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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

BGI, AGI, IGI, why O why?

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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.


It is an extremely common misconception that an AGI is a BGI with instrument privileges. This is not true. I can tell you with 100% certainty and based on information from the FAA's top office in Oklahoma City that the AGI and IGI are two entirely different animals.

How can I be so sure? Well, this misconception is so prevalent that when I went to get my AGI and IGI (since I did them both at the same time), the inspector at the FSDO took my paperwork and came back a few minutes later with my AGI certificate. I told him I also needed an IGI. He disagreed and said that the AGI includes the IGI. I showed him 14 CFR 61.215, and he decided to call up Oklahoma City to settle the matter. I was right.

(To be fair, this was his first week on the job. In fact, he was so new that he didn't even have a computer login yet. Getting both an AGI and IGI at the same time is pretty rare, so it's not that he was incompetent; no one knows everything their first week, especially when something like this comes up. For the most part, the people at your local FSDO are highly skilled, very knowledgeable, and dedicated individuals. Their leaders, on the other hand....)

It's not that I'm a legal wizard; instead, 61.215(b)(1) makes this distinction quite clear (italics mine):
(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.


A BGI lets you give ground instruction at the sport, recreational, or private pilot levels. An AGI lets you give ground instruction at any level all the way up to and including ATP. The requirements for either are actually almost identical except that the AGI also includes 61.125 and 61.155. What's in those two? The commercial and ATP knowledge areas.

When you took your written(s) for your sport, private, or whatever level certificate you have, you took one that was specific to one category of aircraft. For example, you probably took the Private Pilot Airplane (PAR) written or, if you don't think it's unusual for your wings to be moving faster than your fuselage, the Private Pilot Helicopter (PRH).

The AGI has no such distinction, and you can be asked questions from all categories. On mine, I remember at least two questions were on helicopters, one was an airship question, one was a balloon question, and one was on gliders.

Either one of them requires you to have taken the FOI exam. If you're already a flight instructor and just want to add a _GI, you already took the FOI as part of that process, so you don't have to take it again. You can find that exemption codified in 61.213(b)(1).

I hope this has helped clarify things for you, but if you have a question I didn't cover, as always feel free to leave a comment!

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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  1. In the old days (the 90's) I had my CFI students take the BGI and IGI tests and when they applied for their ground instructor certificated, they always came back with the AGI and IGI. Is this still the case today, and if so, where is this information wirtten?

    1. Hi Phillip, and thanks for asking.

      If that's the way the FAA used to do it, that might explain why the "AGI is a BGI + IGI" misconception is so common. The FAA definitely doesn't do it that way now. The requirements for ground instructors are listed in FAR Part 61 Subpart I -- Ground Instructors:

      As I noted in part 3 of this post, the BGI written exam only includes questions at the Sport, Recreational, and Private Certificate levels. The AGI adds questions at the Commercial and ATP level. Neither of them covers instrument topics at all. This is most easily seen in 61.213(a)(4)(i-iii), which is below:

      (4) Pass a knowledge test on the aeronautical knowledge areas in—

      (i) For a basic ground instructor rating §§61.97, 61.105, and 61.309;

      (ii) For an advanced ground instructor rating §§61.97, 61.105, 61.125, 61.155, and 61.309; and

      (iii) For an instrument ground instructor rating, §61.65.

    2. Thanks for your reply. I have sent a query to both the FAA and AOPA for further clarification. Most likely, with the major rewrite of part 61, this process changed.

    3. Here is the response I got from the Cleveland FSDO:

      Sarah J. Nicholson
      Aviation Safety Inspector
      Cleveland Flight Standards
      Office: 440-686-2001
      Direct: 440-686-2041
      Fax: 440-686-2080

      In the past, our guidance contained an error which allowed the AGI to be issued if the BGI and IGI were taken. That error was corrected and now the only way to receive an advanced ground instructor is to take the AGI knowledge test.

      I hope this answers your question

    4. Thanks for passing that along, Phillip! That is quite useful to know.

      It's a small world. Sarah was the POI for the 135 place I used to work for. I talked to her several times during the process of converting it from a single-pilot certificate to a multi-pilot one. I was going to ask about this at the FSDO when I was there this month to renew my CFI again, but I ended up submitting the paperwork online instead. I'm glad you got the word straight from them, and thanks again!