AOPA’s advocacy for general aviation in 2016 helped shape major changes on numerous fronts affecting aircraft owners, pilots, student pilots, aircraft manufacturers, and drone operators. The New Year holds promise of building on the significant progress achieved on some of the issues most important to the future well-being of GA and most closely watched by pilots.
Third class medical reform
With the Jan. 1, 2020, deadline looming for operators to install Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) Out in aircraft that fly in airspace where a transponder is now required, many owners have tried to decide not just what equipment to invest in for the NextGen technology, but when. The FAA has been encouraging early installation, and in September began offering owners of some aircraft an incentive in the form of $500 rebates. As of Dec. 12, pilots had reserved 3,836 rebates, and the FAA had issued payments for 1,297 rebates, with the others in the process of completing the validation for their ADS-B installations.
Part 23 overhaul
A “very, very exciting day” for GA, as FAA Administrator Michael Huerta put it, arrived Dec.16 when the FAA released its small airplane certification rule overhaul that lets manufacturers meet performance and safety standards with innovative designs instead of using FAA-mandated construction methods. The rule takes effect next August. AOPA still urges the FAA to address the demand for affordable avionics and other safety enhancements for older aircraft through policies allowing low-cost non-technical standard order equipment upgrades. To emphasize that concept, AOPA had made a Garmin G5 electronic flight instrument the centerpiece of the panel of the AOPA Sweepstakes 172.
Airman certification standards
As of June 15, applicants for a private pilot certificate or an instrument rating have been training and preparing for flight tests based on newly issued airman certification standards that replaced the long-familiar practical test standards (PTS) for those piloting privileges. AOPA chairs the FAA-industry working group that produced the new standards that are intended to make flight training and testing more relevant to the way pilots fly today, by better integrating knowledge content and practical tests, by applying scenarios based on the real world of flying, and by being more readily adaptable to changes in cockpit technology.
With the numbers of unmanned aircraft flying in the nation’s airspace growing rapidly, in 2016 the FAA released a final rule that as of August permits the use of drones weighing less than 55 pounds for commercial operations that previously required a waiver. The rule mostly limits drone operation to below 400 feet agl, as AOPA had requested for safety. The rule also implemented certification requirements for drone operators. They must hold a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating to operate drones covered by the rule (Part 107) or be under direct supervision of someone who does.