Allow myself to introduce…myself…again? My name is Chris. This is my standard disclaimer; if you’ve read any of my previous articles, skip to paragraph 2. I’m not a TPN staff writer, just a longtime fan; I am a retired military pilot, a major airline pilot, a chief pilot at a Part 141 flight school, and an FAA designated pilot examiner. I have a few hobbies too: I run an aircraft MX shop, I am a General Contractor, and am starting a MX school for military aircraft maintainers. Who knew that 24 years of 12-14-hour days would become addictive? I am the product of a public high school in a third-world country in a foreign language, so my grammar and spelling are terrible. The opinions that follow are mine alone. In the capacity of free-lance writer, I do not represent anyone other than myself. I’ll try to be PC, but if I hurt your feelings, I’m sorry you have a weak constitution. Lastly: rules change frequently; So, any article that I write has a limited shelf-life. Always consult with professional service providers or the FAA before spending any money! If TPN accepts any more of my articles after this one…this is just another of several articles (still TBD how many) that apply to all (US-citizen) pilots. If you are a foreign exchange pilot currently in the US, there are other rules for you. I don’t plan to write about those rules, so send me an email if you have questions. I’ll focus on things we (US military pilots) probably should have been taught at pilot training: it is never too late to learn. I am living proof that anyone can learn to spell FAR/AIM (in English)!
In this installment, I am going to address a few more weak points for military-only pilots when it comes to FAA ratings: Military Competency Ratings, and Endorsements and Limitations (both very briefly). Next time, we’ll cover Additional Aircraft Ratings (other than for ratings at the Airline Transport Pilot certification level), If you don’t know what “§§61” means, see my last article, How to Spell FAR/AIM. In fact, if there are any “unexplained terms” in this paper (like: DPE-MCE), go back and read my previous articles. This article will make your head hurt. It is meant as a building block for the next article…
Before we go any further let’s separate “Certificate” from “Rating.” As it pertains to a US Airman, a certificate is the piece of plastic that says what ratings you hold (pilot, remote pilot, and certified flight instructor are examples of 3 different certificates) …the rating describes the category/class/type (if required) of airplane you are qualified to fly and/or teach in. If you’d like a full explanation of FAA certificates, please see my previous paper, Civilian Ratings Explained. Remember that an airplane is “certificated” also, but that’s another story.
We also need to talk about Category, Class, Type, and Limitations. If you are prone to headaches, skip this part! “Aircraft Category,” “Aircraft Class,” and “Aircraft Type” are all used by the FAA in two (or more) different ways.
Aircraft Category concerns either: 1) the certification, ratings, privileges, and limitations of Airmen (what you can fly: airplane, rotorcraft, glider, lighter than air, etc). 2) The certification of Aircraft (a grouping of aircraft based on intended use or operating limitations). Some examples include: transport, normal, utility, military, aerobatic, limited, experimental, restricted, and provisional. OBTW, instrument category for circling is another use of the word not addressed here!
Aircraft Class concerns either: 1) When used in the certification, ratings, privileges and limitations of Airmen, it means a classification of aircraft within a category having similar operating characteristics (single-engine land, multi-engine sea, are examples of Class). 2) When used concerning the certification of aircraft, it means abroad grouping of aircraft having similar operating characteristics of propulsion, flight, or landing.
Aircraft Type concerns (you guessed it!): 1) When used in the certification, ratings, privileges and limitations of Airmen, it means specific make and model of aircraft. For example, Boeing 737-900, Airbus A-320-200, etc. 2) When used concerning the certification of aircraft, it means those aircraft that are of similar design…like an Airbus A-319 and A-320.
Thankfully, limitations are mostly straight-forward. It simply says what you can’t do (Circling in IMC not authorized, SIC only, English Proficient (wait, what?).
Confused yet? My brain hurts too! An easy way to think about your certificate is that is says what ratings you hold, listed by category, class, type, and limitation! If I said, “I have an ATP type rating in an Airbus A-320,” what I really mean is that my pilot certificate shows that I am rated as an Airline Transport Pilot in the Airplane(category), Multi-Engine Land (Class), (with airplane instrument privileges since ATP implies instrument), and I hold an A-319/320/321 type rating…my limitations are: I am (mostly) English proficient, but can’t circle in IMC. But wait…there’s more. I also have Commercial Pilot, ASEL privileges. I also have a Certified Flight Instructor Certificate for ASEL, AMEL, and Instrument Airplane, and I have a Remote Pilot certificate (yes, my pilot certificate, IP certificate, and RPA certificate are 3 separate cards). You can also have endorsements in your logbook! Examples of logbook endorsements are: Tailwheel, High Performance, Complex, High Altitude, and the CFI Spin endorsement. Sorry, but that’s all you get for Endorsements and Limitations!
