AOPA submits petition concerning discrepancy in FAA regulatory language

January 27, 1999

Federal Aviation Administration
Office of the Chief Counsel
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 340,000 pilots and aircraft owners, submits the following petition for rulemaking under the authority of 14 CFR §11.25. AOPA is concerned with an apparent discrepancy between the regulatory language of 14 CFR §141 D(4)(b)(1)(ii) and §61.129(a)(3)(ii) that set forth the aeronautical experience requirements for a commercial pilot certificate. This discrepancy between parts 61 and 141 involves the requirement for 10 hours of training time in a “complex” airplane.

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 parts 61 and 141, two words were added to §141 D(4)(b)(1)(ii) that appeared to be clarifying in nature and were not believed to have any substantive impact. This supposed clarification changed the reference to the type of aircraft required for “complex” training from an “ airplane that has retractable landing gear, flaps and a controllable pitch propeller” to a “ single-engine airplane that has retractable landing gear, flaps, and a controllable pitch propeller.” This seemingly minor change has proven to pose a significant economic burden on a number of Part 141 flight schools and their students who are training toward a commercial single-engine pilot certificate. Under this petition, AOPA seeks to restore the requirement in §141 D(4)(b)(1)(ii) to the language that existed prior to the 1997 rewrite by permitting 10 hours of training in a complex airplane regardless of class.

Prior to the implementation of the new language in §141 D(4)(b)(1)(ii), a number of Part 141 flight training institutions routinely conducted initial commercial pilot training in multiengine aircraft. These schools then made the single-engine airplane rating available to their students as an additional rating to the commercial multiengine pilot certificate. Under this training system, the required 10 hours of complex airplane flight training time were fulfilled for both the single- and multiengine ratings using a multiengine aircraft during initial commercial pilot certification. Prior to the FAA’s April 1997 rewrite of Part 141, this practice worked well for students wishing to add a single-engine class rating to their existing commercial multiengine certificate. This was due to the fact that the longstanding regulations required 10 hours of training in a complex airplane without regard to the class of airplane used. This allowed flexibility in the implementation of the airman certification regulations and did not dictate the order in which airmen must receive their ratings. However, as a result of the April 1997 rewrite, language was added to Part 141 effectively prohibiting a student from pursuing a single-engine add-on rating to an existing commercial multiengine certificate without engaging in an additional 10 hours of training in a complex single-engine airplane. AOPA believes that under such circumstances, an applicant for a single-engine additional rating has already met the necessary aeronautical experience requirements by previous experience in complex multiengine airplanes.

Today, the cost of renting a complex aircraft can greatly exceed $100 per hour, not including compensation for an instructor. This means that the change to Part 141 requiring 10 hours of training time in a complex single-engine airplane adds at least $1,000 to the cost of an additional single-engine rating. We believe that this requirement is unnecessary and redundant since the applicant already has significant training in complex multiengine airplanes that possess all of the characteristics of a complex single-engine airplane and more. Requiring an applicant to obtain an additional 10 hours of training time in a complex single-engine airplane adds a significant additional expense for little return value or safety enhancement.

The new requirement for class-specific complex airplane training also imposes a significant economic burden on the flight schools. For example, a flight school that typically conducts the commercial pilot curriculum in multiengine airplanes must now obtain single-engine aircraft with retractable landing gear, flaps, and a controllable pitch propeller solely for the purpose of conducting complex aircraft training for single-engine additional ratings. These aircraft are very expensive and, under this training scheme, would be significantly underutilized.

AOPA is aware of at least one flight training institution operating under Part 141 that has petitioned for an exemption to the above-mentioned rule. This petition, contained in Docket Number 29266, was submitted on the grounds that the language of 14 CFR §141 D(4)(b)(1)(ii) places a substantial financial burden upon the student in the form of increased training time and expense, and the flight school in the form of requiring the purchase of additional aircraft. It is AOPA’s contention that these are not isolated problems, as we are aware of a great number of flight schools operating under Part 141 that previously conducted initial training toward the commercial certificate in multiengine aircraft.

In its denial of the petition for exemption contained in Docket Number 29266, the FAA maintained that the change to §141 D(4)(b)(1)(ii), including the limitation of complex flight training time to only single-engine aircraft, was intentional. However, a review of Docket Number 25910, Notice of Proposed Rulemaking 14 CFR Parts 1, 61, et. al., published on August 11, 1995, revealed that the NPRM and its preamble contained no reference to the change in §141 D(4)(b)(1)(ii) from “airplane” to “single-engine airplane.” For this reason, AOPA maintains that the change in language of 14 CFR §141 D(4)(b)(1)(ii) follows neither the intentions of the FAA nor the spirit of the regulation as outlined in the NPRM Docket Number 25910.

Furthermore, the language contained in §141 D(4)(b)(1)(ii) is inconsistent with the longstanding and unchanged language in similar commercial pilot aeronautical experience sections of Part 61. Specifically, §61.129(a)(3)(ii) requires “10 hours of training in an airplane that has retractable landing gear, flaps, and a controllable-pitch propeller, or is turbine-powered.” This is identical to the language found in Part 141 prior to the 1997 rewrite of parts 61 and 141. We believe the Part 141 language should be reinstated to its pre-April 1997 form such that it matches the current language in Part 61.

In summary, AOPA proposes that the language of §141 D(4)(b)(1)(ii) be changed to “10 hours of training in an airplane that has retractable landing gear, flaps, and a controllable-pitch propeller, or is turbine-powered.” AOPA maintains that this change will directly benefit the public in that it will create consistency in language between parts 61 and 141 and will substantially reduce the economic burdens placed upon airmen and flight schools operating under Part 141. Additionally, AOPA maintains that the above-mentioned change will not adversely affect the quality of flight training or flight safety. We believe this on the grounds that the above-mentioned regulatory language has long been used by flight schools operating under Part 141 prior to the issuance of the April 1997 final rule and continues to be used in commercial pilot flight training conducted under Part 61.

We thank you for your time and consideration in this matter and stand ready to assist the FAA in reconsidering this regulation.

Respectfully,

Douglas C. Macnair
Director
Regulatory and Certification Policy

January 26, 1999