FAA adopts final pilot certification rule

September 1, 2011

The FAA has enacted a pilot and flight school certification rule that permits concurrent applications for a private pilot certificate and instrument rating, and allows counting dual cross-country instructional flight time toward eligibility requirements for concurrent training. A proposal to eliminate the requirement for single-engine commercial pilot applicants to fly 10 hours in a complex aircraft and replace it with 10 hours of advanced instrument training was dropped from the final rule. The FAA said it might revisit the commercial-pilot certification issue in a future rulemaking effort.

The rule published Aug. 31, which becomes effective Oct. 31, allows applicants to apply concurrently for a private pilot certificate and an instrument rating. It also permits pilot schools and provisional pilot schools to apply for a combined private pilot certification and instrument rating course. The rule allows crediting cross-country time in which an applicant for the concurrent ratings performed the duties of pilot in command when accompanied by an instructor to satisfy a majority of the cross-country PIC time required.

The rule revises the definition of a complex airplane, adding the option to use a full authority digital engine control (FADEC) equipped airplane with retractable landing gear and flaps for complex airplane training if the pilot chooses to do so.

It amends FAR 91.109 to permit the use of a functioning throwover control wheel for certain flight training and flight reviews— a measure AOPA supported. The rule will eliminate the need for exemptions that the FAA has long issued to many petitioners who fly airplanes with a single, functioning throwover control wheel.

It also allows pilot schools to use Internet-based training programs without requiring schools to have a physical ground training facility, and permits the use of airplanes with throwover control wheels for expanded flight training.

Also allowed under the rule is the conversion of a foreign pilot license to a U.S. pilot certificate under the provisions of a Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement (BASA) and Implementing Procedures for Licensing (IPL). AOPA has encouraged the FAA to enter into IPL agreements with as many countries as possible, and to ensure that those countries enter into reciprocal agreements.

The rule will require pilot-in-command proficiency checks for pilots who act as PIC of turbojet-powered aircraft except for pilots of single-seat experimental jets and pilots of experimental jets who do not carry passengers.

AOPA had recommended that the FAA remove the expiration from flight instructor certificates; the agency said the recommendation was outside the scope of that particular rulemaking effort, but that the “arguments presented were cogent, thoroughly developed, and offered insightful observations.”

While AOPA is satisfied with many of the rule’s provisions, the association expressed disappointment that the requirement for complex aircraft flight time for single-engine commercial pilot certificate applicants was not eliminated, as it is redundant in light of the required endorsement for a pilot to act as pilot in command of a complex aircraft.