On the importance of checking paperwork & Grade 3 Instructor limitations

First printed in Aeronotes (the Official Journal of the Australian Ballooning Federation) Volume 38 No 1 (March, 2016) as a guide for student pilots, instructors and examiners.

There is a phrase that goes something like “Assumption is the mother of all … problems!”

Sadly it happens to all of us and it can lead to some regrettable situations. This is no less true when undergoing instruction or sending a student on their first solo.

I have recently had some new pilot applications cross my desk where I encountered the following:

  • First solo conducted without a ROC.
  • Insufficient tether hours.
  • Incomplete paperwork.
  • Advanced flight exercises signed off by a Grade 3 Instructor
  • Instructor/examiner out of date.

The first item in the list is somewhat surprising as it means it wasn’t picked up by the student, their instructor OR the examiner who should have checked their paperwork (including sighting the student’s ROC) prior to performing their check flight. Given the Ops Manual says that an ROC is required before first solo, technically that student’s flight was against the rules & should not have been included in their totals (no, I wasn’t that nasty!).

While the other items listed above could have occurred due to a lapse by single person in the chain, for an ROC to be missed means two people who should have known better didn’t do the required checks. The worst part of the situation is that this situation has occurred to two students from different instructors & examiners within the past six months!

I’ve said it before but it appears to warrant a repeat mention: paperwork is an annoying but important part of our flying, especially when learning to fly.

We need to be able to prove to CASA that our students are being trained correctly and in accordance with our syllabus & procedures. I need to verify that all the hoops have been jumped through when handing out a new PP(B)C. Instructors & examiners need to be attentive to detail and check that the preconditions listed in the Ops Manual have been met at all times. Students need to ensure that their instructors & examiners are current.

I am working with Ronald to prepare a new Instructor Alert notice to be sent to all instructors & examiners and placed on the ABF website (members only section, of course). Hopefully it will be out by now but to help spread the message, here is a summary of the checks I must perform when assessing the issuance of new PP(B)C. Hopefully it is of assistance to instructors, examiners and students when checking that their application is complete.

Ops Manager checks for a new PP(B)C application

The following steps are required to be completed as part of the Ops Manager’s verification that a new PP(B)C applicant has met the required standards and their PP(B)C can be issued. If all the required paperwork has been sent in prior to and/or with the application it dramatically reduces the time required before the PP(B)C can be issued.

  1. A completed application form with the relevant sections completed has been received.
    • Students should be sure to fill in the back side of the form with their medical declaration (I’m working on improving the medical section so it’s not as confusing).


  2. A copy of the student’s training record has been provided.
    • This is the student’s training booklet and either a photocopy or scan of the filled in pages should be provided.
    • The student should keep their original.


  3. Has the student’s training record had the “Recommendation for a flight test” page filled in by their instructor and completed by their examiner?
    • The instructor should have flown with the student.
    • The examiner should provide a summary of the flight check & indicate whether the student passed or failed.


  4. Has the “Flight Training Exercises Completed to a Competent Standard” document been supplied & filled in correctly?
    • The student must sign to confirm they believe they have been trained and are competent.
    • The instructor who has supervised their training must sign to confirm they believe the student is competent.
    • Each training exercise must be signed off by the instructor who confirmed that the student was competent in that exercise.
    • Only a Grade 2 or Grade 1 examiner can conduct & sign off the exercises in section 6 (advanced conditions) as per section of the Ops Manual.


  5. Copies of all seven exam sheets (eight if the student has also done the Aerodrome Endorsement) are with the Ops Manager.
    • Verify that the exams have indeed been passed.
    • Check that the examiner & dates on each exam paper matches the one who signed for it in the student’s training record (page 64).
    • These should have been sent to the ABF office by the Examiner who conducted the exams.
    • They can be sent via post, via scan & email or even by taking a photo of the sheet and emailing that in.
    • If sending via email, it’s best to also cc the opsmanager@abf.net.au account as that helps cut down on admin effort & gets the copies to me quickly.


  6. Did the applicant complete the Aerostats & Airmanship and Flight Rules & Procedures exams prior to their first solo?
  7. A completed Flight Test report form has been received.
    • This form is supplied by the examiner to confirm that the student has been tested in accordance with the ABF’s syllabus & standards.
    • Again, it can be sent by post or email (scanned or photographed)


  8. Are the applicant, their instructors and their examiner(s) current member of the ABF both at present and during their training
    • Check their records to ensure they were current during training as well as at present.
    • Also check instructors & examiners to verify they were current instructors & weren’t over two years past their last Instructor Flight Check.


  9. Did the applicant hold a Student Pilot (Balloon) Certificate for all their instructional flights?
    • Check the date of issue against their logged instructional flights


  10. Is the applicant at least sixteen years of age?
    • While instructional flights can be logged from fifteen years old onwards, the student must be sixteen before they can do their check flight.


  11. Did the applicant hold an ROC or CASA FROL and was it issued prior to their first solo?
    • Check the date their ROC was issued against their first solo.


  12. Has the applicant met the required number of hours of training?
    • The applicant must have completed sixteen hours of instructional flight time which includes:
      • At least nine hours of dual flight.
      • At least fifteen minutes of tether (note: only one hour of tether time counts towards the sixteen hour total required).
      • At least two hours of solo flight over at least three flights on two separate days
  13. Only flights that occurred while the student was a current member with an SP(B)C and their instructors were current can be counted.

  15. Has the applicant completed at least three flights (including inflation & deflation) within the twelve months preceding their application?
  16. Did the applicant’s checkflight include at least thirty minutes of dual and at least twenty minutes of solo time?
    • These should be logged as a final entry in the training record’s summary section (pages 60 to 63)

First printed in Aeronotes (the Official Journal of the Australian Ballooning Federation) Volume 38 No 1 (March, 2016) as a guide for student pilots, instructors and examiners.

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