FAA Proposes Significant Rule Changes

On May 12, 2016, FAA published Regulatory Relief: Aviation Training Devices; Pilot Certification, Training, and Pilot Schools; and Other Provisions in the Federal Register.

The final rule, which includes several changes from the NPRM, was published June 27, 2018. More details here.

The proposed rule includes many significant changes to 14 CFR Parts 61 and 91 of interest to pilot and flight instructors.

 This rulemaking would relieve burdens on pilots seeking to obtain aeronautical experience, training, and certification by increasing the allowed use of aviation training devices. These training devices have proven to be an effective, safe, and affordable means of obtaining pilot experience. This rulemaking also would address changing technologies by accommodating the use of technically advanced airplanes as an alternative to the use of older complex single engine airplanes for the commercial pilot training and testing requirements…Finally, this rulemaking would include changes to some of the provisions established in an August 2009 final rule. These actions are necessary to bring the regulations in line with current needs and activities of the general aviation training community and pilots.

The November/December 2017 issue of FAA Safety Briefing indicates that the new rules will be published in December 2017: “With another new rulemaking effort in the works, expected in December 2017, the FAA proposes to allow pilots to accomplish instrument currency pilot time in a FFS, FTD, or ATD without an instructor present to verify the time, as well as allow ATD time to accomplish instrument currency requirements to be identical to the tasks and requirements described for an aircraft, FFS, or FTD.”

As of early May 2018, however, the FAA has not published the final rule in the Federal Register. The proposal remains in limbo.

In particular, the changes would:

  • Make it easier to maintain instrument currency using training devices
  • Allow the use of technically advanced aircraft (TAA), not just “complex” (i.e., aircraft with retractable landing gear) for training and practical tests for the commercial pilot and certified flight instructor certificates

For example, one proposed change would allow an instrument-rated pilot to use an approved aviation training device (ATD), flight training device (FTD), or full flight simulator (FFS) to fly approaches and other tasks to maintain IFR currency without having an instructor present. Currently, pilots who perform instrument recency experience requirements in an aircraft are not required to have an authorized instructor present to observe the time. Rather, the pilot can perform the required tasks in actual instrument conditions or in simulated instrument conditions with a safety pilot on board the aircraft. A pilot who accomplishes instrument recency experience in an FFS, FTD, or ATD, however, must have an authorized instructor present to observe the time and sign the pilot’s logbook. 14 CFR 61.51(g)(4).

In revising § 61.57 in the 2009 final rule to include the option of using ATDs for meeting instrument recency experience, the preamble indicated that the FAA did not intend for an authorized instructor to be present during instrument recency experience performed in an FSTD or an ATD. It stated: “[A] person who is instrument current or is within the second 6-calendar month period * * * need not have a flight instructor or ground instructor present when accomplishing the approaches, holding, and course intercepting/tracking tasks of § 61.57(c)(1)(i), (ii), and (iii) in an approved flight training device or flight simulator.” 74 FR 42500, 42518. In 2010, the FAA issued a legal interpretation  [8] stating that, based on the express language in § 61.51(g)(4), an instructor must be present in order for a pilot to accomplish instrument recency experience in an FSTD or ATD. That interpretation acknowledged, however, that the FAA had indicated in the 2009 preamble some intention to change the requirement but that the change was not reflected in the regulation.

The FAA is proposing to amend § 61.51(g) by revising paragraph (g)(4) and adding a new paragraph (g)(5) to allow a pilot to accomplish instrument recency experience when using an FAA-approved FFS, FTD, or ATD—just as he or she might do when completing instrument recency experience in an aircraft—without an instructor present. Because instrument recency experience is not training, the FAA no longer believes it is necessary to have an instructor present when instrument recency experience is accomplished in an FSTD or ATD. An instrument-rated pilot has demonstrated proficiency during a practical test with an examiner. It can be expensive to hire an instructor to observe a pilot performing the instrument experience requirements solely to verify that the instrument recency experience was performed. [9] As noted above, practice in an ATD has the distinct advantage of pause and review of pilot performance not available in an aircraft.

As with instrument recency experience accomplished in an aircraft, the pilot would continue to be required to verify and document this time in his or her logbook. The FAA is retaining the requirement that an authorized instructor must be present in an FSTD or ATD when a pilot is logging time to meet the requirements of a certificate or rating, for example, under §§ 61.51(g)(4), 61.65 and 61.129.

The FAA proposals would also eliminate much of the confusion about varying time intervals and tasks required when using a training device or simulator to maintain instrument currency.

Currently, under § 61.57(c), to act as pilot in command (PIC) of an aircraft under instrument flight rules (IFR) or in weather conditions less than the minimums prescribed for visual flight rules (VFR), an instrument-rated pilot must accomplish instrument experience (often described as instrument practice, currency or recency) within a certain period preceding the month of the flight.

