Organizations that hope to offer the public paid rides in vintage warbirds and other historically significant aircraft may once again petition the FAA for regulatory exemptions under a new policy issued by the agency, ending a four-year moratorium on such requests.
AOPA had submitted comments during the public comment period on the issue and welcomed the announcement that the moratorium had been terminated as of July 21. The FAA will resume considering new petitions for exemptions, or extensions of existing exemptions based on five criteria described in the policy document.
Since 1996, the FAA has received numerous requests from nonprofits for permission to carry passengers on "nostalgia flights" that later came to be known as Living History Flight Experience (LHFE) flights, typically in World War II-era warbirds. For the organizations conducting the flights, the proceeds can help offset the cost of operating the vintage aircraft.
FAA policy has been revised several times, but when the most recent version appeared in 2007, the FAA said, some of the conditions and limitations imposed on the flights were "misinterpreted as permitting operations that the FAA did not contemplate or intend."
In 2011 the FAA announced the moratorium on new operators and the addition of aircraft to existing exemptions. In 2012 the FAA opened a series of public meetings as part of a process to gather more input on the questions that had been raised about Living History Flight Experiences.
More than 500 written comments were submitted to the FAA, with the majority "either in favor of keeping the existing exemption policy or expanding on its provisions," the FAA said in its new policy release.
AOPA submitted comments noting that "the primary goal of the LHFE policy is to preserve aviation history, including former military aircraft transferred to private individuals or organizations for the purpose of restoring and flying these aircraft. The FAA’s policy should continue to provide a way for the private owner/operators of historically significant aircraft to conduct passenger carrying flights, for compensation, as a way to generate funds needed to maintain and preserve these historically significant aircraft for future generations," the association said in comments filed in June 2012.
Going forward, aircraft proposed for Living History Flight Experience flights must meet several criteria including being U.S. operated; not in military or civilian service; being "fragile" (defined as in need of preservation); be of an original design at least 50 years old; and have no standard category civilian model available.
Replicas will not be considered for exemptions, the FAA said.