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Industry groups urge SFAR extension

The FAA’s April special federal aviation regulation (SFAR) provided limited relief for aircraft owners, pilots, and operators facing pressure to comply with regulatory deadlines amid the COVID-19 pandemic. But as the June 30 deadline nears for many provisions in the SFAR, aviation groups are urging for an extension.

In a May 29 letter, AOPA and several other aviation organizations called on the FAA to extend relevant general aviation rules to allow the industry to continue its important role as a public benefit to the nation and worldwide economy.

Specifically, the groups are asking for:

  • An additional one month of flexibility for pilots, operators, and certificate holders to comply with certain training, recent experience, testing, and checking requirements provided in SFAR 118.
  • Additional relief until September 30 for duration of medical and renewal requirements (including those for instructors and knowledge tests) provided in SFAR 118.
  • Relief for pilots, operators, and certificate holders who face expiring experience, testing, checking, duration, medical, and renewal requirements in July, August, and September 2020.

“AOPA appreciates the hard work the FAA put into developing SFAR 118. While it did not address all of the needs of the general aviation community, it has allowed thousands of general aviation pilots to continue flying safely to support the public in the continued effort against the COVID-19 pandemic,” said AOPA Director of Regulatory Affairs Chris Cooper. “We are hopeful the FAA will continue to recognize the need to provide additional relief to pilots, operators, and certificate holders beyond June 30.”

Since its publication in the Federal Register on April 30, SFAR 118 (entitled Relief for Certain Persons and Operations during the Coronavirus Disease 2019 [COVID-19] Outbreak) has allowed thousands of GA pilots and operators to continue flying. The comprehensive 94-page document provided regulatory relief for pilots with medicals nearing expiration along with flight instructors who needed to renew their certificates. Additionally, the SFAR enabled operations that support essential services and response efforts to continue.

GA groups appreciated the FAA’s undertaking and are once again asking for relief during this unprecedented time in our history. “We urge the FAA to extend the relevant relief in SFAR 118 for those unable to comply with certain training, recent experience, testing, checking, duration, medical, and renewal requirements,” the letter stated.

With the number of cases of coronavirus and hospitalizations seeming to subside, many states are easing restrictions and businesses are beginning to reopen.However, some states are still requiring stages of social distancing, which is challenging for pilots in GA airplanes.

In the letter, the groups wrote that many of its members are reporting CFIs who aren’t comfortable working in close proximity to students and aviation medical examiners who are not available or will take weeks to schedule because of social distancing requirements—making it challenging to comply with the time limits under SFAR 118.

Although SFAR 118 is effective until March 31, 2021, most of the GA extensions will expire on June 30.

Along with AOPA, the Air Medical Operators Association, Experimental Aircraft Association, Helicopter Association International, National Agricultural Aviation Association, National Air Transportation Association, and National Business Aviation Association signed the letter.

Amelia Walsh

Communications and Research Specialist
AOPA Comms and Research Specialist Amelia Walsh joined AOPA in 2017. Named after the famous aviatrix, she's a private pilot working on her instrument rating in a Colombia 350.
Topics: Advocacy, COVID19, Pilot Regulation

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