If a pilot accomplishes the instrument recency experience in an aircraft, FFS, FTD, or a combination, then § 61.57(c)(1)-(2) requires that, within the preceding 6 months, the pilot must have performed: (1) Six instrument approaches; (2) holding procedures and tasks; and (3) intercepting and tracking courses through the use of navigational electronic systems. [10] If a pilot accomplishes instrument experience exclusively in an ATD, then § 61.57(c)(3) requires that, within the preceding two months, the pilot must have performed the same tasks and maneuvers listed previously plus “two unusual attitude recoveries while in descending V ne airspeed condition and two unusual attitude recoveries while in an ascending stall speed condition.” 14 CFR 61.57(c)(3). Section 61.57(c)(3) also requires a minimum of three hours of instrument recency experience when using an ATD, whereas no minimum time requirement applies when using an aircraft, FFS, or FTD to accomplish the instrument experience.

If a pilot accomplishes the instrument recency experience using an ATD in combination with using an FFS or FTD, then the pilot must—when using an ATD—perform the additional tasks but the “look back” period to act as PIC is six months rather than two months. 14 CFR 61.57(c)(5). The FAA stated in 2009 that the more restrictive time limitations and additional tasks were based on the fact that, at the time, ATDs represented new technology.

Since the ATD provisions were added to § 61.57 in the 2009 final rule, the FAA has received numerous inquiries regarding the terms used in the rule and what might be acceptable combinations when using various aircraft or training devices to satisfy the currency requirements. [11]

The FAA is proposing to amend § 61.57(c) to allow pilots to accomplish instrument experience in ATDs at the same 6-month interval allowed for FFSs and FTDs. In addition, the FAA is proposing to no longer require those pilots who opt to use ATDs exclusively to accomplish instrument recency experience to complete a specific number of additional hours of instrument experience or additional tasks (in existing § 61.57(c)(3)) to remain current. As discussed previously, significant improvements in technology for these training devices have made it possible to allow pilots to use ATDs for instrument recency experience at the same frequency and task level as FSTDs. The FAA believes that this proposal would encourage pilots to maintain instrument currency, promote safety by expanding the options to maintain currency, and be cost saving. As proposed, a pilot would be permitted to complete instrument recency experience in any combination of aircraft, FFS, FTD, or ATD.

Pilots training for a commercial pilot certificate with a single-engine-land rating or a certified flight instructor certificate would no longer have to train in a aircraft with retractable landing gear or use such an aircraft on the corresponding practical tests. Instead, FAA proposes to allow the use of technically advanced aircraft (TAA) for those purposes.

Under the current requirements, an applicant for a commercial pilot certificate with airplane category single engine class rating must accomplish 10 hours of flight training in a complex airplane  or in a turbine-powered airplane…In addition, the Commercial Pilot Practical Test Standards for Airplane (as well as the Flight Instructor Practical Test Standards for Airplane) require a pilot to use a complex airplane for takeoff and landing maneuvers and appropriate emergency tasks for the initial practical test for a commercial pilot certificate with an airplane category…

With the prominence of airplanes equipped with glass cockpits (i.e., TAA) in today’s general aviation aircraft fleet, the FAA believes it is appropriate to permit the use of certain TAA to complete the training required in § 61.129(a)(3)(ii) and appendix D to part 141 as well as to meet the requirements of the commercial single engine airplane pilot and flight instructor practical test standards…

This trend toward exclusive production of airplanes with glass cockpits (TAA) is due to an increase in demand for advanced avionics cockpit platforms by general aviation consumers. [39] At the same time, there has been a significant decrease in the production of single engine complex airplanes. [40] The FAA understands the decrease in single engine complex airplane manufacturing is due, at least in part, to newer airframe and power plant technologies that allow for aircraft to achieve higher performance (e.g., airspeed, reduced fuel consumption, etc.) without the manufacturing and maintenance costs associated with a retractable gear system that is characteristic of a complex airplane. Cirrus Aircraft has delivered 5,326 aircraft with this fixed gear configuration as of 2012. [41]

Notwithstanding the previous use of terms such as glass cockpit and electronic flight instrument displays, the FAA is proposing to adopt an updated definition of “technically advanced airplane” in § 61.1 based on the common and essential components of advanced avionics systems equipped on the airplane, including a PFD, MFD and an integrated two axis autopilot. These components would be required in order to ensure the TAA used to meet the aeronautical experience requirements for commercial pilots in § 61.129(a)(3)(ii) and appendix D to part 141, as well as the related practical test standards, as amended, have the necessary level of complexity comparable to the traditional single engine complex airplane.

TAA would be required to include a PFD that is an electronic display integrating all of the following flight instruments together: An airspeed indicator, turn coordinator, attitude indicator, heading indicator, altimeter, and vertical speed indicator. Additionally, an independent MFD must be installed that provides a GPS with moving map navigation system and an integrated two axis autopilot. [44] In general, the pilot interfaces with one or more computers in order to operate, navigate, or communicate. The proposed definition of TAA would apply to permanently-installed equipment and would not apply to any portable electronic device. The FAA recognizes the continuing advancements in aircraft avionics and the need for a pilot to be proficient with modern cockpit equipment and automation. As proposed, the FAA would define the term TAA as an airplane with an electronic PFD and an MFD that includes, at a minimum, a GPS moving map navigation and integrated two-axis autopilot.

