According to officials with the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, these regulatory changes are expected to save the general aviation community more than $110 million in the next five years.
The FAA’s final rule includes many changes, particularly to Part 61, which were originally published in a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) in 2016.
“Making aviation less costly is fundamental to AOPA’s mission, which is why we pursued these changes that will save the general aviation community more than $100 million over the next five years alone and help to make pursuing and advancing a pilot’s certificate more accessible to everyone,” said AOPA President and CEO Mark Baker.
The Part 61 overhaul will take effect beginning July 27, 2018, with all changes implemented by Dec. 24, 2018.
The changes will reduce costs to pilots in large part by leveraging advances in avionics, aircraft equipment, flight simulators, and aviation training devices.
The new regulations recognize the effectiveness of modern technology and ease past restrictions on its use to further reduce the cost of flight training, as well as proficiency maintenance. They are also crafted to give the FAA more flexibility to approve the use of advanced technologies still to come, AOPA officials note.
The FAA estimates that pilots and operators will save up to $113.5 million over five years (in 2016 dollars), with the most significant savings to come from allowing instrument-rated pilots, who use advanced aviation training devices (ATDs) to satisfy flight experience requirements, to enjoy six months of currency rather than two. That part of the Part 61 overhaul takes effect Nov. 26.
The extended currency interval will also allow instrument-rated pilots to use any combination of aircraft and ATD to accomplish the flight experience required for currency. The FAA estimates that these changes to FAR 61.57(c) alone will save pilots $76.1 million over five years.
In April, the FAA discontinued the requirement that commercial pilot and flight instructor candidates conduct their single-engine airplane practical test in a complex airplane, and the final rule published June 27 takes that a step further.
As of Aug. 27, commercial pilot candidates can use “technically advanced airplanes” in lieu of, or in combination with, a complex or turbine-powered airplane to satisfy the 10 hours of required training in these airplanes. This is estimated to save trainees $2.8 million over five years.
AOPA Director of Regulatory Affairs Justin Barkowski led the association’s effort to analyze and respond to the NPRM that preceded the final rule.
The points successfully pushed by the association include pilots being allowed to use a combination of complex, turbine-powered, and technically advanced airplanes to satisfy the 10-hour commercial pilot training requirement, instead of having to choose one of the three. Also, sport pilot instructors will be allowed to receive the required flight training hours in an ATD to obtain the endorsement required to teach instrument skills.
Barkowski said he expects the final rule to prompt discussion of what, exactly, a technically advanced aircraft is, and noted that the FAA drafted the final rule to accommodate advances in technology.
“Generally speaking, aircraft equipped with an electronic primary flight display (PFD) and multifunction display (MFD), as well as a two-axis autopilot, would qualify as a TAA,” Barkowski said. “The language in the final rule gives the FAA discretion to approve other types of TAA in the future without further rulemaking, but we encourage everyone to check the definition to see if your aircraft qualifies first.”