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Student Pilot — 90-day Currency

Asked by: 3159 views FAA Regulations, General Aviation, Student Pilot

Here's an somewhat odd question...has the 90-day currency for student pilots  (14 CFR §61.87(n)) "always" been there 0r has it been added recently (within the past 15 years, let's say)?  I'm hoping an "experienced" (read, old) instructor can remember that far back.

I had a long explanation typed up and submitted, but it seems that the website ate my homework, and I'm not up to typing it all out again, so here's the brief background.  I've been a student pilot since 1987.  Every time I made some progress, something would get in the way and I'd have to stop flying for several years.  Now I'm finishing up my check-ride prep and can see the light at the end of the tunnel.  I was going through my logbooks with the chief instructor during a mock oral and he found some discrepancies.  Back in 1990, I had been signed off for solo flight from my home airport to an airport near where I was working at the time.  I flew that circuit (home-work-home) many times over the next 5 months without getting a 90-day sign-off. I don't remember my instructor saying anything about having to get a sign-off again in 90-days (I'm sure that if he told me it was required I would have done it).  If the 90-day currency was in effect then, it sounds like a double failure -- a) my instructor for not telling me and b) me for not being up on the FARs. 

I have plenty of hours, so these 20 hours or so don't matter for meeting regulatory requirements, but I don't want any surprises when I go for my check-ride if the DPE asks about them.  I don't remember exactly why I didn't have any lessons in that 5-month block, but it was probably finances (isn't it always).  Neither my instructor or the chief instructor were instructing (or possibly even flying) back then, so I'm hoping a grizzled old instructor can shed some light on this.  If those were indeed illegal hours, what would you recommend I say to a DPE if asked about them?



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2 Answers

  1. John D Collins on Nov 21, 2013

    Although I am am old (read an experienced instructor) you don’t need to be one to easily find the answer to your question. The FAA has a web site at http://rgl.faa.gov/Regulatory_and_Guidance_Library/rgFAR.nsf/MainFrame?OpenFrameset

    It has several options including historical versions of each regulation. In 1962, part 61 was introduced to the federal regulations. Previous to this time the subject was covered by part 20. On Dec 1, 1978, part 61 was rewritten and the regulation 61.87 contained the following language:

    “(n) … (v) Endorsed the student pilot’s logbook for the specific make and model aircraft to be flown, and that endorsement remains current for solo flight privileges, provided an authorized instructor updates the student’s logbook every 90 days thereafter.”

    Since this was 35 years ago, the rule was there from that point on and doesn’t provide you any relief for flights in the last 15 years. It is interesting to note that the original 1962 was not as clear on the subject and as long as you didn’t allow your flying to lapse for 90 days, you would not need the endorsement. Here is the original wording included in a different regulation, 61.73 Limitations on Student which included the following:

    “61.73 (c) A student pilot who has not acted as pilot in command of a powered aircraft in the proceeding 90 days, may not pilot such an aircraft in solo flight until he has passed a flight check given by a certified flight instructor who so endorses his student pilot log book.”

    As far as what I would recommend you say to the DPE, “I didn’t include these hours in my totals because I could not locate the required 90 day solo endorsement”.

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  2. Dodd Martin on Nov 22, 2013

    Wow John! Thanks for that. I didn’t realize that the FAA had their historical regs available for review. I like to think my Google-Fu is pretty good, but I couldn’t find this. I guess those 5 hours will be lost to the ages.


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