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Aviation groups seek new pandemic relief from FAA

Proposed SFAR update would provide two-month extensions

AOPA and six other aviation organizations asked the FAA to grant pilots and flight instructors new two-month grace periods for meeting proficiency, medical, and certification deadlines that would be impractical to comply with between October and December 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Photo by Bob Knill.

The regulatory relief now in place under an amended special federal aviation regulation (SFAR) applies to many pilots facing compliance deadlines through September 30, making further action necessary as the pandemic wears on, the groups said, noting increasing concern among the groups’ members about their status to fly.

The aviation organizations’ proposal would include relief for flight instructors whose certificates expire in October, November, or December 2020. Previous relief provisions for CFIs facing certificate expiration were discontinued after June 30.

If the FAA agrees to the proposal, it would mark the third action taken during the pandemic, including the issuance of an SFAR that expired on June 30 and the amended version in effect until September 30—and would signify the FAA’s concurrence with the groups’ contention that some impacts of the coronavirus continue to make it impractical for pilots to comply with recency, training, and medical certification requirements.

Acknowledging the concerns in an August 6 webinar, FAA Administrator Steve Dickson assured the general aviation community that relief would be extended as needed during the health crisis.

The main difference between the new industry proposal and the previous FAA actions is that the grace period to complete your training or renewal would run for two months instead of three months, said Christopher Cooper, AOPA senior director of regulatory affairs.

“The Centers for Disease Control announced the U.S. topped 184,000 COVID-19 related deaths on September 2, 2020 and continues to recommend limited contact with those outside of your household,” the aviation groups wrote in a September 3 letter to Ali Bahrami, the FAA associate administrator for aviation safety. “Even though some restrictions are beginning to ease or disappear, many states and local governments are still enforcing social distancing requirements. The public remains wary of venturing out, and many aviation stakeholders desire to minimize their risk to exposure. These restrictions and individual health fears will also continue to create burdens and restrictions that will negatively impact the aviation community into the foreseeable future.”

Here is a summary of some of the major industry proposals submitted to the FAA for consideration, which can also be reviewed in a table included in the letter:

  • Pilots with flight reviews coming due in October, November, and December 2020 and who meet experience requirements consistent with the previously issued coronavirus-pandemic SFARs would receive an additional two-month grace period for accomplishing required training.
  • Pilots who meet the SFAR experience requirements and whose instrument currency would normally expire during October, November, and December 2020 would calculate their status to fly as pilot in command under IFR based on a nine-month “lookback” at instrument flying activity instead of the usual six months—the same relief afforded to qualified instrument pilots who faced IFR recency of experience lapses earlier in the year.
  • Medical relief would add two calendar months to medical certificate validity for medicals expiring in October, November, and December 2020.
  • Knowledge tests expiring in October, November, and December 2020 would remain valid for an additional two calendar months.
  • Flight instructors whose instructor certificates are set to expire in October, November, or December 2020 would receive an additional two months beyond their expiration dates to complete their renewal requirements.
Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

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 35-year AOPA member.
Topics: Advocacy, COVID19, Pilot Regulation

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