You will never again fly with a certificated flight instructor if the Federal Aviation Administration implements recently proposed changes to Federal Aviation Regulations Part 61.
Instructors will still be found at the airport, teaching pilots and administering flight reviews — but they would be known as authorized flight instructors or AFIs.
That type of change characterizes many of the revisions in the FAA's long-awaited rewrite of Part 61, according to Douglas C. Macnair, AOPA's director of aviation standards. He and other members of AOPA's technical staff have spent weeks identifying the changes contained within the 124-page notice of proposed rulemaking concerning pilot certification and flight school operations under FAR parts 61, 141, and 143. The NPRM was issued on August 11.
"Although some regulatory relief could be provided to general aviation through this document, a number of proposed requirements would — if adopted — have a burdensome impact," Macnair said. "Overall, it does not provide the extensive regulatory relief advertised by the FAA, but neither does it contain many of the feared changes discussed several years ago in the preliminary public hearings on the matter."
The proposed changes are intended to update training, certification, and recency of experience requirements. AOPA's technical staff continues to analyze the NPRM's contents, and a review will also be performed by AOPA's legal department. After hearing input from AOPA members, the association will file written comments on the proposal before the December 11 deadline.
Initial attention regarding the document focused on proposed changes to the recreational pilot certificate, which Macnair said comprise only a small portion of the NPRM. Inaccurate news reports about the document have proliferated because of numerous discrepancies between the FAA's summary of changes in the preamble to the NPRM and the actual text of the proposed revisions that follow it.
Macnair stressed that changes contained in the NPRM would affect every airman. The fact that ground instructors previously covered under FAR Part 143 might now be included in Part 61 may be of limited interest, but other provisions — like the one that would allow the FAA administrator to require additional type-specific training in any aircraft he deems necessary — could affect large numbers of pilots.
Under the proposal, the instrument-airplane rating would be split into two classes: single-engine and multiengine. This division would apply to both pilot and flight instructor certificates and would require current pilots and instructors to convert their existing certificates and ratings to the new system under proposed grandfathering provisions. It appears that these grandfathering provisions, as well as those for the balloon category and glider class ratings, would cause many pilots and flight instructors to lose privileges that they now have.
"While there are quite a few significant changes to the airman certification regulations contained within the rewrite, most of the changes are editorial," Macnair said. "The FAA has made an attempt to clarify some of the confusion surrounding the interpretation of Part 61 and has codified much of its existing policy. However, this is not a simplification — the regulation is wordier than ever, and virtually every paragraph in Part 61 has been altered or rewritten. The challenge is to identify what changes have been effected by the use of new language."
For example, he said, a paragraph under "Duration of Certificates" that now reads "until surrendered, suspended, or revoked" would be changed to "until surrendered, suspended, revoked, or otherwise terminated," prompting questions about possible changes to enforcement procedures. In another section, which now states that logbooks must be presented "upon a reasonable request from the administrator," the FAA has deleted "reasonable" — and added "federal" enforcement officials to the list of those who can make such a request. The implications of such changes are not clear.
In addition, the language requirements have been changed throughout Part 61 to read that applicants must be able to "read, write, speak, and understand" the English language. There has never been a requirement that a pilot be able to "speak" for operations not requiring communication, and this raises concerns regarding pilots with speech or hearing impediments.
In order to understand the changes to Part 61 and their impact on all airmen, some new terminology must be explained. In addition to renaming the CFI, an "authorized ground instructor" would replace the existing ground instructor; a "practical test" replaces the current oral and flight tests; and a "knowledge test" — named to reflect the trend toward computer-based testing — would replace today's written test. "Training time" replaces dual flight time and will include flight instruction with an AFI and ground instruction from either an AFI or an AGI. Similarly, "supervised PIC" replaces solo flight time and applies to both student pilots and pilots not rated in the aircraft they are operating, under the supervision and authorization of an AFI.
Following is an overview of proposed changes to Part 61 that have been identified by AOPA staff members. Only the revisions of broadest interest are presented here; the full text of the NPRM contains many more.
Logging of pilot-in-command time would be more closely controlled, with only one pilot at a time permitted to log PIC time. The sole exception occurs when an appropriately rated instructor is providing in-flight instruction to a pilot who is also appropriately rated in the aircraft and for the operation; under this scenario, both may log PIC. In this case, the instructor would have to hold at least a third class medical certificate; an AFI could not serve as PIC or log PIC time without a medical certificate.
