Instrument hours should count toward commercial, AOPA says

November 4, 2010

AOPA is requesting that the FAA withdraw an Oct. 8 letter of interpretation that stated the instrument time logged toward an instrument rating cannot be counted toward the instrument hours required for the commercial certificate. While the letter of interpretation was in reference to a question asking about the helicopter commercial pilot certificate, it could be applied to fixed-wing aircraft as well.

“AOPA has begun to receive calls that commercial pilot applicants are being turned away by examiners due to this new interpretation of 61.129,” Kristine Hartzell, AOPA manager of regulatory affairs, wrote to the FAA. “This LOI must be withdrawn immediately in order to minimize further impact on commercial pilot applicants, flight schools, and flight instructors.”

AOPA explained that the regulation for “Ten hours of instrument training using a view-limiting device including attitude instrument flying, partial panel skills, recovery from unusual flight attitudes, and intercepting and tracking navigational systems” has always been understood to apply to a non-instrument-rated commercial pilot applicant seeking the “VFR only” commercial certificate. Instrument-rated applicants have already fulfilled the aeronautical knowledge requirements of 61.129. Furthermore, AOPA explained that instrument-rated applicants already have been evaluated by a designated examiner and there are no instrument tasks on the commercial pilot practical test.

The association also explained that the letter of interpretation has created such a drastic change that it has essentially created a new regulation without providing the opportunity for the public to comment.

“AOPA asserts that an instrument-rated pilot greatly exceeds the 10 hour instrument time set forth in 61.129 and that all training received in pursuit of an instrument rating should be creditable toward the aeronautical experience required for a commercial pilot certificate,” Hartzell said, concluding, “The Letter of Interpretation dated October 8, 2010, should be withdrawn immediately.”