Get Back into Flying
Table of Contents
- Changes from 2000-2006
- Sport Pilot and Light Sport Aircraft
- Pilots Are Required to Carry a Photo ID
- VFR Waypoints
- Aircraft Radio Station Licenses No Longer Required
- Logging of PIC time
- 61.57 Instrument Currency
- 61.65 Instrument rating requirements
- 61.109 Changes to solo time requirements
Welcome back to flying! Please take advantage of AOPA’s many resources and services to help make your return to the sky fun, safe, and as economical as possible. New technologies as well as security regulations have impacted flying over the past several years. This subject report will bring you up-to-date on these aviation events and how they may affect your flying. The content is divided into sections that cover major changes to general aviation operations over the indicated period of time.
Pilots returning to aviation should familiarize themselves with changes to procedures and regulations in order to make a smooth transition back to flying. The following information highlights changes that have affected the aviation industry – both in terms of equipment and regulations. The overview section discusses new types of aircraft and the duration of medical certificate. The technical information section highlights significant events affecting general aviation listed from the present back to1990.
Finding an Instructor
If you haven’t flown in a while, you may have lost touch with the flight instructor who recommended you for your last certificate or rating. AOPA has resources to help you find a new CFI.
Search the AOPA Online Flight School Directory or the AOPA Online flight instructor database to find an instructor near you. When contacting the instructor or flight school talk to the staff about what you are looking for — a flight review, an IFR proficiency check, or completing a rating begun long ago. Find out what kind of aircraft you would be flying, and the cost of instruction. Ask a lot of questions, because in addition to being a pilot, you’re also a consumer.
What Will You Fly?
Will you be renting or buying an aircraft? Are you getting back into flying for business or pleasure, or some of each? How many hours each month will you fly? Answers to these questions may help you decide whether to rent or buy an aircraft. Perhaps getting together with a few partners to buy that airplane you’ve always dreamed of might not be so far-fetched. AOPA covers some things you should consider when renting or owning an aircraft in the online subject report, Reducing the Cost of Flying. If you’re thinking about purchasing an aircraft, make use of AOPA’s extensive online resources in the AOPA Aircraft Ownership Information Center.
To rejoin your fellow aviators in the sky, you will need:
- A Flight Review
FAR Part 61.56 (c) requires active pilots to complete a flight review with a CFI every 24 calendar months. Each pilot’s logbook must show that he or she has successfully completed that review. The Pilot’s Guide to the Flight Review and the AOPA Online Pilot Information Center subject report on the Flight Review will provide detailed information about what to expect during the flight review process.
- A Current Medical Certificate
Certain medical conditions that were previously disqualifying can now be approved. If you haven’t visited an FAA physician — now called an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME)—recently, you can locate one by using the online AME searchable database. Also, In July, 2008, the durations of both first and third class medical certificates were extended for pilots under age 40. Under the new regulation, third class medicals issued to pilots under age 40 became valid for a maximum of 60 months, up from 36 months. Additional changes can be reviewed online.
If you have questions concerning your medical, or the medical certification process, contact the Pilot Information Center at 800/USA-AOPA (800/872-2672) and speak to one of AOPA’s Medical Certification experts. A medical certificate may not be required if you plan to limit your privileges to that of a Sport Pilot Certificate.
The Plastic Pilot Certificate
All pilots had to upgrade to a plastic pilot certificate by March 31, 2010. Plastic certificates are deemed more counterfeit-resistant. All newly issued plastic certificates automatically include the English Proficient endorsement, which is required to comply with the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) rule that all member countries (that includes the U.S.) issue pilot certificates that state the pilot is English Proficient if that pilot plans to use the certificate outside of his or her home country.
GA Airport Security
Airport security at general aviation airports is determined by the airport owner/operator according to recommendations made by the FAA and Transportation Security Administration (TSA). All pilots should become familiar with the security procedures that may be in place at their local airport.
AOPA’s Airport Watch
AOPA has partnered with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to develop a nationwide Airport Watch Program that uses the more than 600,000 pilots as eyes and ears for observing and reporting suspicious activity. This helps general aviation keep our airports secure without needless and expensive security requirements. AOPA Airport Watch is supported by a centralized, government-provided toll-free hotline (866/GA-SECURE) and system for reporting and acting on information provided by general aviation pilots. The Airport Watch program includes warning signs for airports, informational literature, and a security training course for pilots and airport employees.
Notams and TFRs
AOPA is constantly working both publicly and behind the scenes to keep the nation’s airspace open to general aviation. Most security-related (Temporary Flight Restrictions) TFRs are assumed to coincide with Presidential trips outside Washington, D.C. Pilots should know that TFRs cover military facilities, nuclear power plants, some theme parks and sporting events. While some of these restrictions have been in place for a long time, many will “pop up” with little prior notice.
It’s no longer enough to look at the chart, pick out the prohibited and restricted areas, and avoid them. Heightened airspace awareness during flight planning, accurate navigation, and precise pilotage is necessary to avoid potential airspace violations. AOPA posts current Notams and TFRs online. You can obtain real-time, interactive, information on airspace restrictions for your specific route of flight when you use the AOPA Internet Flight Planner. The AOPA Air Safety Foundation has developed an online program to help you understand and navigate in today’s airspace. “Know Before You Go” is designed to help you understand how to navigate in changing airspace restrictions without incident.
Effective October 1, 2010, aircraft owners are required to re-register their aircraft every three years. Read more
eAPIS – Electronic Advance Passenger System
Beginning May 18, 2009, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) required pilots who fly internationally to provide passenger information to CBP for flights departing from and arriving back into the U.S. using a new electronic reporting system, known as eAPIS. In order to use the eAPIS system, you must register for an online account. Once the account is approved—a process that CBP officials say takes about a week—you will be able to use the system to file passenger manifests electronically.
