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What is required to fly a high performance airplane?

Posted by on July 13, 2008 1 Comments Category : Flight Instructor Blog Tags : ,

This question comes from Karl:

I’m thinking about buying a retractable gear aircraft with 250 HP engine from a CFI who lost his medical. I am certified in high perfomrance AC (C-182) but I only have under 2 hrs of retract time.

I’m interested in taking a flight in the AC and he tells me that since I have a current medical and rating in a high performance AC, that I could be the legal PIC, even though I am not checked out in this plane. He would fly along with me, of course.

This doesn’t seem right to me. What do you think?

Hi Karl.  Thanks for your question. There are a few things that you need to think about here 1) Legality and 2) Insurance and 3) Safety.


According to FAR 61.31paragraph f, in order to act as a pilot in command of an aircraft which has an engine of more than 200 horsepower you must have received and logged ground and flight training from an instructor AND you must have an high performance endorsement from that instructor in your logbook.  In addition, if you want to be pilot in command of a complex aircraft, FAR 61.31(e) says that you must also have ground AND flight training in complex airplanes with logbook endorsement.  And just as a reminder, a complex aircraft has flaps, retractable gear and a controllable pitch propeller.  So that means if the airplane you are wanting to buy is a complex, high performance airplane you need 2 separate logbook endorsements (not ratings).  As a side note, these endorsements are one time events.


Every insurance company and policy is different.  I would recommend checking with the policy on the aircraft to make sure you meet the open pilot provisions.  It might require you to have so much time in the make and model or it may require a proficiency check in the make and model by an authorized instructor.  Like I said, every policy is different.  It is best to call and talk with the insurance company or broker if you have any questions about your policy.


If you feel uncomfortable flying this airplane with this other pilot, don’t do it, even if is “legal”. Find a pilot or instructor who meets all the provisions above PLUS someone you feel comfortable flying with.  There are countless stories of pilots getting themselves killed flying unfamiliar aircraft.  In case you missed it,  here is my personal story of flying a unfamiliar airplane.

Hope this helps.  Let me know what you decide to do and if you buy it.

Fly Safe (and legal)

1 Comment

  1. David Johnson on Mar 16, 2016

    I strongly agree with your comments about the importance of both becoming familiar with any airplane you have not flown and being comfortable with a pilot or CFI who checks you out in an airplane, but you certainly aren’t doing much for the benefit of third class medical reform in you response to the ‘doesn’t seem right’ comment about flying with someone who no longer has a medical certificate!

    As a pilot and CFI who no longer holds a medical certificate, and who has studied the issues surrounding medical qualifications to fly, drive, and do hundreds of other things in everyday life that can potentially put other people in danger, I am offended by the implication that we are rightly singled out for special medical certification by a federal gov’t authority in order to fly. If the CFI is medically fit to drive on our congested streets and highways, is otherwise qualified to give a checkout in the airplane, and the pilot being checked has endorsements for both high performance and complex airplanes, there is absolutely no cause for concern unless there are other causes for discomfort. ‘Other’ might include such things as general attitude, self aggrandizement, reputation, etc., but it certainly shouldn’t include the simple fact that he no longer holds a medical certificate unless there is other evidence that he is truly medically unqualified to fly.

    Yes, you should be comfortable with another pilot who checks you out, but stop supporting the notion that we need the FAA to tell us if we are medically qualified to do something that is safer than many other things in life that are just as dangerous to other people but don’t require the freedom killing certification of a gov’t bureaucrat.

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