Pilot proficiency checks

New regs for single-pilot jet pilots

October 1, 2012

For years, an unintended loophole in the FARs allowed many jet pilots to fly with no greater regulatory recurrent training requirement than that imposed on any private pilot renting a Cessna 152 from the local FBO. In fact, Joe Jet-Pilot could take his flight review in that very same 152, and be blessed by the FAA for another two years of jet aviating. This was because of wording that only required continuing demonstration of proficiency in jets if that jet required two or more crew members. Pilots flying single-pilot jets did not fall under the rule, and thus needed only comply with a flight review every two years to continue exercising PIC privileges—in every aircraft for which they were rated.

It didn’t escape the FAA’s attention that if two-pilot jets, which are almost exclusively flown by high-time professional crews, required recurring proficiency checking beyond a flight review, it would seem logical their single-pilot counterparts should as well. Thus a change to the FARs that expanded section 61.58 to apply to the PIC of an aircraft who is “certificated for more than one required pilot flight crewmember or is turbojet-powered.” After an uproar that followed the rule being published with little lead time for compliance, it was amended to allow single-pilot jet pilots until October 31, 2012, to comply.

So what does FAR 61.58 now require? That, with one exception, the PIC must within the preceding 12 calendar months have completed a pilot-in-command proficiency check (PPC) in the same type of jet they wish to fly as PIC; if a pilot flies more than one type of jet, he may go up to 24 months without having completed a PPC in any given type, as long as he has had a PPC in any other type within 12 months.

A PPC may only be administered by a person authorized by the FAA to do so, unlike a flight review which can be conducted by a CFI. Three entities meet this requirement—a designated pilot examiner who is authorized to conduct checkrides in the type of jet in question, a pilot proficiency examiner with authorization for the type in question, or a Part 142 simulator training organization. The PPC is a full checkride that consists of exactly the same maneuvers as the initial type rating checkride. As for the initial type ride, the ATP practical test standard is used, and all “aeronautical knowledge areas, areas of operations, and tasks required for a type rating” are to be evaluated. This must be repeated every year to ensure the PIC is retaining essential systems and operational knowledge about the aircraft.

The check is a pass/fail event; all maneuvers must be completed to the PTS standards for the PPC check to be considered complete. Depending on the examiner or simulator school’s guidance from their controlling FAA office, unsatisfactory maneuvers may either be retrained in flight without terminating the event, or may require another PPC event to be started in order to retest the failed task. Likewise, different FAA offices have differing guidance on whether the events of the PPC must be completed all at once, or may be spread out over several days—for example, if incorporated into a longer recurring training package. Prior to commencing the PPC, the examiner will give a detailed briefing on these matters, as well as review the tasks required.

Neil Singer is a Master CFI with more than 7,200 hours in 15 years of flying.