The FAA has given AOPA a new "letter of interpretation" making it clear that it's legal to give flight instruction in Mooneys, Bonanzas, Apaches, and other aircraft that don't have dual brakes.
"FAR Part 91.109 requires that any aircraft used for flight instruction must have 'fully functioning dual controls,'" said Dennis Roberts, AOPA vice president and executive director of government and technical affairs. "Recently, some FAA regions interpreted that to mean that the aircraft brakes must be operable from either pilot seat."
But many popular aircraft, such as the Mooney M20-series airplanes, many Beech Bonanzas and Barons, Piper Apaches, and many tandem-seat aircraft, were certified as "dual control" without dual brakes.
In some parts of the country, FAA inspectors were "violating" pilots and instructors for flight training in these popular aircraft.
"That was absurd," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "That meant the FAA was saying you couldn't get checked out or receive recurrent training in the airplane you actually fly."
And AOPA was not going to stand for it.
"How in the world could we give away the fantastic Millennium Mooney (AOPA's 2000 sweepstakes airplane) realizing the person who wins it couldn't get trained in flying it?" said Boyer.
AOPA asked the FAA for a reasonable interpretation of the rule to be applied across the country.
In an April 27 letter to AOPA, FAA Assistant Chief Counsel Donald P. Byrne wrote, "It has been a long-standing AFS [Flight Standards Service] technical position that brakes are not required controls under section 91.109(a). The term 'dual controls' under section 91.109(a) refers to flight controls (e.g., pitch, yaw, and roll controls). These flight controls are the only required dual controls for purposes of meeting the requirements under section 91.109(a)." [Emphasis added].
Byrne went on to note that flight instructors have taught for years in aircraft without dual brakes, and that "it was not my intention to change this long-standing technical interpretation of what constitutes 'dual controls.'"
But left unanswered was the question of whether dual brakes are required for the CFI (certificated flight instructor) and MEI (multiengine instructor) practical tests.
A current interpretation of FAR 61.45(b) (which specifies required aircraft and equipment for a practical test) by the FAA's Eastern Region states that an "aircraft being provided for a flight instructor practical test must be equipped with brakes from the secondary pilot position, which will dictate an aircraft configuration incorporating dual braking systems."
AOPA doesn't agree. "That's impractical and goes against almost 100 years of aviation tradition," said AOPA's Roberts.
AOPA has asked FAA headquarters to reverse this interpretation. And the FAA has told AOPA verbally that dual brakes are not required for flight instructor check rides, either.
"The FAA has promised to give us a written interpretation soon," said Roberts, "but until we get it, you have to assume dual toe-brakes are required on aircraft used for CFI and MEI practical tests."
For more information, see AOPA's regulatory brief.
The 360,000-member Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association is the world's largest civil aviation organization. More than one half of the nation's pilots are AOPA members.
April 28, 2000