Chris, I have a question regarding IFR GPS with expired database for instrument checkride. The PTS states that the GPS must be IFR and have a current database. What if the database is expired? Is the GPS considered VFR for the checkride, and therefore the applicant not tested on GPS approaches? We spend a lot of time prepping for that, and for some applicants I might be inclined to skip IFR GPS ops if we can do it that way. Signed “Rudolph CFII”
Thanks for your question. I’d like to approach the answer from two ways.
Let me get up on my soapbox for starters. Why would we not want to teach GPS approaches? GPS approaches outnumber traditional approaches almost 2 to 1 and there are more LPV approaches than ILS approaches. We also need to consider the number of RNAV Arrival and Departure procedures and RNAV Airways that have been developed in the last few years. The only way to navigate on these routes in our small aircraft is via GPS.
In my opinion not teaching Instrument GPS procedures would be a serious void in a pilot’s instrument skills.
Now let’s look at your actual question. On page 7 of the current Instrument PTS it states, “GPS equipment must be instrument flight rules (IFR) certified and contain the current database.” The PTS also states on page 9, “If the practical test is conducted in the aircraft, and the aircraft has an operable and properly installed GPS, the examiner will require and the applicant must demonstrate GPS approach proficiency.” Most pilot examiners and FSDOs have interpreted this to mean the IFR GPS must have a current database as a requirement to conduct the Instrument checkride.
Now let’s say you found a pilot examiner that was willing to conduct the checkride without a current database. You asked; “Is the GPS considered VFR for the checkride, and therefore the applicant not tested on GPS approaches?” You have two questions here. When asking “Is the GPS considered VFR for the checkride?”, the answer is no. If the database isn't current, the unit doesn't become a VFR GPS, it would simply be an IFR GPS with an expired database. In this case, the IFR GPS can still be used for the checkride. However, certain limitations would need to be observed. Take a look at the AIM Table 1-1-6. Note that IFR En-route and Terminal GPS operations may be conducted with an expired database as long as the data is verified for correctness. Also note that a current database is required for IFR Approaches and for use in lieu of an ADF and/or DME
Your second question regarding an applicant not being tested on GPS approaches takes a little bit of explanation.
There actually may be a requirement to teach GPS operations. Take a look at page 10 of the PTS under “Flight Instructor Responsibilities”, it states; “An appropriately rated flight instructor is responsible for training the Instrument rating pilot applicant to acceptable standards in all subject matter areas, procedures, and maneuvers included in the TASKS within the appropriate instrument rating practical test standard.” (Emphasis mine). If you look throughout the Tasks listed in the PTS, it would be hard to argue that GPS procedures and operations is not a “subject matter area”.
An aircraft equipped with an IFR GPS and expired database may prohibit an applicant from conducting GPS approach on the checkride but it would not excuse the applicant from the knowledge requirement during the oral. For example look at Area of Operation I Task C, item 7, Area of Operation II Task B, item 2g, and Area of Operation V Task A. All require the applicant to demonstrate adequate knowledge of GPS when aircraft is so equipped. Since your aircraft has an IFR GPS, an applicant can be questioned on the subject.
I don’t see this last trick too often, but some schools have placarded the GPS as inoperative in an attempt to save the applicant from doing a GPS approach on the checkride. The FAA addressed this by adding a note on page 9 of the PTS. The note states: If any avionics/navigation unit, including GPS, in the aircraft used for the practical test is placarded inoperative, the examiner will review the maintenance log to verify that the discrepancy has been properly documented.
Every piece of navigational equipment has its own idiosyncrasies. Remember how much fun it was to track a course away from an ADF or when trying to figure out if the To/From flag on the VOR indicator should be “To” or “From”? With a little education, practice and time we overcame these problems, and so it will be with the GPS.
Since this question has been asked before, I’ve consulted with several pilot examiners and a couple of FSDO Inspectors. I thank them for their help.