New IFR Currency Rules and Other Changes to 14 CFR Part 61

On June 27, 2018, FAA published an extensive revision to sections of 14 CFR Part 61 governing IFR currency with the use of aviation training devices, the role of technically advanced aircraft (TAA) in training for certain certificates and ratings, and many other important changes. You can download the PDF of the final rule here.

This rule is result of an NPRM published in May 2016, which you read about at BruceAir here.

Some of the new regulations should become effective July 28, 2018. Others will be effective later; the details of the effective dates are in the final rule and provided later this article.

The September/October 2018 issue of FAA Safety Briefing includes a summary of key provisions in the new regulations and their effective dates. See p. 28.

The new regulations of primary interest to general aviation pilots:

  • Allow instrument-rated pilots to maintain IFR currency using an ATD, FTD, or FSS without having an instructor present. The IFR currency rules also now make no distinction between tasks performed in an ATD, FTD, or FSS and an aircraft.
  • Change some provisions related to the completion of an instrument proficiency check (IPC).
  • Allow the use of technically advanced aircraft in lieu of or in combination with complex aircraft to acquire 10 hours of flight time formerly required in a complex aircraft for commercial pilot applicants.

SUMMARY: This rulemaking relieves burdens on pilots seeking to obtain aeronautical experience, training, and certification by increasing the allowed use of aviation training devices. Use of these training devices has proven to be an effective, safe, and affordable means of obtaining pilot experience. This rulemaking also addresses 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. Additionally, this rulemaking broadens the opportunities for military instructor pilots or pilot examiners to obtain civilian ratings based on military experience, expands opportunities for logging pilot time, and removes a burden from sport pilot instructors by permitting them to serve as safety pilots. Finally, this rulemaking includes 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 following is an analysis of the new rules that are of interest primiarly to pilots operating under 14 CFR Parts 61 and 91. To understand all of the new regulations and how they affect certain commercial operators and flight training programs, you should review the entire text of the final rule.

CFI No Longer Required when using FFS, FTD, or ATD to Maintain IFR Currency

The FAA is amending § 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 a FFS, FTD, or ATD without an instructor present, provided a logbook or training record is maintained to specify the approved training device, time, and the content as appropriate.

To learn more about the definitions of FSS, FTD, and ATD, see the final rule and AC 61-136.

A pilot will still be required to have an instructor present when using time in a FFS, FTD, or ATD to acquire instrument aeronautical experience for a pilot certificate or rating.

And the new rule does not changes the provisions of § 61.51 that require an instrument proficiency check if a pilot does not maintain IFR currency.

Here’s the revised language:

§ 61.51 (g) (5) A person may use time in a full flight simulator, flight training device, or aviation training device for satisfying instrument recency experience requirements provided a logbook or training record is maintained to specify the training device, time, and the content.

(h) Logging training time. (1) A person may log training time when that person receives training from an authorized instructor in an aircraft, full flight simulator, flight training device, or aviation training device.

The new language for § 61.57 Recent flight experience: Pilot in command is:

(c) (2) Use of a full flight simulator, flight training device, or aviation training device for maintaining instrument experience. A pilot may accomplish the requirements in paragraph (c)(1) of this section in a full flight simulator, flight training device, or aviation training device provided the device represents the category of aircraft for the instrument rating privileges to be maintained and the pilot performs the tasks and iterations in simulated instrument conditions. A person may complete the instrument experience in any combination of an aircraft, full flight simulator, flight training device, or aviation training device.

The FAA’s analysis of the comments on the proposal notes that:

…[B]ecause 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. The FAA is therefore removing the requirement for an authorized instructor to be present when a pilot accomplishes his or her instrument recency experience in an FFS, FTD, or ATD…

As with instrument recency experience accomplished in an aircraft, § 61.57(c) requires the pilot to log the required tasks in his or her logbook and § 61.51(b) requires certain information to be logged, including the type and identification of the FSTD or ATD. Additionally, § 61.51(g)(5) requires the pilot to maintain a logbook or training record that specifies the training device, time, and content. The FAA therefore emphasizes the importance of clearly documenting in one’s logbook the type and identification of the FFS, FTD, or ATD used to maintain recency and a detailed record of the specific tasks completed.

