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FAA answers common questions about pandemic SFARFAA answers common questions about pandemic SFAR

The FAA Safety Team has published a document of frequently asked questions and answers about the special federal aviation regulations issued this year to help pilots meet currency, training, and medical requirements during the coronavirus pandemic.

In most cases pilots who received additional time to meet regulatory requirements from the original SFAR 118 issued on April 30 did not get more time to meet the same requirements from the amended SFAR 118-1 issued June 25—some medical-certificate holders being an exception.

The FAQ document opens with a listing of the regulatory areas in which relief may be available. Next it defines an SFAR and describes which pilots may be eligible for regulatory relief, noting that relief provided in the “Training, Recency, Testing and Checking Requirements” section contains “specific restrictive applicability requirements and is not available to all persons.” Also, it notes that the “Duration and Renewal Requirements” section specifies pilot qualifications in the details of the various relief provisions.

The document presents each regulatory subject for which relief is provided in a similar format, posing and answering a series of questions. An example is the flight review provisions of FAR 61.56, which is included in the FAQ document’s section on Relief from Certain Training, Recency, Testing and Checking Requirements. The questions and answers state what relief is provided, what relief is not provided, how long the relief lasts, who is affected by the relief, and how someone complies with the relief provisions.

Because the flight review provisions of the SFAR are among those only available to pilots “conducting specific operations,” the document directs the reader to review the opening section on general provisions to ascertain pilot eligibility. (A pilot who was current to act as pilot in command of an aircraft in March 2020 and whose flight review was due March 1, 2020, through September 30, 2020, gets up to a three-calendar-month extension. Note that for those pilots whose flight review was due in March, the three-month grace period ran out on June 30.)

As the SFAR notes, any pilot “who may have challenges complying with certain training, recent experience, testing, and checking requirements” during the pandemic should carefully check for eligibility and compliance methods before flying.

Under the original SFAR 118, flight instructors whose certificates expired from March to May 2020 had until June 30 to renew without having to take a practical test. No additional time was afforded them to renew under the amended SFAR 118-1.

AOPA continues to recommend that pilots and student pilots get their medicals promptly in case the continuing pandemic worsens or causes new restrictions to movement in local areas. According to the FAA, many aviation medical examiners have resumed seeing patients, but those pilots still unable to get an appointment should search for another AME on the Designee Locator Search page or request assistance from their regional flight surgeon’s office.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Associate Editor Web
Associate Editor Web Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 30-year AOPA member.
Topics: Advocacy, Airman Regulation, FAA Information and Services

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