Regulatory Brief -- Part 61 changes reduce the availability of high performance aircraft in the training fleet

Regulatory Brief

Part 61 changes reduce the availability of "high performance" aircraft in the training fleet

The issue:

The FAA�s 1997 change to part 61 added language that limits the number of aircraft that qualify for use in "high performance" aircraft training. The regulatory language utilized in the FAA�s 1997 rewrite of part 61 limits the applicability of the definition of a "high performance" aircraft to airplanes with an engine greater than 200 horsepower.

The importance to our members:

Under the pre-rewrite definition of a high performance aircraft a pilot operating a PA-34-200 (Piper Seneca) twin-engine airplane could log that time as high performance time because the airplane had a total of more than 200 horsepower (400 horsepower to be exact). However, after the 1997 rewrite of part 61 this same pilot could not log high performance time in a PA-34-200 simply because each engine does not produce more than 200 horsepower. Oddly, under this same definition, a pilot operating an aircraft of comparatively lower total engine performance such as the 210hp Mooney 231 (M20K) would be required to receive additional training and can log that time as high performance time. This lack of consistency in the application of the definition of a high performance aircraft has been the cause of considerable confusion in the general aviation community and has brought about a shortage of aircraft that qualify for use in high performance flight training activities.

Significant provisions:

  • During the April 1997 rewrite of part 61, language was added to �61.31(f)(1) that appeared to be clarifying in nature and was not believed to have any substantive impact. This seemingly benign editorial modification changed the definition of a "high performance" aircraft from " an airplane with more than 200 horsepower�" to " an airplane with an engine of more than 200 horsepower."
  • This change has caused a shortage of "high performance" aircraft in the training fleet by effectively prohibiting a number of twin-engine aircraft from qualifying as a "high performance" aircraft.
  • Twin engine aircraft currently prohibited from utilization as "high performance" aircraft include, among others, 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).

AOPA position:

AOPA opposes the change to the regulatory language contained in the April 1997 rewrite of part 61. The new regulatory language of �61.31(f)(1) places a substantial burden on some airman and flight schools by limiting the number of "high performance" aircraft that may be utilized for flight training activities.

Status:

  • On August 20, 1999, in a letter lacking the name of any signatory, denied AOPA�s petition on the grounds that it did not address an "immediate safety concern".
  • On March 13, 2000, AOPA resubmitted the petition citing that the sensible application of definitions throughout the Federal Aviation Regulations is, in fact, an immediate safety concern. AOPA is awaiting a formal response from the FAA.
  • On April 8, 1999 AOPA submitted a petition for rulemaking to the FAA requesting that the regulatory language of �61.31(f)(1) be changed back to its pre-April 1997 rewrite form.

Related documents:

AOPA petition for rulemaking, April 8, 1999

FAA letter of denial, July 26, 1999 (requires Adobe Reader)

AOPA petition for rulemaking, March 13, 2000