Military Competency Pilot Certificates
This part of the article is meant to help walk you through figuring out what ratings you should be issued based on your experience. (If you would like a complete explanation of how the FAA certificate system works, see our previous article Civilian Ratings Explained). The FAA issues military pilots a Commercial Pilot Certificate based on military aircraft in which you have passed a checkride (to include pilot training). If you have also passed an Instrument checkride, you can get an Instrument rating in the same Category. You can also get a type rating if there is a civilian equivalent-type for that airplane. You will have a Commercial Pilot Certificate that will look like this:
The front simply shows that you are a Commercial Pilot; The specifics of your rating(s) are on the back. Under RATINGS, it would say COMMERCIAL PILOT, and under that, all your ratings are spelled out a little more in-depth (Category, Class, Type, Limitations i.e. Commercial, Airplane, Multi-engine land and Single-engine land, Instrument Airplane, BE-300, MU-400, Limitations: English proficient).
Once you figure out what certificates and ratings you can hold via mil comp, you can figure out what else you want/need to meet personal goals, airline hiring requirements, professional goals, etc.… We’ll go through “how to” earn additional certificates/ratings that you can’t get based on the military aircraft you’ve flown later in this series. Before you seek out an FAA ASI or DPE-MCE for your military competency, you should know what you are eligible for, have taken the appropriate tests. Some examiners or inspectors will ask you to fill out IACRA before your appointment. During ATP checkrides, I routinely see military pilots that have “half” of their military competency ratings. By “half,” I mean they got either an ASEL or AMEL Commercial pilot certificate with instrument privileges when they should have both! Or, they have a type rating in the MU-300, but not a BE-400(both are for the T-1). Examples of this are endless! Don’t misread what I am writing: If you aren’t eligible, you can’t have it. But if you are eligible and don’t get it: IT IS YOUR FAULT! Certainly, the FAA ASI or DPE-MCE should have done their part to help, but teaching you the FARs is not part of issuing a “MIL Comp” certificate. Expect to get issued only what you are eligible for, but not more than you ask for. It sucks…I know! Here’s a novel concept…admit to the DPE-MCE or FAA ASI that you don’t know what you are eligible for and ask them for help. Most ASIs and DPEs want to help. If you schedule an appointment for a “multi-engine commercial certificate with instrument privileges based on military competency” it sounds very specific (like you’ve done your homework and know what you are eligible for). The certificating officer might not ask you if you are eligible for anything else. I am currently helping an “old” friend that is an AF pilot, but flew the T-34 with the Navy during primary pilot training. When he did his Mil Comp, the examiner said, “AF, huh?” And then assumed my friend had flown the Tweet. My bro didn’t know what he was eligible for, and the FAA didn’t ask. No one is really to blame. But now this pilot wants to earn a CFI add-on in ASEL and is not eligible because he needs a Commercial ASEL first! That costs @$5,000 in today’s dollars. If you are in this situation, contact me via email and we’ll fix it. Here’s how to figure out what you should be able to get via military competency:
*As of August 2018, the FAA decided to do away with the centerline thrust restriction category (so if you fly an aircraft with no VMC, you will receive a multiengine rating with no restrictions). If you received your certificate before the rule change, your ratings will show the centerline thrust restriction. You can have it removed by visiting a FDO (or FAA examiner qualified to do mil comp paperwork) and be issued a new certificate. You can also have it removed during your ATP check ride by performing a VMC maneuver. **These are the most common. For a complete list, look up your aircraft in the “Equivalent Military Designation” column of 8900.1 Figure 5-88.
NOTE: If you received your Private Pilot Certificate before pilot training and you ONLY flew multiengine aircraft in the military, then under COMMERCIAL PILOT and your ratings from the military, you will see PRIVATE PRIVILEGES AIRPLANE SINGLE ENGINE LAND; but if you flew a military single-engine plane, you will get a COMMERCIAL AIRPLANE SINGLE ENGINE LAND, which supersedes the private, so PRIVATE PRIVILEGES will no longer show on your certificate. If you had other civilian ratings before joining the military and have questions, feel free to contact us to discuss.
Zoomies: Don’t forget to add Glider too!
If you flew helicopters and/or powered-lift, you will also have one or more of the below, again based on your Form 8 / NATOPS check and aircraft flown during and post- pilot training. Please note that powered-lift pilots also qualify for airplane ratings (reference FSIMS 8900.1 Vol 5, Ch 2, Sec 15, 5-619 G).
Your FAA certificate does not automatically update if you change airframes in the military, so the only ratings on your certificate are the ones which you had flown prior to your FSDO visit. If you have additional ratings you would like to add, simply visit the FSDO (no additional testing required if you already hold a mil-comp Commercial Pilot Certificate). Make sure to set up an appointment (most do not accept walk-ins; at some locations, mil comp is only done on certain days of the week). When scheduling the appointment, try to get the contact info of the inspector who will be doing your paperwork so you can confirm what documents he / she wants to see. To save yourself a trip to the FSDO, ask around your unit to see if anyone knows a mil comp rep (we have 3 here in Goldsboro, NC!) or ask your FSDO if there are any examiners who handle mil comp paperwork.
As always, if you have questions about this, feel free to contact me.