Pilot Counsel

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Pilot Counsel:

Pilot Magazine | Mar 01, 2012

A recent legal interpretation of FAR 91.130, "Operations in Class C airspace," by the FAA chief counsel answers a question about the two-way radio communications requirement for an aircraft departing a satellite airport in Class C airspace. (As a reminder, a satellite airport is any airport that exists within Class C or D controlled airspace, but is not the so-called "primary" airport on which the airspace is based. The satellite airport may or may not have an operating control tower.) This provides an opportunity to review the communications requirements for airports in controlled airspace (different controlled airspaces are depicted or coded on aeronautical charts), and helps us to better understand the interpretation.

Pilot Counsel:

Pilot Magazine | Feb 01, 2012

I try to offer guidance to pilots on how to deal with the many different FAA enforcement matters that I see in the administration of the AOPA Legal Services Plan. That's not because most pilots will experience some trouble with the FAA - most won't. However, some significant number will, and we can't tell in advance which ones will.

Pilot Counsel:

Pilot Magazine | Jan 01, 2012

The airspace in which we fly is finite. There will be no more. So what we have needs preserving. The FAA is charged

Pilot Counsel:

Pilot Magazine | Nov 01, 2011

General aviation pilots are interested to know, or be refreshed, about who and what they may legally carry on their personal and business flights, where "compensation" could arguably be involved. The FAA very broadly applies the term. To mention an extreme, the FAA has long held that transporting someone to where he/she wants to go, for the purpose of logging flight time, is compensation.

Pilot Counsel:

Pilot Magazine | Nov 01, 2011

At AOPA's Aviation Summit in Hartford, Connecticut, I was reminded that general aviation pilots still wrestle with who and what they can legally carry in their aircraft without running afoul of the commercial regulations. The question that caused the most consternation was whether a pilot flying incidental to his/her business or employment could legally carry other employees, customers, or passengers in connection with that business or employment.

Pilot Counsel:

Pilot Magazine | Oct 01, 2011

Rule FAR 91.211 requires supplemental oxygen for general aviation (noncommercial) operations (airliners and some other commercial operations and aircraft have stricter requirements).

Pilot Counsel:

Pilot Magazine | Sep 01, 2011

If an aircraft is equipped with an "anticollision light system," as most modern aircraft are, a pilot must not "operate" that aircraft unless the system is lighted, or in other words, the anticollision lights are "on." That's the basic rule of FAR 91,209(b). Yet, there are two questions raised by the rule that we oftentimes hear debated in spirited hangar flying sessions. Now we have a recent interpretation of the FAA chief counsel that authoritatively answers these debates within the strict terms of the rule, but with important safety precautions.

Pilot Counsel:

Pilot Magazine | Aug 01, 2011

In the many columns in which I review the rules that govern our flying I have tried to include an important secondary message. These are the rules that have associated logging requirements.

Pilot Counsel:

Pilot Magazine | Jul 01, 2011

For a long time, it has been my opinion that FAR 91.175 (formerly FAR 91.116) allows a pilot shooting a standard instrument approach in a noncommercial IFR operation to take a “look see” that the flight visibility is at or above the minimum prescribed for the approach—regardless of the officially reported visibility. This opinion has recently been reaffirmed by FAA Chief Counsel Interpretation No.

Pilot Counsel:

Pilot Magazine | Jun 01, 2011

Some say that it was inevitable that a manufacturer of electronic flight displays would get sued over the in-flight distraction that a display might cause. We now have such a case.

Pilot Counsel:

Pilot Magazine | May 01, 2011

I am surprised to find that the legal issue of straight-in approaches continues to be debated in hangar-flying sessions. In my opinion, a straight-in approach to a runway at a nontowered airport—rather than the FAA-recommended rectangular traffic pattern—is legal, and can frequently be operationally advantageous.

Pilot Counsel:

Pilot Magazine | Apr 01, 2011

In a letter of February 4, 2011, the FAA chief counsel has advised pilots and other members of the aviation community that the FAA is suspending its policy of erasing old, stale violation histories from its records. At first blush this may not seem significant to pilots who have never been in trouble with the FAA.

