The NTSB recently affirmed a 60 day suspension of a CFI’s flight instructor certificate for failing to sign a student’s logbook after the student completed ground and flight training with the CFI. In Administrator v. Luyten, the FAA alleged that the CFI provided ground training on four separate occasions and flight training on three separate occasions for a student. After the training, the CFI then allegedly failed to sign the student’s pilot logbook in violation of FAR 61.189(a). After a hearing, the ALJ affirmed a 60 day suspension of the CFI’s flight instructor certificate holding that the student had successfully completed the ground and flight training, and that the CFI offered no compelling justification for withholding his signature from the student’s logbook.
On appeal to the NTSB, the CFI argued that the FAA couldn’t take action against him based upon an alleged violation of FAR 61.189(a) because FAR 61.189(a) does not affect safety in air commerce or air transportation as required by 49 USC 44709. He also argued that his failure to sign the student’s logbook actually enhanced safety in air commerce or air transportation because the student had to repeat the training with another instructor in order to obtain a signature. Finally, the CFI argued that he substantially complied with the requirements of FAR 61.189(a) in that his e-mail correspondence with the student and detailed invoices constituted a signature for purposes of logbook endorsement.
The Board rejected all of the CFI’s arguments. It held that if it had the authority to review the regulatory authority of the FAA, which it doesn’t, it would find that the FAA may take action under FAR 61.189(a) because that FAR clearly affects safety in air commerce. Additionally, in rejecting the CFI’s claim that the e-mails and invoices constituted a signature, the Board stated that the “availability of a pilot’s complete logbook, including the required signatures, is critical to the FAA’s ability to evaluate a multitude of aspects that play a role in safe flight” and that “[p]roper endorsement of all prescribed documents is a legitimate regulatory requirement whose purpose is to give notice to all concerned parties, such as F.A.A. inspectors, that the airman is qualified for the operation in which he is engaged.” Finally, the Board noted that “[o]verall, a conclusion that scattered items such as copies of e-mail correspondence and invoices constitute a properly signed logbook entry would directly disregard the importance of maintaining an accurate, complete logbook.”
This is one of those cases where I truly wonder what else was going on. Why didn’t the CFI sign the logbook? Was he involved in a dispute with the student? Regardless of what else was going on, it should be clear to CFI’s that the FAA will pursue enforcement action for failure to comply with the regulatory requirements of FAR 61.189(a). Also, logbook endorsements should ideally be made in an airman’s logbook or, alternatively, in a document that the CFI reasonably believes will be maintained with the other mandatory records that an airman must maintain. In the latter case, it would be prudent for the CFI to also keep a copy of the logbook endorsement in his or her file.