The FAA discussion points out that pilots have long been able to maintain IFR currency in aircraft by flying with a safety pilot, and the FAA addressed several comments about the efficacy of using ATDs and FTDs to maintain instrument currency.

Because instructor supervision is not required when a pilot satisfies the instrument
recency experience in an aircraft, similarly, it should not be required when a pilot satisfies the same instrument recency experience in a FFS, FTD, or ATD. A pilot must perform and log the required tasks regardless of whether the tasks are accomplished in an aircraft, FFS, FTD, or ATD. As several commenters noted, pilots who satisfy the instrument recency experience in an FFS, FTD, or ATD should be trusted in the same fashion as those pilots who satisfy the requirements in an aircraft. While there is a potential for falsification in both scenarios, the FAA finds that the current penalties for falsifying pilot logbooks and records, which include suspension or revocation of one’s airman certificate, are a sufficient deterrent to falsifying the logging requirements…

Furthermore, the FAA is not requiring the FFS, FTD, or ATD to produce a flight track and log pilot activities as proof of performing the required tasks for maintaining instrument recency; nor is the FAA imposing more stringent recordkeeping requirements on the flight schools who own such FFS, FTD, or ATDs or on the pilots who use the FFS, FTD, or ATD to maintain instrument recency…

The FAA finds that satisfying instrument recency experience requirements in an FFS, FTD or ATD is as beneficial as satisfying the requirements in an aircraft regardless of whether an instructor is present. FFSs, FTDs, and ATDs are specifically designed to allow a person to replicate and execute instrument tasks just as they would in an aircraft…

Section 61.57(c) requires a pilot to perform and log minimum tasks to maintain instrument recency; § 61.57(c) does not impose training or proficiency requirements. An instrument-rated pilot has already demonstrated his or her proficiency during a practical test with an examiner. The purpose of the instrument recency experience requirement is to ensure the pilot maintains his or her instrument proficiency by performing and logging the required instrument experience. Therefore, the FAA expects pilots accomplishing the instrument recency experience to already be at an acceptable level of proficiency. The FAA recommends, however, that a pilot seek additional training if he or she is uncomfortable with his or her performance of the required tasks under § 61.57(c)…

FAA believes that new § 61.51(g)(5) will likely increase the public’s use of FFSs, FTDs or ATDs and notes that the majority of comments supported this conclusion…

As a general matter, the FAA notes that ATDs allow programming and practice of many instrument situations, scenarios, and procedures. The current capabilities of ATDs, FTDs, and FFSs allow an instrument rated pilot to program and successfully practice simulated low visibility weather conditions, multiple approaches in a shorter period of time, emergency procedures, equipment failures, and other various flight scenarios that cannot necessarily be accomplished in an aircraft safely. Allowing the use of ATDs, FTDs and FFSs without the requirement (and therefore the cost) of having an instructor present can result in more pilots being better prepared. This benefit could include executing flight scenarios they may not normally experience when accomplishing instrument recency in an aircraft, or in locations where they do not normally fly, or when practicing emergency procedures that are likely too dangerous to accomplish in an aircraft. This includes the unique capability of practicing identical instrument approach procedures to an airport the pilot may not have otherwise flown to before.

Instrument Recency Experience Requirements

The new rules will simplify § 61.57(c) which describes how pilots can use ATDs, FTDs, and FSS alone or in combination with flight time in an aircraft to maintain IFR currency.

