Washington, D.C. — The FAA’s Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) to change pilot licensing certification should bring welcome changes and, perhaps, some unwelcome rules.
Some are changes needed to bring aviation up to date. The trouble is, the changes are about 40 years late.
In the 1960s, the Utility Airplane Council, predecessor of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), recognized the need to revamp licensing procedures. Manufacturers realized they were selling more expensive airplanes to the same pilots and owners, but that general aviation was not growing. They decided to do something about it and developed many programs, ranging from publicity and public relations campaigns through in-school presentations to revamping the licensing structure. The pilot certification plan developed by the Utility Airplane Council called for only one license with various levels of privileges — training pilots to more quickly get the benefits they wanted from aviation.
One of the proposed changes was to include instrument training from the beginning. Manufacturers wanted to make pilots safer in all weather conditions, as well as enable pilots to work more efficiently with air traffic controllers. This concept was presented to the FAA. At best, the reception was lukewarm. While conceding there might be some minor advantages to early instrument training, any major changes in the licensing structure were not practical, FAA officials said at the time.
And so nothing has happened for more than 40 years, until the FAA issued its NPRM Aug. 31. Appendix M to Part 141 would combine a private pilot certification and instrument rating course, requiring at least 65 hours of ground school and at least 70 hours of flight training for a single-engine license with instrument rating.
Other proposed changes seem to be steps toward helping individuals get better, more practical use of their pilot certificates.
If I seem a bit pleased over the latest NPRM, it is because I was working for the Utility Airplane Council those many years ago and worked to develop the plan for a private license with instrument rating. It has taken about 42 years for it to begin to see development, but this is no surprise. William Piper Sr. — nobody ever called him Bill — told me at the time to be patient. “It took the country 50 years to learn we don’t put highways through town but on routes around them,” he said, “so be patient with aviation.”
Charles Spence is GAN’s Washington, D.C., correspondent.