In addition to adding a definition of TAA to § 61.1, the FAA is proposing to amend the existing training requirements to permit the use of a TAA instead of a complex or turbine-powered airplane by commercial pilot applicants seeking an airplane category single engine class rating. In addition to the regulatory changes, the FAA would revise the practical test standards for commercial pilot applicants and flight instructors seeking an airplane category single engine class rating.

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Updates on Using Aviation Training Devices (ATD)

FAA has published new regulations and guidance for pilots and instructors who use aviation training devices (ATD).

On June 27, 2018, FAA published several important changes to 14 CFR Part 61 that expand the use of ATD, FTD, and FFS to maintain IFR currency. You can read about those changes at BruceAir here.

Updated AC 61-136A

First, FAA published AC 61-136A: FAA Approval of Aviation Training Devices and Their Use for Training and Experience on November 17, 2014. This updated document provides information and guidance for manufacturers of ATD and for instructors and pilots who intend to use a BATD or AATD for activities involving pilot training or certification under 14 CFR Part 61 and 141.

FAA published AC 61-136B in September 2018. For more information about that update, see New AC for ATDs.

The updated AC also explains the requirements for obtaining a letter of authorization from the FAA for all ATDs. That LOA must be renewed every five years.

Changes to 14 CFR Part 61 and Part 141

On December 3, 2014, FAA published changes to 14 CFR Part 61 and Part 141. (You can read the full announcement of the changes in the Federal Register here.) The changes are effective January 20, 2015.

The new language in § 61.65 revises paragraph (i) and adds paragraph (j) to read:

(i) Use of an aviation training device. A maximum of 20 hours of instrument time received in an aviation training device may be credited for the instrument time requirements of this section if—

(1) The device is approved and authorized by the FAA;

(2) An authorized instructor provides the instrument time in the device; and

(3) The FAA approved the instrument training and instrument tasks performed in the device.

(j) A person may not credit more than 20 total hours of instrument time in a flight simulator, flight training device, aviation training device, or combination toward the instrument time requirements of this section.

Part 141.41 is updated to read:

An applicant for a pilot school certificate or a provisional pilot school certificate must show that its flight simulators, flight training devices, aviation training devices, training aids, and equipment meet the following requirements:

(a) Flight simulators and flight training devices. Each flight simulator and flight training device used to obtain flight training credit in an approved pilot training course curriculum must be:

(1) Qualified under part 60 of the chapter; and

(2) Approved by the Administrator for the tasks and maneuvers.

(b) Aviation training devices. Each aviation training device used to obtain flight training credit in an approved pilot training course curriculum must be evaluated, qualified, and approved by the Administrator.

(c) Training aids and equipment. Each training aid, including any audiovisual aid, projector, tape recorder, mockup, chart, or aircraft component listed in the approved training course outline, must be accurate and appropriate to the course for which it is used.

And Appendix C of Part 141,section 4, paragraph (b) is updated to read:

4. Flight training.* * *

(b) For the use of flight simulators, flight training devices, or aviation training devices—

(1) The course may include training in a flight simulator, flight training device, or aviation training device provided it is representative of the aircraft for which the course is approved, meets the requirements of this paragraph, and the training is given by an authorized instructor.

(2) Credit for training in a flight simulator that meets the requirements of § 141.41(a) cannot exceed 50 percent of the total flight training hour requirements of the course or of this section, whichever is less.

(3) Credit for training in a flight training device that meets the requirements of § 141.41(a), an aviation training device that meets the requirements of § 141.41(b), or a combination of these devices cannot exceed 40 percent of the total flight training hour requirements of the course or of this section, whichever is less.

(4) Credit for training in flight simulators, flight training devices, and aviation training devices if used in combination, cannot exceed 50 percent of the total flight training hour requirements of the course or of this section, whichever is less. However, credit for training in a flight training device or aviation training device cannot exceed the limitation provided for in paragraph (b)(3) of this section.

Ground Instructors, ATDs, and Flight Simulators

Some ground instructors have asked about their ability to provide instruction to pilots using ATDs and flight simulators. The FAA has published two letters of legal interpretation to clarify this matter.

The Gatlin letter, issued on September 24, 2010, discusses whether an Advanced Ground Instructor or Instrument Ground Instructor is an “Authorized Instructor,” as defined in 14 CFR 61 for purposes of giving instrument instruction to candidates for pilot certificates and ratings.

The letter explains that ground instructors are authorized to provide only ground training and are not specifically allowed to supervise training time in a flight simulator or training device for purposes of logging time toward an instrument rating or pilot certificate.

The Frick letter, issued on March 30, 2011, backs up that interpretation. It explains that a ground instructor may use training devices as tools, or aids to instruction, but the time cannot be counted towards meeting the aeronautical requirements for a pilot certificate or rating.

In addition, the Frick letter notes that ground instructors may provide instruction in a training device or simulator that helps a pilot meet proficiency requirements. Again, a ground instructor use the devices as tools during training, but that time may not be logged, endorsed, or credited towards recency experience for maintaining a rating.