Complex / High Performance Endorsement

Complex Aircraft Endorsement

Bob NeimanA complex airplane is defined by the United States Federal Aviation Administration as an aircraft that has all of the following:

  • A retractable landing gear (land aircraft only; a seaplane is not required to have this)
  • A controllable pitch propeller (which includes constant speed propellers)
  • Movable or adjustable flaps.

In the U.S., students generally train for their first pilot certificate in an aircraft with fixed landing gear, a fixed-pitch propeller. It may or may not be equipped with flaps.

Before or after earning the private pilot certificate (PPL) (usually after), a pilot can be trained in complex aircraft operations. When the pilot has demonstrated proficiency in complex aircraft, the flight instructor endorses the pilot’s logbook and the pilot is said to have a “complex endorsement”.

The FAA requires a pilot to have experience in, and take at least part of the practical test in, a complex airplane in order to earn the commercial pilot certificate (CPL) and the flight instructor certificate (CFI).

Typical examples of complex airplanes include the Piper Arrow and Cessna 177RG.

High Performance Endorsement

To fly any aircraft that has an engine greater than 200 horsepower, a student or licensed pilot must obtain an endorsement from a certified instructor verifying that he/she has received flight and ground training.

The length of time required to obtain the high performance endorsement depends on the student’s ability to learn and apply all the new information. On average, this endorsement requires a 1-2 hour ground lesson and two 1.5 hour flight lessons.

Why would I get a high performance endorsement?

Getting the high performance endorsement opens a pilot’s world up to a broader spectrum of aircraft. It is one less limitation on your license and permits you to rent aircraft that have this higher horsepower. Being able to fly these more powerful aircraft will allow you to take farther trips in a shorter amount of time. The travel time for that day trip out to the coast will be cut substantially flying a 235 horsepower Cessna 182 rather than a 145 horsepower Cessna 172