Second-in-command time could be logged by pilots who operate aircraft requiring more than one flight crewmember and who meet a series of newly proposed training requirements. Persons acting as a safety pilot would be limited to logging that time as second in command, although they would not have to meet the new training requirements. The wording in the NPRM is unclear on this last point, but the document's authors insist that this was their intent. When logging simulated instrument flight time using a safety pilot, a pilot would have to record the safety pilot's name and certificate number in his logbook, under the proposal.
One area of relief permits solo time logged as supervised PIC to be counted as pilot-in-command time toward the requirements of a higher certificate or rating, reducing the total number of hours required.
In an attempt to codify the greatly misunderstood concept of sharing expenses, the FAA has limited the eligible shared costs to fuel, oil, and airport fees. No consideration is given to hourly allowances for engine reserves or, more important, rental fees. This raises concerns of higher cost burdens.
The FAA is proposing that the 90-day currency requirement for carrying passengers of three takeoffs and landings be changed to three full-stop landings. This would apply for both day and night, although three full-stop landings at night would suffice for both day and night currency. This requirement still would be category and class specific.
Many anticipated changes to the flight review are not included in the NPRM. After early discussions with the FAA, it appeared that the agency would propose requirements for category- and class- specific flight reviews.
Also among the proposed changes is the addition of several new category and class ratings. "Powered-Lift" is the new category rating under which vertical takeoff and landing aircraft like the Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey would fall. Gliders would be broken into two classes: powered and nonpowered. The free balloon class rating under the lighter-than-air category would be changed to simply balloon; this new term would presumably encompass tethered balloons as well.
One of the most widely anticipated changes to Part 61 is the FAA proposal to expressly exempt certain pilot and instructor certificate holders from the requirement to possess a medical certificate for certain operations. Exemptions include student pilots seeking a recreational pilot certificate; any pilot exercising the privileges of a recreational pilot certificate; and airmen exercising the privileges of a flight instructor certificate, provided the person is not serving as a required crewmember or as the pilot in command.
Pilots who are required to have a medical certificate may not act as pilot in command if they know "or have reason to know" (new phraseology) of any medical condition that would make them unable to meet the requirements of the medical certificate held, or if they are taking any medication or receiving other treatment for a medical condition that results in the person's being unable to meet those requirements. Airmen proposed for exemption from the medical certificate requirement would be bound by a similar regulation stating that they may not act as pilot in command if they know of — or have reason to know of — any medical condition that would make them unable to operate the aircraft safely, or if medication or other treatments would make them unable to operate the aircraft in a safe manner.
No longer would a person have to hold the appropriate medical certificate before taking the practical test for a commercial or ATP certificate, for example. Only a third class medical certificate would be required to take the test for any certificate or rating, including AFI and ATP; however, the appropriate medical certificate would be required before exercising the privileges of the higher certificate or rating. This change is intended to encourage pilots to seek further training.
If the proposal is published as a final rule, the recreational pilot certificate would no longer require a medical certificate. Additionally, the FAA is proposing to lift the 50-nautical-mile restriction currently imposed on recreational pilots; many believe this has largely been responsible for the poor acceptance of the new certificate within the pilot community. A recreational pilot would need to receive the necessary cross-country training from a flight instructor and obtain a logbook endorsement to fly more than 50 nm from his home base, and would have to carry the endorsed logbook when doing so. Flight into airspace requiring two-way radio communication still would be prohibited.
In a somewhat puzzling move, the FAA also proposes to reduce the minimum number of supervised PIC (solo) flight hours required for a recreational pilot certificate from 15 to three. This is apparently intended to allow more flexibility in the training program but provides no relief from the 30-hour minimum still required to obtain the certificate.
One of the most significant changes proposed for private pilot certificate issuance is the imposition of a night flight training requirement. A dual night cross-country of 100 nm or more and three hours of instrument training would be required; however, the existing 300-nm solo day cross-country would be reduced to a minimum of 100 nm. Pilots in Alaska who may not be able to obtain night experience before the issuance of a private certificate would have a limitation placed on their certificate for day VFR only and would have 12 months after receiving their certificate to remove the restriction through training, an endorsement, and a checkride covering night practical test standards. Existing certificate holders would be grandfathered until the issuance of a future certificate or rating (if any).
