Regulatory Brief -- FAA issues new interpretation of "dual controls"

Regulatory Brief

FAA issues new interpretation of "dual controls"

The issue:

Recently the FAA issued yet another interpretation of "dual controls." The latest interpretation is intended to end the debate over whether or not dual brakes are required under parts 61 and 91 of the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) in aircraft being used for flight instruction and practical tests. Although previous interpretations reinforced that dual brakes were not required for flight instruction, it was unclear whether or not the interpretation applied to FAR Part 61 regulatory requirements for aircraft being used for flight instructor practical tests. The FAA's most recent interpretation -- contained in an amendment to the Inspector's Handbook -- ends the debate over dual brakes for both types of operations.

The importance to our members:

Most of the Mooney M20 series airplanes, many Beech Bonanza models, Beech Barons, Piper Apaches, and many other high and low performance single and twin engine airplanes are certified as "dual control" without being equipped with dual brakes. A series of recently issued FAA letters of interpretation stated that such airplanes could not be used for flight instruction because they did not meet the regulatory requirements of 14 C.F.R. � 91.109(a). Other recently issued FAA interpretations stated that aircraft without dual brakes could not be used for flight instructor practical tests because the applicant could not perform the required tasks without access to the brakes. These interpretations effectively eliminated a substantial portion of the GA fleet from being used for flight training or CFI checkrides.

Significant Provisions:

  • The part 91 regulation in question is � 91. 109(a) where it states (in pertinent part) "No person may operate a civil aircraft (except a manned free balloon) that is being used for flight instruction unless that aircraft has fully functioning dual controls."
    • The first two FAA interpretations of this regulation (one from FAA's Eastern Regional Counsel and the other from FAA Assistant Chief Counsel) interpreted the dual control requirements of � 91.109(a) to mean that brakes, either toe- and/or heel-brakes or a hand/parking brake, must be accessible from either seat.
    • The latest FAA interpretation (from FAA Assistant Chief Counsel) recants on the agency's original interpretation and states "It has been a long-standing AFS technical position that brakes are not required controls under section 91.109(a). The term "dual controls" under section 91.109(a) refers to flight controls (e.g. pitch, yaw, and roll controls). These flight controls are the only required dual controls for the purposes of meeting the requirements under section 91.109(a)."
    • Under the latest FAA Chief Counsel interpretation brakes are not included in the dual control requirements of � 91.109(a) and are not required equipment when conducting instruction in an airplane.
  • The first FAR Part 61 regulation in question is � 61.45(c) where it states (in pertinent part) "Required Controls. An aircraft (other than a lighter-than-air aircraft) used for a practical test must have engine power controls and flight controls that are easily reached and operable in a conventional manner by both pilots, unless the examiner determines that the practical test can be conducted safely in the aircraft without the controls being easily reached."
    • In two separate letters of interpretation (one from FAA's Eastern Regional Counsel and the other from FAA's acting Certification Branch manager) the FAA rightfully determined that brakes are neither engine power controls nor flight controls and are therefore not required for aircraft being used for flight controls under the provisions of � 61.45(c).
    • Under this interpretation, access to brakes is not required for pilot practical tests in airplanes. Flight instructor and multi-engine flight instructor practical tests are currently exceptions to this interpretation (see below).
  • The second part 61 regulation in question is � 61.45(b)(1)(i) where it states (in pertinent part) "Required equipment (other than controls). Except as provided in paragraph (b)(2) of this section, an aircraft used for a practical test must have - the equipment for each area of operation required for the practical test;"
    • An FAA interpretation (again from Eastern Regional Counsel) states "When a practical test for a flight instructor certificate is conducted, the applicant must demonstrate his or her qualifications from the secondary pilot seat. The Practical Test Standards require the instructor applicant to satisfactorily demonstrate various operations from that seat, such as taxiing and short field takeoffs and landings, which require use of the brakes. These operations thus dictate braking capability from the secondary pilot position...the aircraft being provided for a flight instructor practical test must be equipped with brakes from the secondary pilot position, which will dictate an aircraft configuration incorporating dual braking systems."
    • The latest FAA interpretation (contained in the Flight Standards Handbook Bulletin for General Aviation) supercedes the Eastern Regional Counsel Interpretation and allows the conduct of all checkrides in aircraft without dual brakes or a handbrake. The FAA's most recent interpretation states "FAA's previous and long standing policy regarding this matter continues to apply and civil aircraft with a single set of brakes, with or without a central handbrake, may continue to be used for flight instruction or practical tests in accordance with all applicable provisions of 14 CFR."
    • Under this interpretation, dual brakes or a handbrake are not required equipment when conducting any CFI practical test.

AOPA position:

AOPA thanks the FAA for reinforcing and clarifying its position that brakes are not required equipment when engaging in flight instruction or a practical test in an airplane. AOPA holds that the previous FAA interpretations requiring dual brakes for CFI practical tests were impractical and were contrary to almost 100 years of aviation tradition. AOPA is pleased that the FAA has followed through on verbal agreements and issued new regulatory interpretations that accurately reflect the real-world practices of the instructional community by allowing aircraft without dual brakes to be utilized for all CFI checkrides.

Status:

  • Recently the FAA issued HGBA 00-08 clarifying that dual brakes are not required for flight instruction or practical tests.
  • On April 27, 2000, AOPA received the FAA's latest interpretation of the requirements of � 91.109(a). This interpretation did not address the interpretations of part 61.
  • On March 17, 2000, FAA issued yet another interpretation of � 91.109(a) and � 61.45(c), this time from Eastern Regional Counsel. This interpretation also included the still current interpretation of 61.45(b).
  • On September 29, 1999, the FAA issued another interpretation of � 91.109(a) (this time from the acting manager of FAA Certification Branch). This letter also included the first of a series of interpretations of 61.45(c).
  • On July 29, 1999, AOPA received the FAA's original interpretation of the dual control requirements of � 91.109(a) from General Counsel.

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