If you are flight instructing at a flight school that deals mostly with full time professional pilot course applicants, like flight safety academy etc, you will probably not encounter the scenario mentioned below. But if you are teaching at flight schools that also train pilots who want to fly for fun, hobby and recreation, which is most of the flight schools and flying clubs across the country, then you are going to encounter cases similar to the one mentioned here:
Paul always wanted to learn how to fly. Always had passion for it. He took some lessons when he was younger, but then life happened to him. Got married, had about half a dozen kids, and you know the rest. Eventually, when the last kid left for college, he decided he wants to get that private pilot certificate eventually. So when I met him, he already had done his home work. He had his Student Pilot Certificate, with a Class III Medical, and had already passed his Private Pilot knowledge exam. He told me he had been attending the local community college for the ground school.
I assigned him with Mark, a freshly minted, and a very thorough, patient and professional CFI. Paul was a natural. I think it only took them about a period of 3-4 weeks when Mark announced that Paul is ready for his first solo. They scheduled and met nest day early morning at the airport, and completed all the weather briefings, aircraft pre-flight, pre-solo exam review etc. Mark asked him to for his Student Pilot and Medical Certificate. Now would be a good time to have another look at it, right?
Guess what did he find? We’ll talk about that here in a minute, but let me tell you this – Paul did not get to go for his solo flight that day. And this is what Mark found wrong with his student pilot credentials:
His Medical Certificate was fine, and valid, however his Student Pilot Certificate was expired!
Medical Certificate (in this case it was Class III) is valid for 3 calendar years (under 40 years old at the time of issue), but the Student Pilot Certificate expires every 24 calendar months, i.e. 2 years.
Moral of the Story
When signing off a student pilot for the first solo, remember, the student pilot certificate and the medical certificate in all reality as 2 separate documents, with 2 separate expiration dates. Unless the holder was over 40 years at the time of issue, in that case the expiration dates would be the same.
Think about all the resulting “bad things possible” had Mark signed him off that day without realizing that the Student Pilot Certificate was expired. Each time Paul would have been flying solo, Mark would have been open to all kinds of liabilities, with the possibility of losing his pilot and flight instructor certificate. At the very least, when Paul would have gone for his Private Pilot checkride, none of his solo time would have been valid, and Mark would have been in trouble with the FAA. And because the solo flights would have been illegal, therefore as the flight school and aircraft owner, I would have been without any insurance coverage, for each solo flight that Paul would have been so enjoying! And how about the emotional distress and loss of credibility, and the financial burden to go repeat all those solo flights again. You see, carelessness on an instructor’s part can lead to a long chain reaction where a lot many people can get affected.