Regulatory Brief -- FAA proposes complex and costly flight simulator regulations

Regulatory Brief

FAA proposes complex and costly flight simulator regulations

The issue:

Through a formal Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is proposing to amend current flight simulation device qualification requirements, to include establishment of increased regulatory oversight of all operators. The FAA is also proposing a mandatory quality assurance program for continued operational approval of flight simulation devices.

The importance to our members:

The proposed flight simulation device regulations will significantly increase the complexity and operational costs to all general aviation pilot training schools that use flight simulation devices for pilot training, pilot evaluation, or required flight experience. This will translate into an overall increase in the cost of general aviation flight training and proficiency, with no safety benefit. For years, general aviation pilot schools have used flight simulation devices to enhance flight training and proficiency under the FAA's current rules and advisory circular guidance without incurring any known safety problem. The use of flight simulation devices gives general aviation pilots access to important procedures and proficiency training opportunities in a safe environment that helps enhance safety. It also provides other benefits such as reducing noise, air pollution and air traffic congestion, and conserving petroleum resources. The type of general aviation flight simulation training devices range from the simulation of single-engine and multi-engine piston aircraft to light turboprop and light jet aircraft. The costs associated with the proposed regulations could cause many general aviation pilot schools, which cater to these types of aircraft operators, to discontinue providing necessary simulator based training, thus undermining general aviation's use of simulators as an effective training and proficiency tool. Significant provisions:

The FAA proposes to establish a new Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) Part 60 — Flight Simulation Device Initial and Continuing Qualification and Use. The FAA also proposes to modify Part 1 — Definitions and Abbreviations, Part 61 — Certification: Pilots, Flight Instructors, and Ground Instructors, Part 141 — Pilot Schools, and Part 142 — Training Center.

The following are the proposed regulations' significant provisions:

  • Adds to FAR Part 1 the term Flight Simulation Device, which includes the added terms —
    • Flight Simulator — a full size replica of a specific type or make, model, and series of aircraft cockpit ...) and
    • Flight Training Devices (a full size replica of aircraft instruments, equipment, panels, and controls in an open flight deck area or an enclosed cockpit replica...).
    These added definitions include both the current Flight Simulation Devices regulated under FAR Part 121 (airline-type operations) and those Flight Simulation Devices currently not regulated and used by many general aviation pilot schools.

    NOTE: The proposed rule does not affect personal computer-based aviation training devices that use a personal computer, monitor, and simulated cockpit controls to simulate instrument flight.
  • Adds new FAR Part 60 —
    • This new part essentially addresses the qualification and use of all Flight Simulation Devices used for meeting training, evaluation, or flight experience requirements for flightcrew member certification or qualification.
    • Part 60 also includes the mandatory use of a FAA-approved quality assurance program. The quality assurance program requires pilot schools and training centers to adopt certain flight simulation device maintenance regimes, recurrent inspections and maintenance evaluations, operating procedures, record keeping and reporting- all which must be approved by the FAA's National Simulator Program Office. The quality assurance program also requires the development of comprehensive procedures that are designed to identify and correct any deficiencies identified by way of internal and external audits. It also requires the development of all-inclusive manuals that fully describe the procedures to be followed.
  • Amends FAR Part 61 —
    • To include cross-references to new Part 60.
    • To exclude from new Part 60 the least complex flight training devices normally operated in non-FAA approved training programs (i.e., Part 61). These devices have been traditionally called Level 1 flight training device but are not defined by the FAA — only Level 2 through 7 devices have been specifically defined by the FAA. The FAA now proposes to identify Level 1 devices, including personal computer-based aviation training devices as " other devices approved" in order to exclude them from the requirements of Part 60. It should be noted that the FAA has required approval Level 1 and personal computer-based flight training devices when they are being used to obtain flight experience necessary for a certificate, rating, or required proficiency. Though these lower-level flight simulation devices are not to be included in the requirements of proposed Part 60, the FAA proposes language in Part 61 that is intended to provide continued FAA approval. (See related documents below — FAA Handbook 8700.1 Ch 34, FAA Bulletin FSGA 98-02, Advisory Circular AC 120-45A, and AC 61-126.)
    • Excludes the need for a FAA medical certificate when serving as an examiner or check airmen, or when taking a test of check ride when such operations are conducted in any flight simulation device or other devices approved.
  • Amends FAR Part 141 — Modifies the definitions of the terms Flight Simulators and Flight Training Devices by further referencing those terms in proposed new Part 60.
  • Amends FAR Part 142 —
    • Modifies the definition of Flight Training Equipment to mean flight simulators, flight training devices, and aircraft.
    • To reference proposed Part 60.

AOPA position:

AOPA believes that the proposed rule change is unnecessary because there is not a safety problem with the use of flight simulation devices. AOPA also believes that the proposed rules are cost prohibitive for general aviation pilot schools. The FAA estimates that the overall costs associated with these proposed rules will be $1.9 million over a 10-year period, with over $1.3 million being incurred by the pilot schools and training centers. AOPA believes that the cost estimate is understated as well as the cost impact, in that the FAA does not adequately identify all of the operators that will be affected with the inclusion of general aviation pilot schools. In addition, these costs do not have any specific offsetting safety benefits. AOPA expects that these costs will most likely cause some general aviation pilot schools to either eliminate the use of flight training devices or pass on the additional costs of complying with the proposed rules to its flight training customers, and will only serve to the detriment of general aviation safety.

Related documents:


Updated Wednesday, July 28, 2004 11:21:04 AM