New rules for sightseeing flights
If you're conducting sightseeing flights, there are some new rules in effect, whether you're flying for charity or profit.
Some flight schools, for example, give sightseeing rides under the Part 91 25-mile exception. Any operator conducting those kinds of flights must now apply for a "Letter of Authorization" from the FAA and show proof that they have an FAA-approved anti-drug and alcohol misuse and prevention program. A recent decision from the Office of Management and Budget allows the FAA to start collecting that information as is required under the "National Air Tour Safety Standards" rule. The FAA originally wanted to make all sightseeing operations fall under Part 135 charter rules, but AOPA successfully opposed that.
The rule also sets new standards for GA pilots donating their time and aircraft for charity sightseeing flights as well. Although AOPA had opposed the change, the rule raises the minimum total flight time for private pilots conducting fundraising flights from 200 to 500 hours. But it does remove the requirement for a drug-testing program for pilots who fly a limited number of charity flights a year.
If you're contemplating donating your pilot skills for charity, now would be a good time to review the AOPA Air Safety Foundation's recently updated Charity Flying Safety Brief. You can find more information on conducting charity flights on AOPA Online.
April 26, 2007