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Three of the questions asked most often about ground instructor certificates are:
1. Why get one?
2. Is the AGI a BGI + IGI?
3. What is the difference between the BGI and AGI?
The answers are
1. "It's probably worth it."
2. "Absolutely, positively, NO."
3. "The BGI is narrower in scope than an AGI."
Although I'm a CFI, CFII, and an MEI, I also have an AGI and IGI certificate. Why bother spending the time and money considering that ground instruction privileges are included with a flight instructor certificate?
There are two reasons I got them, a third good reason I discovered afterward, and a fourth minor reason to have one:
First, when I was working on my initial CFI, I knew I might want to get a gold seal someday. One of the prerequisites is either an AGI or an IGI. Might as well just take the written (or if you're an overachiever, both writtens) while the information is fresh in the brain. After all, the AGI is a lot like the commercial/flight instructor written and the IGI is basically identical to the CFII written.
Second, if you hold a ground instructor certificate, your examiner can reduce the amount you'll be asked from the FOI topics during the oral part of your CFI checkride. My oral was five hours long (even with an AGI and IGI, it stared just after 0700 and ended just before noon), so if you can make yours shorter with some extra effort, that's worth the extra time and money beforehand. It doesn't mean you won't be asked questions about the fundamentals of instruction because you can be asked about anything you're required to know in the Practical Test Standards (to quote the PTS, "At the discretion of the examiner, the applicant's competence in any AREAS OF OPERATION may be evaluated"), but it means the examiner doesn't have to ask about anything specific other than Area 1, Task F (Flight Instructor Characteristics and Responsibilities). Examiners don't like sitting through hours-long oral examinations any more than you do, so by making their life easier you tend to make yours easier.
(Note: this does not mean you're exempted from preparing a preflight lesson on a maneuver. That is in a different area of operation all by itself, so don't think that by doing a ground instructor certificate you don't have to create your lesson plan binder.)
Third, the recordkeeping requirements for ground instructors are much lower than for flight instructors. If you sign someone off for a written with your flight instructor certificate, 61.189(b)(2) states that you must follow up and keep a record of whether they passed or failed. If you sign the same person off with your ground instructor certificate instead, you have no such obligation. This is extremely convenient for me when teaching the private pilot ground school at LCCC because I can print out my students' completion certificates signed off with my AGI certificate and I don't have to ask them to contact me with their results when they take their written.
Fourth, you don't need a medical to give ground instruction, and a ground instructor certificate never needs renewal as long as you have given some ground instruction in the previous 12 months. If you haven't, you can either complete a FIRC or get an instructor's signoff.
You don't have to have a commercial certificate to become a ground instructor. (Legally, you don't have to even be a pilot to become a ground instructor, but that's a bit like becoming a dance instructor by reading the little footstep diagrams out of books.) This means that if you'd like to see if instructing is for you without committing a lot of time and resources to something you might not like, this might not be a bad way to go.
(b) A person who holds an advanced ground instructor rating is authorized to provide:(1) Ground training on the aeronautical knowledge areas required for the issuance of any certificate or rating under this part except for the aeronautical knowledge areas required for an instrument rating.
The author is an airline pilot, flight instructor, and adjunct college professor teaching aviation ground schools. He holds an ATP certificate with a DHC-8 type rating, as well as CFI, CFII, MEI, AGI, and IGI certificates, and is a FAASafety Team representative and Master-level participant in the FAA's WINGS program. He is on Facebook as Larry the Flying Guy, has a Larry the Flying Guy YouTube channel, and is on Twitter as @Lairspeed.
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