AOPA concerned with the relatively new definition of a high performance airplane

April 8, 1999

Federal Aviation Administration
Office of the Chief Council
Attn: Rules Docket (AGC-10)
800 Independence Ave., SW
Washington, DC 20591

Gentlemen,

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), representing the aviation interests of more than 345,000 pilots and aircraft owners, submits the following petition for rulemaking under the authority of 14 C.F.R. �11.25. AOPA is concerned with the relatively new definition of a high performance airplane set forth in 14 C.F.R. �61.31(f)(1). Specifically, this section defines the characteristics of a "high performance" airplane and sets forth additional training requirements for pilots wishing to act as pilot-in-command of these aircraft. Under this petition, AOPA seeks to restore the definition of a high performance airplane in �61.31(f)(1) to the applicable portion of the definition that existed prior to the 1997 rewrite of part 61. This change would once again apply the defined high performance horsepower requirement to the total airplane rather than to each individual engine, as this is a better determinant of overall performance.

On April 4, 1997, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) published a final rule implementing numerous changes to Parts 61, 141, and 143. During this rewrite of part 61, the definition of a "high performance" airplane was changed from " an airplane with more than 200 horsepower�" to " an airplane with an engine of more than 200 horsepower." At the time that the final rule was issued, this change appeared to be clarifying in nature and was not believed to have any substantive impact. However, with the passage of time, this seemingly benign editorial change has brought about a discrepancy in the applicability of additional training requirements for high performance airplanes.

Prior to the implementation of the new language in �61.31(f)(1), the definition of a high performance aircraft could easily be applied uniformly to all airplanes regardless of class. Under the old language, any airplane with more than 200 total horsepower was considered to be a high performance airplane regardless of whether the horsepower was contained within a single powerplant or distributed over several. Conversely, after the implementation of the new regulatory language in 1997 the definition of "high performance" airplane was changed to airplanes with an engine greater than 200 horsepower, regardless of the aircraft�s total horsepower. This resulted in a very inconsistent regulatory requirement for additional training in high performance airplanes.

For example, prior to the 1997 rewrite an airman acting as pilot-in-command of a Piper PA-34-200 (Piper Seneca) twin-engine airplane could log that time as high performance time because the airplane had a total horsepower greater than 200 (400 horsepower to be exact). By the same token, it was the intent of the regulation to require that pilots have additional high performance training and a log book endorsement prior to acting as pilot- in-command in this type of airplane. However, after the 1997 final rule became effective this same pilot could not log high performance time in the PA-34-200 simply because each engine does not produce more than 200 horsepower. More importantly to the FAA, a pilot today is not required to have additional high performance training and an instructor endorsement to act as pilot-in-command of this 400 horsepower airplane.

Oddly, under the current regulatory language a pilot operating an aircraft of comparatively lower performance such as the single-engine PA-28R-201 (Piper Arrow) would be required to receive additional training and can log that time as high performance time. Even though this particular aircraft has 199 less total aircraft horsepower than a Piper Seneca twin-engine airplane, it qualifies as a high performance aircraft under the current definition simply because its one engine produces slightly more than 200 horsepower.

It is AOPA�s contention that this discrepancy in the application of additional high performance training requirements does not meet the spirit or intent of the original regulation. Further, this discrepancy is not isolated, but rather it applies to a number of multi-engine airplanes in the existing general aviation fleet. Affected aircraft models include, among others, the Piper PA-34 (Seneca), PA-44 (Seminole), PA-30 (Twin Comanche), PA-23 (Apache), Beechcraft BE-95 (Travel Air), BE-76 (Duchess), and the Grumman GA-7 (Cougar).

Although the change in the definition of a high performance aircraft included in the 1997 rewrite of part 61 did not appear to have any substantive impact, the resulting lack of consistency in its application has been the cause of considerable confusion in the general aviation community. Furthermore, the pilots of many multi-engine aircraft with a total of 300-400 horsepower are not required to undergo any high performance aircraft training because each of the engines produces 200 horsepower or less. Conversely, under the current rule, pilots with considerable multi-engine flying time find themselves confronted with a need to have additional training and an instructor endorsement in order to fly a Cessna 182 or a Piper Turbo-Arrow. The system of training requirements simply doesn�t make sense any more.

Additionally, AOPA has had a number of member contacts concerning this issue. Primarily, AOPA members are concerned with the current lack of high performance aircraft available for training purposes. It is AOPA�s contention that the current lack of available high performance aircraft in the training fleet is a result of the 1997 change to the applicability of the definition a high performance aircraft. Returning the applicable portions of the definition of a high performance aircraft to its pre-rewrite state will alleviate these problems by effectively increasing the number of qualified aircraft in the training fleet.

A review of Docket No. 25910 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking 14 C.F.R. Parts 1, 61, et. al. published on August 11, 1995 revealed that the NPRM and its preamble contained no reference to the change in �61.31(f)(1) from " an airplane with more than 200 horsepower�" to " an airplane with an engine of more than 200 horsepower." For this reason AOPA maintains that the change in language of 14 C.F.R. �61.31(f)(1) follows neither the intent of the FAA at the time of the rewrite nor the spirit of the regulation that predated the rewrite.

In summary, AOPA proposes that the language of � 61.31(f)(1) be changed from " an airplane with an engine greater than 200 horsepower" to its pre-rewrite form of " an airplane that has more than 200 horsepower." Broadening the applicability of this definition will increase the availability of aircraft to airman seeking a high performance endorsement and will alleviate the current lack of high performance aircraft available for flight training. Additionally, AOPA maintains that this change will directly benefit the public in that it will create consistency in the applicability of the definition of a high performance aircraft. We thank you for your time and consideration on this matter and stand ready to assist the FAA in reconsidering this regulation.

Respectfully,

Douglas C. Macnair
Director
Regulatory and Certification Policy