Satellite monitoring of 121.5 MHz emergency locator transmitters (ELTs) ended on Feb. 1, 2009. However, existing 121.5 MHz ELTs will continue to meet the FAA’s regulatory requirements after that date.
Even though the satellites will no longer monitor 121.5 MHz signals, the search and rescue community will still respond when notified through other means. ELTs were originally intended to use 121.5 MHz to inform air traffic control and pilots monitoring the frequency of an emergency. It will continue to serve in that role in a limited capacity, relying on fellow pilots and ground-based radio facilities to monitor the signals.
406 MHz ELTs are monitored by satellites and each contains a 121.5 MHz ELT within it. When linked to a GPS, it provides precise coordinates to search and rescue responders, narrowing the search area. Read more online about the differences between the two ELTs.
Medical Certificate Validity Revision
In July, 2008, the durations of both first and third class medical certificates were extended for pilots under age 40. Under the new regulation, third class medicals issued to pilots under age 40 became valid for a maximum of 60 months, up from 36 months. Additional changes can be reviewed online.
Sport Pilot and Light Sport Aircraft
The Sport Pilot and Light Sport Aircraft rule was introduced to the GA industry in 2004 for sport pilots, light sport aircraft, and light sport aircraft repairmen. This rule allows many pilots to fly with a valid driver's license in lieu of a medical certificate and creates new, more efficient ways to become a pilot. More details of the Sport Pilot rule and how it might affect you can be found on the AOPA Web site, or you can call AOPA's Pilot Information Center at 800/872-2672.
Pilots Are Required to Carry a Photo ID
The FAA adopted AOPA’s pilot ID petition in October of 2002. In order to provide a simple, inexpensive means to positively identify pilots, AOPA asked FAA to change the rules to require pilots to carry a government-issued photo ID along with their pilot certificate. Pilots are required to carry photo identification acceptable to the administrator when exercising the privileges of a pilot certificate. Additionally, pilots are required to present photo identification when requested by the administrator, an authorized representative of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) or Transportation Security Administration (TSA), or a law enforcement officer.
VFR Waypoints Help Pilots Navigate
VFR waypoints were added to some sectional charts, thanks to an effort initiated by AOPA and the Air Safety Foundation. The waypoints help pilots identify and navigate around Class B and C airspace. The waypoints, which are slated to be added to GPS databases, also help pilots identify the boundaries of Restricted Areas and Military Operations Areas (MOAs).
Aircraft Radio Station Licenses No Longer Required
Licenses for radios aboard aircraft were no longer necessary for U.S.-registered aircraft unless you are flying outside of the United States. A similar law requiring pilots to carry an FCC restricted radiotelephone operator permit with their pilot's certificate was dropped in 1985. Pilots flying outside the United States still need both FCC permits.
If your plans include flying a taildragger and you did not fly one before April 1991, you'll need a special endorsement in your logbook. That endorsement must show that you've received training in normal and crosswind landings, as well as wheel landings.
61.1 Definition of cross-country changed
The regulations covering logging of cross-country time now say that pilots working toward their private, instrument, or commercial certificates must have a landing at a point that is at least 50 nautical miles straight-line distance from the original point of departure. For ATP candidates, the distance is still 50 nm, but no landing is necessary. 61.31 Additional training required for high performance aircraft, and definition added for complex aircraft. While a checkout for high-performance aircraft has been a requirement for many years, the FAA has now added a "complex" term to the mix.
Logging of PIC time
You must now have specific, individual training and a logbook endorsement to act as PIC in 61.51. Recreational, private, commercial, and airline transport pilots may log PIC time whenever they are the sole manipulator of the controls of an aircraft for which they are rated. Student pilots may now also log solo time as PIC time as well; previously, that time was logged only as "solo" time.
61.57 Instrument Currency
The new regulations eliminated the requirement for six hours of instrument flight time to remain current. Now, pilots must log just six instrument approaches every six months. They must also log holding procedures and intercepting and tracking courses either in actual or simulated flight. Regulations don't specify a minimum time for the holding and intercept/track procedures. Instrument pilots who do not meet these instrument experience requirements must take a ride with a CFII, known as an "instrument proficiency check."
61.65 Instrument rating requirements
If you are a private pilot who once thought of picking up your instrument rating, this regulation change might encourage you to do it. The former 125-hour total time requirement for an instrument rating has been dropped. Now all you need is a private pilot certificate, 50 hours of PIC cross-country time, and 40 hours of simulated or actual instrument time, 15 hours of which must be received from an authorized instrument instructor.
61.109 Changes to solo time requirements
Solo cross-country time required for a private pilot certificate has been lowered from 10 to five hours. The new requirements include a night cross-country of at least 100 nm total distance, but the long 300-mile cross-country requirement has been reduced to 150 nm. The total time of 40 hours for a private ticket remains the same.
IFR Fix: The Way It WAAS
The old rule of many sixes that governed currency and hours required to maintain it has changed.
Are You on Your Game?
10 places where your skills will slip first
Two Years and Counting
The instrument proficiency check
Getting Back Into Flying
Getting back in the game
All you need to knock off the rust is a plan
Special Report: The State of General Aviation
Seeking answers among conflicting signals
Legal Briefing: More to know
Be sure to check for temporary flight restrictions
Keeping Track of TFRs
Tips for avoiding temporary flight restrictions
When Legal Isn't Safe
Know Your Limitations and the Airplane's Before You Fly
A Currency Confession
Making an IFR Comeback at Comair Flight Academy