An analysis by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) of the FAA's long-awaited commercial air tour, charity, and sightseeing rule finds that the impact on Part 91 air tour operators is as minimal as could be hoped for, but that the impact on pilots who fly to help with charity fundraisers is very detrimental.
"The FAA has agreed with AOPA's contention that small air tour operators who stay within 25 statute miles of their departure point should be able to continue to fly under Part 91 instead of being forced to operate under much more expensive Part 135 regulations," said Luis Gutierrez, AOPA director of regulatory and certification policy. "That decision is likely to be the difference between literally hundreds of small sightseeing operations across the country staying in business or going under."
The biggest change for Part 91 sightseeing operators will be that they now have to get a letter of authorization from the FAA. And there are some new safety requirements, but for most fixed wing operators, they should not prove to be a major financial burden.
Pilots and associated organizations using charity sightseeing flights to raise money, however, will not be pleased. The new rule more than doubles the required minimum flight time for private pilots to conduct these flights.
"Despite AOPA's arguments, the FAA raised the minimum experience level for private pilots from 200 to 500 hours," Gutierrez said. "The FAA based their action on the fact that more accidents occur with pilots between 200 and 500 hours. But because the majority of pilots fall into that range, the statistics used by the FAA to justify the change may not reflect the true safety record of pilots in this experience level, but rather their increased exposure.
"This move unnecessarily reduces the number of pilots available to give charity sightseeing flights by 22 percent."
AOPA has spent more than three years working to mitigate what was originally a tremendously onerous proposed rule. With more than 410,000 members, the association is the world's largest civil aviation association, working to protect the interests of general aviation. More than two-thirds of all U.S. pilots are members of AOPA.
February 9, 2007