A PFGS is an educational facility certificated by the FAA to train prospective certificated pilot for careers in the airlines, pilot flight training and commercial aviation industries. 14 CFR part 141 specifies requirements for the certification and operation of a PFGS. The regulation includes both the curriculum requirements and the operating rules for all certificated PFGSs. The knowledge, skills, and abilities required of pilots and instructors are considerable and demand high-quality training. Therefore, the FAA requires high standards from the PFGS.
A PFGS may be FAA-certificated for the following Certification and Rating; Special Curriculum, Special Curricula, Special Preparation and Ground School Courses:
- Recreational Pilot Course
- Private Pilot Course
- Instrument Rating Course
- Combined Private Pilot and Instrument Rating Course
- Commercial Pilot Course
- Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) Course
- Flight Instructor Course
- Flight Instructor Instrument Course
- Ground Instructor Course
- Additional Aircraft Category or Class Rating Course
- Aircraft Type Rating Course
- Pilot Refresher Course
- Flight Instructor Refresher Course (FIRC)
- Ground Instructor Refresher Course
- Agricultural Aircraft Operations Course
- Rotorcraft External-Load Operations Course
- Special Operations Course
- Test Pilot Course
- ATP Certification Training Program (CTP)
- Pilot Ground School Course
A certificated PFGS is issued an Air Agency certificate as well as Training Specifications (TSpecs) which are legal documents by which the FAA authorizes the PFGS to operate and describes the schools’ operational requirements, conditions, and limitations. Each authorizing document forms a legal contract between the FAA and the certificate holder.
The 14 CFR part 141 certification process provides for interaction between the applicant and the FAA from initial inquiry to certificate issuance. The process ensures that programs, systems, and intended methods of compliance are thoroughly reviewed, evaluated, and tested. Any questions about this process should be directed to the nearest Flight Standards District Office (FSDO).
There are 5 phases in the certification process, beginning with pre-application and ending with certificate issuance. Advisory Circular (AC) 141-1 and the Flight Standards Information Management System (FSIMS) (applicable chapter reference below) contain detailed descriptions of the applicant requirements in each phase. The certification process flowchart included below provides an overview of the part 141 certification process.
- Phase 1 – Pre-application
- In this phase applicants conduct an initial inquiry by first educating themselves on part 141 requirements, and then contacting their local FAA office and advising of their intent to pursue part 141 PFGS certification. The PFGS applicant must submit a Letter of Intent. The FAA will arrange for a pre-application meeting with the applicant once it has the necessary resources to proceed with the certification.
- Phase 2 – Formal Application
- In this phase the applicant meets with the FAA for a formal application meeting and submits a completed FAA Form 8420-8 Application for Pilot School Certification to start the certification process along with all required documents for the application.
- Phase 3 – Document Compliance
- In this phase the FAA reviews the submitted certification documents to ensure compliance with part 141 requirements. If deficiencies are found in the Training Course Outlines or in any other pre-application documents, the FAA will return these documents to the applicant with a letter outlining the deficient areas.
- Phase 4 – Demonstration and Inspection
- In this phase the FAA will arrange with the applicant to inspect the facility. At this point, the FAA expects the PFGS to be complete with all facilities, equipment and personnel in order to obtain and maintain an FAA Form 8000-4. Included in these facilities are the business office and main base of operations, instructors, pilot briefing areas, aeronautical knowledge training facilities, use of airports, and satellite bases. During the inspection, the FAA inspectors will carefully examine the PFGS to ensure that procedures, programs, facilities, equipment and personnel meet FAA requirements, are safe and sufficient for the Training Course Outline to be effective.
- Phase 5 – Certification
- When all the regulatory requirements have been met, the school will be issued a PFGS Air Agency (8000-4) certificate and appropriate Training Specifications (TSpec).
- FAA Form 8420-8, Application for Pilot School Certification
- 8000-4, Air Agency Certificate. (This form is available only to FAA personnel)
- AC 141-1, Part 141 Pilot Schools, Application, Certification, and Compliance
- Title 14 CFR Parts 1, 11, 60, 61, 91, 97, and 141.
- AC 61-136, FAA Approval of Aviation Training Devices and Their Use for Training and Experience.
- AC 61-138, Airline Transport Pilot Certification Training Program.
- AC 61-139, Institution of Higher Education’s Application for Authority to Certify its Graduates for an Airline Transport Pilot Certificate with Reduced Aeronautical Experience.
- AC 120-40, Airplane Simulator Qualification.
- AC 120-78, Electronic Signatures, Electronic Recordkeeping, and Electronic Manuals.
- FAA Order 8900.1, Flight Standards Information Management System (FSIMS)
- Volume 2, Air Operator and Air Agency Certification and Application Process
- Chapter 9, Certification of a Part 141 Pilot School
- Volume 3, General Technical Administration
- Chapter 18, Operations Specifications
- Section 14, Parts A, B, and D Letters of Authorization for Part 141 Pilot Schools
- Chapter 53, Part 141 Pilot Schools
- Volume 6, Surveillance