Commonsense changes could improve aviation regs

April 6, 2011

Streamlining the federal aviation regulations and striking unnecessary requirements could save pilots and aircraft owners time, money, and headaches. AOPA submitted a list of recommended improvements to the Department of Transportation (DOT) April 1 as part of a government-wide regulatory review.

AOPA’s recommendations focused on areas that commonly affect members, such as medical and aircraft certification, training requirements, airspace restrictions, and paperwork. The DOT had requested recommendations in compliance with an executive order that calls for federal agencies to identify “outmoded, ineffective, insufficient, or excessively burdensome” rules and find areas for improvement.

The association recommended improvements that would “promote economic growth in general aviation; lessen the burdens imposed on pilots, owners, and aircraft manufacturers; reduce paperwork by lessening frequency and allowing for electronic submission of forms; as well as address changes in technology and economic conditions,” wrote AOPA Vice President of Regulatory Affairs Rob Hackman.

One way to do this would be to expand the use of the driver’s license and medical self certification standard beyond that of a sport pilot certificate, he wrote. This change would promote economic growth by reducing barriers to becoming a pilot, and it would reduce paperwork, AOPA said.

“The FAA medical certification branch processes an estimated half a million airmen medical certificates annually,” Hackman wrote. “This number could be greatly reduced by allowing a greater number of pilots who are flying for private, recreational purposes” to use the standard established for the sport pilot certificate.

The FAA should also consider removing the extensive procedures and restrictions for the area around Washington, D.C., the association said. The Air Defense Identification Zone, now the Washington Special Flight Rules Area (SFRA), “was hastily established during a weekend in February 2003, and was intended to be a temporary security measure imposed in preparation for the then-pending Iraq war.” Pilots have found their certificate at risk when they unintentionally violated the airspace—which is costly for the government and the private sector—but no violation has been terrorism-related, AOPA said.

Other suggested improvements include the elimination of expiration dates on both aircraft documentation and flight instructor certificates so that the documents would not have to be re-printed at each renewal. Hackman wrote that the change would reduce unnecessary paperwork, cost, and burden on the FAA, as well as owners and flight instructors. AOPA also recommended the FAA expand VOR test methods to allow instrument-approved GPS units to be used to test VOR accuracy; remove the aeronautical experience requirement for complex time from the commercial certificate; simplify and streamline the aircraft certification process; and modify requirements to obtain a waiver for moored balloons, kites, amateur rockets, and unmanned free balloons. AOPA continues to push for regulatory reform to address concerns of its membership and the GA community, and will also submit recommendations to the Department of Homeland Security on regulations that affect GA.