Part 61's existing clarification of "night" (one hour after sunset to one hour before sunrise) would be removed in favor of the definition contained in Part 1.1, which references "civil twilight" as defined in the Aeronautical Almanac, corrected for local time. This could help pilots in Alaska who see many hours of twilight each day in winter regardless of sunset times.
The FAA would reduce the minimum amount of supervised PIC (solo) time from 20 hours to five hours. The minimum of 40 flight hours for the private pilot certificate remains unchanged.
The FAA is proposing to make the instrument-airplane rating class specific, creating separate instrument ratings for single- and multiengine aircraft. While this change appears to be significant, it is actually a reflection of FAA policy that has existed since 1984, when the practical test standards began requiring a demonstration of instrument competency in order to obtain multiengine instrument privileges. Any applicant who did not demonstrate the prescribed instrument procedures had a limitation placed on his or her certificate stating "VFR operations only"; multiengine instrument privileges would not be included on the revised certificates when they are issued.
One area of economic relief includes a proposal to delete the 125-hour minimum requirement for obtaining an instrument rating, to encourage more pilots to seek instrument training. The agency also wants to eliminate the minimum 50-hour pilot-in-command cross-country time requirement for an instrument rating.
Another seemingly favorable proposal significantly alters the instrument currency requirements. Part 61 now requires a pilot to conduct six approaches and log six hours of instrument time within the previous six months. The FAA wants to drop the requirement for six hours of instrument time, leaving six approaches (the NPRM's preamble says 12, but that is incorrect, contrary to news articles in many publications). Several questionable new procedures would be added in place of the current six-hour requirement, including logged experience in holding procedures, intercepting and tracking VOR radials and NDB bearings, and recovery from unusual flight attitudes.
A significant enhancement would permit the use of an approved flight simulator or flight training device, appropriate to the aircraft category to be used, to accomplish this currency. For now, this relief appears somewhat hollow since there are no "approved" simulators available today — and certification standards for the training devices have yet to be established.
Night flight requirements identical to those proposed for the private pilot certificate would be added to the commercial pilot certification standards, including a dual night cross-country of at least two hours and 100 nm, as well as a day VFR cross-country of the same duration. Ten hours of supervised PIC time would have to be spent on the flight proficiency items for the commercial pilot certificate, including a 250-nm supervised PIC cross-country flight (150 nm in Hawaii). These changes apply to all categories and classes of commercial certificate but for additional class and category ratings could be waived at the flight instructor's discretion.
The FAA is proposing some economic relief for commercial pilot applicants, as well. Time acquired in a turbine aircraft would now count toward the 10-hour requirement in complex aircraft, and the training time (dual) requirement for a commercial pilot certificate would be cut from 50 hours to 20 hours. The FAA is also proposing to reduce the instrument instruction requirement from 10 hours to five hours. However, the total time requirement of 250 hours does not change.
Two of the potentially most contentious provisions of the Part 61 rewrite involve flight instructors. The FAA is proposing a new flight time limitation of eight hours per 24-hour period, including both instruction and any other commercial pilot time, raising fears of lost income and valuable flight time. Also, flight instructor certificates would be changed to reflect the new pilot instrument ratings, effectively requiring a new instrument instructor rating for multiengine aircraft. The FAA does not present any justification for this change other than to mirror the proposed changes to pilot certificates. Problems arise in the grandfathering provisions for existing flight instructors, which would appear to eliminate many current multiengine instructors' instrument training privileges. To exchange a certificate for the new multiengine instrument rating, current instructors must have taken their instrument instructor checkride in a multiengine aircraft or have subsequently given 20 hours of instrument instruction toward an instrument-airplane rating in multiengine aircraft and signed off at least one student who passed the instrument-airplane checkride.
The FAA is proposing that all instruction given under Part 61 be conducted to a written syllabus, although the agency is not proposing either to develop or to approve the syllabi at this time. Flight and ground instructors would track the time spent teaching in each subject area of the syllabus for each student, similar to existing Part 141 requirements. Those records would have to be maintained for three years, adding new paperwork requirements. Like existing flight instruction provisions, ground instruction toward a certificate or rating would also have to be logged and signed by a flight or ground instructor.
