AOPA seeks to expand changes to FAR Part 61

December 1, 2009

While the FAA is proposing 16 changes to FAR Part 61, AOPA is working to ensure that the changes do not negatively affect pilot training or certification and is recommending additional changes that could benefit the GA community.

“The FAA’s proposed changes could impact operations at flight schools, the way pilots train for future certificates and ratings, and proficiency requirements for those members who own or are considering purchasing a single-pilot turbine aircraft,” said Rob Hackman, AOPA senior director of regulatory affairs. “AOPA will continue to work to ensure any changes to Part 61 will not have a negative impact on the general aviation community.”

Several of the proposed changes pertain to complex aircraft. The FAA is recommending that the definition of a complex aircraft be modified to include aircraft equipped with full authority digital engine control (FADEC) systems. Other proposals call for the requirement of 10 hours of complex time for the commercial pilot certificate, single- and multi-engine class ratings, to be replaced with 10 hours of advanced instrument training.

AOPA supports the change to the definition of a complex aircraft and the removal of the complex time requirement for the commercial certificate. The association has recommended that the requirement for an instructor’s endorsement for complex aircraft be removed altogether from the regulations and that the practical test standards for the commercial and flight instructor certificates no longer require a complex aircraft.

Instead of requiring 10 hours of advanced instrument training for the commercial certificate, AOPA has recommended that the FAA meet with flight training providers to determine what other areas of training would be better suited for the commercial. The association pointed out that the instrument requirement would be extreme for those pursuing the commercial certificate for VFR-only operations.

Other changes that AOPA supports include allowing foreign pilot licenses to be converted to U.S. pilot certificates through “Implementation Procedures for Licensing,” permitting airplanes with a throwover control wheel to be used for flight training; and allowing student pilots to earn their private pilot certificate and instrument rating simultaneously. However, the association has made it clear to the FAA that the agency should not require private pilots to also earn the instrument rating concurrently.

In addition to its comments on the FAA’s 16 proposed changes, AOPA also recommended an additional change to eliminate the expiration of flight instructor certificates. Under AOPA’s proposal, the certificate would not expire, but the CFI would need to complete currency or renewal training every 24 month in order to exercise the privileges of the certificate. The association also proposed changing the timeframe in which CFIs can attend a flight instructor refresher clinic.

“AOPA is concerned that a large number of flight instructors and former flight instructors perceive the FAA regulatory requirements for certificate expiration and reinstatement as being a significant disincentive to renewing an expired flight instructor certificate,” Hackman wrote. “This has substantially reduced the number of otherwise qualified and experienced part-time flight instructors available to teach and promote general aviation.”

The FAA’s proposed changes and AOPA’s additional recommendations have the potential to streamline the training process and introduce cost savings to pilots, but a final decision on the proposals could take years.

“All of these are just proposed changes; the FAA must now evaluate the comments they have received to this notice of proposed rulemaking and determine if and how they will be addressed in a final rule, and that could take years,” Hackman said, counseling pilots that “these proposals should not be confused with actual changes to the regulations. AOPA will continue to work through the years-long process with the FAA.”