Pilot Counsel:

Pilot Magazine | Mar 01, 2011

The glass cockpit has raised this frequently asked legal question: Do I need to carry paper aeronautical charts on a typical general aviation flight (noncommercial, under FAR Part 91) if I have the same information on electronic cockpit displays? IFR or VFR? The short answer is, no. You may substitute an electronic display of the information in the place of paper navigation charts during all phases of flight operations.

Pilot Counsel:

Article | Feb 01, 2011

Legal questions from the FAR Refresher at AOPA Aviation Summit provide insight into what members would like covered here. Several questions suggested a review of FAR 91.211, which sets out the regulatory requirements for supplemental oxygen in private, noncommercial operations.

Topics Events

Pilot Counsel:

Pilot Magazine | Jan 01, 2011

From my seminars at AOPA Aviation Summit in November it’s clear that many owners and pilots continue to be concerned about their rights and obligations in an FAA ramp check. The last time I addressed the subject in this column was more than three years ago, in July 2007.

Pilot Counsel

Article | Dec 01, 2010

Even with careful preflight planning and in-flight monitoring, you could find yourself unexpectedly short on fuel, adding to your calculations for a safe landing, and maybe a concern about eating into your IFR fuel reserve. A relatively recent FAA chief counsel interpretation answered whether a pilot may “legally” use some of the required 45-minute minimum IFR fuel reserve without declaring an emergency.

Pilot Counsel

Article | Nov 01, 2010

Last month’s column on flight instructor liability stirred a more general question about the effectiveness of so-called “liability release forms” (sometimes called “covenants not to sue” and “exculpatory agreements”) that purport to protect against the liability that could result from the operation of a general aviation aircraft (“Pilot Counsel: Instructor Liability Still a Concern,” October 2010 AOPA Pilot). We have tried to track the “effectiveness” cases and report them to you as they develop.

Pilot Counsel

Article | Oct 01, 2010

The legal liability of flight instructors is a legitimate concern that is continually raised. The question comes up because flight instructors are generally aware that they could be sued, not only for something that happens during the flight instruction period, but also for something that happens afterward—something that somebody could say was caused by faulty flight instruction given earlier.

Pilot Counsel

Pilot Magazine | Sep 01, 2010

Here is a new wide-ranging FAA rule that will significantly affect all United States “N”-registered civil aircraft—essentially all of general aviation in this country. It becomes effective next month, on October 1, 2010.

Pilot Counsel

Pilot Magazine | Aug 01, 2010

General aviation pilots can easily be confused about the concept of “night” as it relates to the rules requiring recent piloting experience, and as it relates to the flight rules governing VFR weather minimums. I must confess that sometimes I have been, and that I sometimes need a reminder.

Pilot Counsel

Pilot Magazine | Jul 01, 2010

Conflicts between pilots and controllers in what should be routine air traffic situations tell us that this is a legal concern that pilots might appreciate reviewing. In several places in the flight rules of FAR Part 91, in several forms, there is the requirement to “establish two-way radio communications with ATC.” This requirement frequently applies prior to entering certain airspace, and makes these situations time-critical.

Pilot Counsel

Pilot Magazine | Jun 01, 2010

Here is a recent federal court decision describing an accident that has real-life lessons for instrument-rated pilots. A Gulfstream III crashed during bad weather while attempting an ILS approach to William P.

Pilot Counsel:

Pilot Magazine | May 01, 2010

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, writing in 1928, gave us this farsighted warning: “Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government’s purposes are beneficent.

Pilot Counsel:

Pilot Magazine | Apr 01, 2010

The National Transportation Safety Board has just amended its rules to expand the number of aviation “incidents” that require notification to the NTSB. For the first time, the rules address the burgeoning “glass cockpit” displays and their offshoots.

Pilot Counsel:

Pilot Magazine | Mar 01, 2010

There is a subtle but important legal distinction between logging pilot-in-command time and acting as pilot in command. We now have an interpretation by the FAA Chief Counsel that seeks to explain this distinction in a fairly typical situation in which many of us could find ourselves.