The FAA issued a special federal aviation regulation (SFAR) that provides blanket extensions of medical certificates and airman knowledge tests that would have expired between March 1 and May 31 to all pilots regardless of the type of their flying. The SFAR also provides flight review and instrument currency extensions under very limited circumstances to get pilots back in the air to support the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Flight instructor certificates that would have expired between March 31 and May 31 will have a blanket certificate extension until June 30, 2020.
Although the SFAR touches many areas of interest to pilots, for the many whose medicals, flight reviews, instrument currencies, and knowledge tests do not expire between March 1 and May 31, it will be business as usual for complying with the regulations.
The FAA emphasized that the SFAR’s main intent was to expand the “critical” aviation effort against the pandemic, which was declared a national emergency on January 31. That urgency was also the reason the FAA implemented the SFAR as a final rule without first allowing the customary period for public comment.
“The regulatory relief provided in this SFAR will enable the continuity of aviation operations that are critical during the COVID-19 outbreak, including operations that support essential services and flights that support response efforts,” says the final rule, adding that the rule extends relief intended to prevent individuals from suffering “unnecessary economic burdens due to circumstances related to the outbreak that are outside of their control.”
AOPA has begun a detailed review of the SFAR, which is titled Relief for Certain Persons and Operations during the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID19) Outbreak, and will provide updates as more is understood about specific topics. While it appears several requests for extensions were granted, AOPA is concerned that some that were not included may reduce the ability of general aviation to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic, including extensions for aircraft maintenance requirements. AOPA is continuing to work with the FAA on those concerns.
The SFAR will be effective immediately upon expected publication in the Federal Register May 4. AOPA recommends that pilots who intend to fly under the extensions consult their insurance carrier or broker to verify that their coverage remains in effect.
“We appreciate the FAA’s work on this relief package,” said AOPA President Mark Baker. “There appear to be some useful provisions in the 94-page document, and we will address more of its details soon.”
Extensions applicable to all pilots (regardless of the type of flying) include:
Provisions tied to specific types of flight operations include:
In other provisions, the SFAR gives U.S. military and civilian personnel who were assigned outside the United States in support of U.S. armed forces operations and returned to the United States from deployment in October 2019 through March an additional three months beyond the six months allowed to comply with flight instructor and airframe and powerplant mechanic inspection authorization requirements, or complete the appropriate practical test, within six calendar months after returning to the United States.
The SFAR grants to airframe and powerplant mechanics with inspection authorization who were not able to meet the first year (even-numbered year) renewal requirements by March an additional three months (April to June) to complete one of the listed activities to meet the first year renewal requirements.