential regardless of the level of certification.

At the conclusion of the seminar, the time for designation occurs. The manager of the Light Sport Aviation Branch designates the successful examiner candidates as Sport Pilot Examiners (SPE). If, during the course, the instructors determine an examiner candidate has demonstrated exceptional knowledge of the certification procedures, the instructors will recommend the individual be designated a Sport Pilot Flight Instructor Examiner (SFIE). An SPE conducts only pilot initial certification. SFIEs can conduct initial flight instructor with Sport Pilot privileges evaluations.

Throughout the seminar the examiner candidates are asked to participate in all discussions. Maximum time is spent in hands-on-exercises with the FAA files that are associated with certification. The examiner candidates are constantly directed to the tools that they will be using while performing duties as an SPE and SFIE. The individuals that have completed this program successfully have shown they are willing to work hard to become the subject matter experts in the Sport Pilot community and willing serve as representatives of the FAA Administrator and their respective aviation communities.

If you have any questions about the Sport Pilot Examiner program, please feel free to contact the Light Sport Aviation Branch in Oklahoma City, OK, at 405-954-6400 or <afs610comments@faa.gov>. You can also write to AFS-610, P.O. Box 25082, Oklahoma City, OK, 73125.

Martin Weaver is Manager of Flight Standards' Light-Sport Aviation Branch.