Have you ever considered becoming an FAA-certified ground instructor? Do you know about the different types of ground instructors and what the benefits of becoming a ground instructor are?

Surprisingly, many people have never heard of this certification or have misconceptions about the requirements. It’s time to clear the air and highlight why it’s worthwhile to become a basic ground instructor (BGI), advanced ground instructor (AGI), or instrument ground instructor (IGI).

Misconceptions about Ground Instructors

Before we mention all the great benefits of becoming a ground instructor, let’s first debunk two myths.

Myth #1: You have to be a certified pilot to be a ground instructor.

Incorrect! You do not have to be a pilot to become a ground instructor. However, to become a ground instructor, you do have to pass some FAA knowledge tests. Each type of ground instructor certification has its own test to pass in addition to the Fundamentals of Instructing (FOI) test; however, there are some exceptions. You are exempt from taking the FOI if you

  • Already have an FAA ground or have previously held a flight instructor certificate;

  • Have a teaching certificate at a 7th grade level or higher issued by a state, county, city, or municipality; or

  • Are employed as a teacher at an accredited university or college.

Myth #2: Your ground instructor certificate must be renewed every two years.

Incorrect! One of the greatest perks of becoming a ground instructor is that the certificate never expires. Unlike a flight instructor certificate that must be renewed every two years, a ground instructor can remain current by serving as an instructor in the previous 12 months or by receiving an endorsement from another instructor who certifies one is still proficient to teach.

Completing a Flight Instructor Refresher Course (FIRC) also qualifies ground instructors to continue using their certification. Plus, completing a FIRC will help you stay up to date on the latest training trends and industry developments.

Benefits of becoming a Ground Instructor

The top three benefits of becoming a ground instructor are: (1) subject-matter expertise, (2) expanded knowledge, and (3) the ability to write endorsements for students to take the written knowledge test.

  1. Becoming a ground instructor will allow you to become a subject-matter expert in aviation topics. If you’re interested in teaching students about aviation – all the information you need to know will be covered through the process of becoming a ground instructor. This certifies you have the necessary skills and knowledge to work as a ground instructor at your local flight school or teach at a university or high school STEM aviation program.

  2. If you already have experience in aviation, whether time has passed since your last FAA examination or you’re just thirsty for knowledge, becoming ground instructor certified will reinforce what you already know and remind you of things you may have forgotten. Reading and studying for a test is an excellent way to stay sharp and ensure you’re ready to share your aviation wisdom with others!

  3. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, a ground instructor certificate allows you to endorse students to take their FAA written knowledge test. This is a service you can offer that will provide the foundation for a student’s entire aviation career! How amazing is that? Read on to determine which ground instructor rating is best for you!

What are the differences between the Basic, Advanced, and Instrument certifications?

There are three different types of ground instructor certifications that each allow you to provide different types of training and endorsements.

A Basic Ground Instructor (BGI) can provide the ground instruction necessary for a sport, recreational, or private pilot certificate. BGIs can also endorse students to take the FAA knowledge tests for each of those certificates, as well as provide the ground school portion of a flight review.

An Advanced Ground Instructor (AGI) can do everything a BGI can, plus provide the ground instruction necessary for any certificate except the instrument rating. You can also endorse students to take the FAA knowledge tests for those ratings, where applicable. Earning the AGI provides more privileges and requires minimal additional studying. Typically Gleim recommends getting the AGI if you are debating between basic and advanced. You do not need to get a BGI prior to obtaining an AGI. The questions on the AGI exam are similar to those in the question pool for BGI, but there are a few additional topics that pertain to pilots training for advanced certificates. The exam also has 20 more questions, but the same 2.5 hour time limit.

The Instrument Ground Instructor (IGI) rating is exactly as it sounds – it allows you to provide ground instruction and an endorsement for a student to take the instrument rating knowledge test. The test is similar to the Flight Instructor Instrument (FII) exam, so taking the IGI test can be a great help if you are seeking the FII rating.

Can a Ground Instructor Teach in a Flight Simulator or Training Device?

Training in a simulator or training device is a great way to learn in a controlled environment. Whether a ground instructor can provide instruction in a simulator or training device depends on how the instruction is being logged. A flight instructor certificate is required if the student is logging time as instruction or aeronautical experience. However, ground lessons can be supplemented in a training device (and Gleim highly recommends it). Just remember that a student cannot log sim time as instruction received (this would be considered flight instruction).

How do I become a Ground Instructor?

Gleim Aviation offers all the necessary study materials to ace your ground instructor knowledge test. We recommend using the Gleim Flight/Ground Instructor Kit, which includes the Online Ground School and FAA Test Prep Online, along with all the reference material you need to not only pass your FOI and the BGI or AGI tests, but also the resources you need to start teaching ground school. There is no need to look any further when you are ready to take the next step.

Once you finish studying, typically about 35-45 hours, you should schedule a testing time at your nearest testing center. The BGI and AGI have 80 or 100 questions, respectively, and both allow 2.5 hours to complete. The FOI test has 50 questions with a 1.5 hour time limit.

Once you pass your knowledge tests, you can submit your application for the appropriate certificate using the FAA’s IACRA system, then meet with a Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE) or call your Flight Standards District Offices (FSDO) to get your application processed. A temporary certificate will be issued on the spot, and there is no practical test required.

Ground Instructor vs. Flight Instructor – How to Earn a Gold Seal

If you are training to become a flight instructor, you should know that an advanced ground instructor knowledge test is very similar to the flight instructor knowledge test. Completing the AGI test first can be great practice for your flight instructor knowledge test, and at the very least can tell you where you need to focus your studies. So why not become both?

Becoming a ground instructor will reinforce what you learn as a CFI, and there is an added benefit to attaining your AGI as a CFI: you can become an FAA-certified Gold Seal Flight Instructor. This gold seal is a mark of distinction that helps distinguish you from other CFIs.

To become a Gold Seal Flight Instructor, you must have trained at least 10 applicants in the last 24 months with an 80% pass rate on the first attempt. Alternatively, a DPE may have conducted 20 practical tests or a Part 141 Chief Instructor may have conducted at least 20 graduation tests at an FAA-approved flight school. There is a provision for a 2-for-1 combination of activities. The FAA provides additional details in the Flight Standards Information Management System (FSIMS), Volume 5, Chapter 2, Section 13.

Final Thoughts

Only you can decide the best course of action to meet your aviation goals. You could be a retired or active pilot, rising CFI, or have no aviation experience at all and still benefit from becoming a ground instructor. This certification is great for so many individuals because no matter how much time you’ve spent in or out of the sky, you will learn new things.

Whether you are improving your skills to better help your flight school students or becoming a subject-matter expert at a university or high school STEM aviation program, becoming a ground instructor will benefit both your career and your students.

If you would like to become a ground instructor and want to pass your FAA knowledge tests, guaranteed, we can help! You can reach our Aviation Training Consultants online or call us at 800-874-5346, ext. 471, if you have questions or want to purchase any of our aviation training resources.

Written by Callie Wilkes, Gleim Aviation Marketing & STEM Coordinator