By Alyssa J. Miller
Once every three years, the FAA asks for public comments on its existing regulations. And AOPA always jumps at the opportunity to advance general aviation initiatives. This time around, the association is prodding the FAA to catch up with the times.
“With the significant changes in technology over the past three years, the FAA’s regulations need to be updated to allow pilots to fully utilize the advances,” said Melissa Rudinger, AOPA vice president of regulatory affairs. “They also need to take a look at new standards they’ve established and decide whether older regulations should change.”
So, what are AOPA’s top three requests? Allow a driver’s license medical for recreational pilots; approve IFR approach-certified GPS receivers as a sole source of navigation; and create additional operations test methods for VORs.
For decades, AOPA has been lobbying the FAA to allow pilots who exercise recreational pilot privileges to fly with a “driver’s license” medical instead of a third class medical certificate.
Because the FAA allows sport pilots to fly using a driver’s license medical and recreational pilots are subject to similar operational limitations, AOPA believes it’s time that the agency update its regulations to extend the same privileges to recreational pilots. Recreational pilots would still have to assess whether they are medically fit to fly under FAR 61.53.
“Even the FAA, in its sport pilot final rule, said ‘medical conditions are not a significant cause of accidents in aircraft that are used for sport and recreational purposes,’” Rudinger wrote.
AOPA also pointed out that, according to the Air Safety Foundation’s Accident and Incident database, only 1.9 percent of accidents have any medical factors contributing to the accidents. And accidents caused by medical incapacitation were not attributable to conditions that could have been uncovered or predicted by a medical examination.
The FAA currently requires pilots flying in instrument conditions with an IFR approach-certified GPS receiver to have a backup means of navigation. This would give pilots another means of navigation in case the GPS receiver loses reliable signals.
“However, with improvements in the GPS satellite signal and stated assurances from the Department of Transportation that GPS satellite coverage will continue, the requirement for redundancy serves more as a requirement and less to ensure the safety of flight in the event a GPS satellite is providing incorrect information,” Rudinger explained.
The FAA has already shown its confidence in GPS by approving stand-alone GPS and RNAV approaches. Now there are more than 4,000 WAAS (Wide Area Augmentation System) and stand-alone GPS approaches providing access to more than 2,000 airports in the country.
AOPA suggested that a notice to airmen be issued when the GPS system is compromised instead of requiring a backup.
More than 25 percent of U.S.-registered aircraft are equipped with an IFR-certified GPS receiver, and pilots flying these aircraft should be able to check their VOR against the GPS receiver to comply with FAR 91.171, which requires a check every 30 days. AOPA also believes that VOR test periods should be extended to match the aircraft’s regularly scheduled maintenance interval—a progressive, 100-hour, or annual inspection.
“Allowing pilots and aircraft operators to test a VOR against an IFR-certified GPS unit with a current database may improve the accuracy of the VOR check and may also allow the VOR to be tested more frequently by pilots,” Rudinger wrote. “In cases where an aircraft is equipped with one IFR GPS unit and one VOR, the VOR could be checked on every flight as opposed to waiting to arrive at an airport with a VOR system test signal or test point or checking the VOR against a landmark along a VOR airway while in flight.”
AOPA encouraged the FAA to adopt all of these suggested changes because they offer pilots the same or even higher level of safety as the current regulations.
January 17, 2008