Applicants for knowledge (formerly written) tests would need an endorsement from a flight or ground instructor before taking the exam, even if they completed a home study course. Oddly, the reference to 70 percent as the passing grade for knowledge tests would be removed from Part 61; instead, "the administrator shall specify the minimum passing grade for a knowledge test" would appear.
The FAA has proposed three new areas of required instruction for each certificate. Each presents a problem since the FAA does not indicate exactly what should be taught or the standard to which it should be taught. The new subject areas are wind shear identification, avoidance, and recognition; pilot decision making and judgment; and planning for air traffic delays. The listing of wind shear identification under "maneuvers and procedures" implies that it should be taught in flight, raising significant questions about how this should be accomplished. And planning for air traffic delays appears as a knowledge area only for recreational and private pilots — the pilots least likely to encounter such delays.
If a single-place aircraft is going to be used by a student for supervised PIC flights (solo), pre-solo instruction must be provided in a two-place aircraft with similar flight characteristics to the single-place aircraft that will be used — raising the question as to exactly what constitutes "similar flight characteristics." In a beneficial change, the FAA proposes to permit the use of a primary category aircraft for a practical test; with the examiner's approval, other aircraft without a standard airworthiness certificate (experimental, military, etc.) could also be used. However, single-place aircraft, including gyrocopters, would no longer be permitted for a practical test.
The NPRM establishes new ground instructor certificates under Part 61, replacing their Part 143 predecessors. These certificates would be category and class specific with instrument ratings for each, replacing the existing basic, advanced, and instrument ground instructor certificates. Ground instructor applicants would be required to take a practical (oral) test in addition to the existing knowledge (written) test. Some relief from the existing recency of experience requirements is proposed, with the present three months of activity within the past 12 months no longer required. The NPRM states only that one applicant for a knowledge test be signed off and endorsed to maintain currency over the same period.
AOPA staff members must complete their evaluation and legal review of the NPRM before the association can develop positions on the proposal's various elements. AOPA's position on the measure's provisions will be presented in "AOPA Action" in the November issue of AOPA Pilot, and will be posted on AOPA Online. Members are encouraged to submit their own comments to the FAA rulemaking docket.
AOPA members can now study new FAA regulatory proposals and contribute directly to the FAA's official public comment process through AOPA Online.
AOPA is now posting newly proposed FAA regulations and airworthiness directives important to general aviation pilots and aircraft owners in a special "Active Rulemaking" section of the AOPA Online forum library. The forum is open to all AOPA members through AOPA Online on the CompuServe Information Service online network.
"AOPA believes the government rulemaking system should be readily accessible to all pilots," said Douglas C. Macnair, AOPA's director of aviation standards. "Our goal is to increase the level of participation by the general aviation community in the regulatory process."
Among the first items posted on the new service were the FAA's proposed changes for pilot certification and flight school operations under FAR parts 61, 141, and 143. The complete text of the NPRM is available through AOPA Online — just download the file named NOT9511.ZIP from the Active Rulemaking library.
For a printed copy of the lengthy proposal, request a copy of docket number 25910 from the FAA, Office of Public Affairs, Attention: Public Inquiry Center, APA-220, 800 Independence Avenue S.W., Washington, D.C. 20591; telephone 202/267-3484.
Comments to the docket may be filed in writing to the FAA or electronically through AOPA Online. AOPA will transfer pilots' input to the official rulemaking docket exactly as received on AOPA Online.
"Comments submitted electronically should be in the form of a cohesive argument supporting or opposing the proposal," Macnair said. "Arguments concerning safety or economic impact, or the direct effect of the proposal on the individual owner or pilot, are most effective."
Macnair said that electronic comments should be composed as a business letter, not in the shorthand common to E-mail messages. The docket number listed at the top of each proposal should be included in the "Subject" area of the E-mail message.
Comments should be sent to "AOPA Regulatory Comments" at 102475,1613 on CompuServe. Internet users may address their comments to email@example.com.
AOPA will forward comments to the FAA without filtering or altering them. However, submissions may be read by AOPA staff members seeking pilot input while developing the association's position on an issue.
"Individual comments do carry weight with the FAA," Macnair said. "We hope AOPA Online will make it easier for more pilots to add their voices to the regulatory process."
Current CompuServe subscribers can access AOPA Online simply by typing GO AOPA. Others can sign on to CompuServe and AOPA Online by calling 800/GO2-AOPA. — Seth B. Golbey