Federal aviation regulations require pilots to have a complex airplane endorsement in order to act as pilot-in-command (PIC) of a complex airplane.
This one-time logbook endorsement can be earned through ground school and flight training. The FAA does not require a special checkride or knowledge test to earn the endorsement. A flight instructor provides you the endorsement after you have received training and have been found proficient. Note: Pilots who logged PIC time in complex airplanes prior to 8/4/97 do not need the endorsement.
Complex Endorsement Ground School Training
Ground instruction for the complex endorsement is focused on aircraft systems and best practices for flying complex aircraft. Special emphasis is placed on the design and function of retractable landing gear and controllable-pitch propellers. Time will also be spent reviewing the operating limitations and emergency procedures for these systems.
Complex Endorsement Flight Training
The goal is that the candidate becomes proficient in operating multiple systems in what might be a faster, more complicated airplane than what he or she has flown thus far. For many pilots, this means developing new habits and procedures.
During flight training, pilots will become familiar with the handling characteristics and operating procedures for the complex airplane. Training is more detailed due to the introduction of new systems.
The FAA does not specify a time requirement to earn the complex aircraft endorsement. Sometimes insurance companies set minimum flight time requirements in order to act as PIC of a complex airplane (but not to receive the endorsement itself).
Complex aircraft training takes an average of 5 – 10 flight hours depending on a candidate’s flight experience and the type of aircraft used. Using a flight simulator to reinforce training may shorten the flight time required. Complex airplane training may be combined with high-performance training if the aircraft meets both definitions.