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Proposed Part 61 changes would benefit GAProposed Part 61 changes would benefit GA

New rules would save pilots time, money

The FAA has published a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) that would improve pilot certification and training. The changes, which primarily affect Part 61 of the federal aviation regulations (FARs), respond to requests made by AOPA. Part 61 governs the certification of pilots, flight instructors, and ground instructors.

While the proposed changes are wide ranging, the most significant for the general aviation community include increased use of aviation training devices (ATDs) for maintaining instrument currency, the option to use new technically advanced aircraft instead of older complex or turbine aircraft for single-engine commercial pilot training, and giving credit for hours accumulated during sport pilot training toward earning a recreational or private pilot certificate. The NPRM also includes many clarifications of existing regulations.

“AOPA has long advocated for many of the changes in the NPRM, and we believe they will benefit the general aviation community,” said David Oord, AOPA vice president of regulatory affairs. “Many of the proposals in the NPRM will save pilots time and money while making it easier for them to maintain or expand their skills.”

Some of the proposed changes come in response to a petition filed by AOPA and other aviation organizations while others provide continuity between regulations governing flight training and those governing proficiency.

“AOPA pushed hard for rules increasing the number of ATD hours allowed for instrument training, and the FAA responded to our requests. This NPRM builds on that philosophy by extending the increased use of simulation in maintaining instrument currency as well,” said Oord.

The proposal reduces the number of tasks pilots must perform to meet instrument recency requirements in an ATD. It also removes the requirement to have an instructor present when using an FAA-approved simulation device to meet requirements for instrument recency. That brings ATD recency requirements into alignment with in-aircraft recency requirements, where no instructor is needed. It also builds on the FAA’s recent decision to allow pilots to complete more of their instrument training in an ATD. In the NPRM, the FAA noted that “ATD development has advanced to an impressive level of capability.”

The NPRM also would expand the range of aircraft some applicants for commercial pilot certificates can use for training. Currently, applicants for a commercial pilot certificate with an airplane category, single-engine class rating must log 10 hours in a complex or turbine-powered airplane. The NPRM would allow a technically advanced airplane to be used for some or all of the required 10 hours of training as well as during the practical exam. The FAA defines a technically advanced airplane as one equipped with electronically advanced avionics, including a primary flight display (PFD) and a multifunction display (MFD).

For sport pilots who want to earn a higher certificate level, the hours spent in sport pilot training would count toward aeronautical experience requirements for a recreational or private pilot certificate—a change AOPA and other aviation organizations petitioned the FAA to make as far back as January 2011. In addition, sport-pilot-only flight instructors would be allowed to provide training on control and maneuvering by reference to instruments to their sport pilot students under certain conditions.

The NPRM also would make changes to flight instructor certification and renewal of Part 141 certificates for flight schools. Under the proposed rule, instrument-only instructors would no longer be required to have category and class ratings on their flight instructor certificates to provide instrument training. In addition, a flight instructor rating based on military competency could simultaneously qualify for the reinstatement of an expired FAA flight instructor certificate, benefiting veterans whose certificates lapse while they are serving on active duty. For Part 141 flight schools, the NPRM would make it possible to count the graduates of “special curricula” courses toward certificate renewal requirements.

“This proposal includes many reforms that AOPA has asked for and that will benefit the GA community,” said Oord. “We’re pleased that the FAA has heard our concerns and requests and is responding with positive changes.”

AOPA will file comprehensive formal comments on the NPRM ahead of the deadline.

Elizabeth Tennyson

Elizabeth A Tennyson

Senior Director of Communications
AOPA Senior Director of Communications Elizabeth Tennyson is an instrument-rated private pilot who first joined AOPA in 1998.
Topics: Advocacy, Airman Regulation, Pilot Training and Certification

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