Flight Instructor's Renewal Course (FIRC): Some Thoughts

I had set a calendar reminder for November 31st: "RENEW CFI"

Surely it would take me a month to get signed up for the course, get through the courseware, and get the paperwork appropriately processed and in the FAA's mailbox to beat my December 31st expiry.

This, thankfully, was not the case.

Two years ago after I had gotten my CFI a colleague of mine recommended American Flyers to me for the Flight Instructors' Renewal Course when the time came. It's a one-time $99 fee for a lifetime of FIRCs plus a few extra dollars each renewal for the benefit of printing your temporary airman's certificate as soon as their DPE reviews the paperwork, which took barely 24 hours for them to do. This part is awesome. Nobody wants hassle when renewing their CFI, and more assuredly, nobody wants to spend longer than they have to, whether an active CFI who has all that information reasonably close at hand, or the occasional instructor who just wants to keep their CFI current.

The same colleague also commended the FIRC to me in general because of the "hot topics" on which it refreshes us. In particular, as an occasional CFI I had either forgotten or had never known the details of how to check for American citizenship, and to make the appropriate annotation in both theirs and my logbooks. Yikes! I imagine this is a widely disregarded or misunderstood rule, but there it is, just do it.

The rule change more than a decade ago to permit computer-based training in lieu of the weekend in-person CFI renewal courses has resulted in multiple outlets for completing a FIRC--Gleim, King, ASI, Sporty's, and more--and this was a very positive step. However, it appears that too many people were taking significantly less time than the requisite sixteen hours to complete all of the CBTs, so the FAA mandated that the FIRC providers set timers that require sixteen hours of clock time to elapse before course can be called complete. Of course, this does not mean one must sit in front of the computer for sixteen hours, since the coursework only takes a few minutes to read through and absorb. One only need to start the clock, then go watch a quarter of the football game, then return in between quarters

As such, it is not a very good use of sixteen hours. I would rather it be a mandatory eight hours with double the material and a not-as-easy-to-pass test at the end than timed dead space. There are plenty of things that would be good to refresh on every two years--the latest in education research about the way people learn, changes to the FAR/AIM that people might have missed in the preceding two iterations, checkride trends for each type of ride, the list goes on. This would require

CBTs have their place, and this is absolutely an appropriate use of that format. If a certificate needs renewal, there is probably not a lot that a person is going to learn in even sixteen in-person hours to really absorb that. And even if they do, that is a hefty burden for 107,000 CFIs to carry. But I am left thinking that the system is begging for an overhaul. Perhaps that is something the FAA can tackle once the shutdown is over...


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