The FAA is aligning the requirements for accomplishing instrument experience in an ATD with the requirements for accomplishing instrument experience in an FSTD or aircraft. Prior to this final rule, a person accomplishing instrument recency experience in an aircraft, FFS, FTD, or a combination, was required to, within the preceding 6 months, have performed: (1) Six instrument approaches; (2) holding procedures and tasks; and (3) intercepting and tracking courses through the use of navigational electronic systems. Persons accomplishing instrument recency experience exclusively in an ATD, however, were required to have performed, within the preceding 2 months, the same tasks and maneuvers listed above plus “two unusual attitude recoveries while in a descending Vne airspeed condition and two unusual attitude recoveries while in an ascending, stall speed condition” and a minimum of three hours of instrument recency experience. This final rule amends § 61.57(c) to allow pilots to accomplish instrument experience in ATDs by performing the same tasks required for FSTDs and aircraft, and at the same 6-month interval allowed for FSTDs and aircraft.

In support of the change, the FAA notes that:

FAA believes that the current design and technology of ATDs has advanced and provides a greater opportunity for the advancement of instrument skills and improved proficiency, as well as a wider range of experiences and scenarios, which justifies their increased use in § 61.57(c)(2)…

While the FAA stated in the NPRM that a pilot would be permitted to complete instrument recency experience in any combination of aircraft, FFS, FTD, or ATD, the proposed rule would not have expressly allowed this. The FAA is therefore adding language to proposed § 61.57(c)(2) to expressly state that a person may complete the instrument recency experience in any combination of aircraft, FFS, FTD, or ATD…

FAA disagrees with [comments] requiring a pilot to accomplish the instrument recency experience in an aircraft. The FAA has allowed the instrument recency tasks to be accomplished in an FFS, FTD, or ATD since 2009. The FAA did not propose to change the allowance of an ATD to satisfy instrument recency experience. Rather, given the technological advancements that have occurred in ATDs since 2009, the FAA proposed to align ATD use to the 6-month task completion interval and the required tasks consistent with FSTDs and aircraft…

FAA finds that an ATD adequately replicates an aircraft for purposes of maintaining instrument recency. Section 61.57(c) does not require a pilot to experience variables and additional stressors that one may experience in an aircraft to maintain instrument recency. The FAA recognizes the importance of familiarity with these conditions and events; however, they are more attributable to training. An instrument-rated pilot maintaining instrument recency under § 61.57(c) has already accomplished the required instrument training and has already demonstrated his or her proficiency during a practical test with an examiner.

Furthermore, the FAA disagrees with the comment that requiring more flight time in an aircraft will result in fewer accidents. The FAA finds that allowing a pilot to accomplish instrument recency requirements in an ATD or FSTD encourages more pilots to remain instrument current and provides the necessary experience to enable safe operation of an aircraft in instrument meteorological conditions (IMC)…

FAA believes that training in FSTDs and ATDs in combination with training in an aircraft reinforces the necessary pilot skill to rely solely on the flight instruments to successfully operate an aircraft in IMC. This mitigates any reliance on postural senses, sounds, or feelings that can otherwise lead to loss of control. The FAA further described that training devices do not require motion to be approved and that training devices cannot completely train the pilot to ignore certain erroneous sensory perceptions, but pilots develop this skill during the flight portion of their instrument training. Consistent with the final rule, “Aviation Training Device Credit for Pilot Certification,” the FAA believes that instrument experience accomplished in ATDs is an effective procedural review and reinforces the necessary skills to properly interpret the aircraft’s flight instruments, allowing successful operation of an aircraft in IMC.

Change to IPC Requirements

The final rule also revises § 61.57(d) to remove the reference to the practical test standards (or ACS) for the tasks required to complete an IPC.

In § 61.57(d), the FAA is removing the reference to the PTS. The FAA recognizes that it was inappropriate for § 61.57(d) to state that the areas of operation and instrument tasks were required in the instrument rating PTS. The PTS and ACS do not contain regulatory requirements. Therefore, rather than referencing the instrument rating ACS in § 61.57(d), the FAA is codifying in § 61.57(d) the areas of operation for an IPC.

The new § 61.57(d) reads:

Instrument proficiency check. (1) Except as provided in paragraph (e) of this section, a person who has failed to meet the instrument experience requirements of paragraph (c) of this section for more than six calendar months may reestablish instrument currency only by completing an instrument proficiency check. The instrument proficiency check must consist of at least the following areas of operation:

(i) Air traffic control clearances and procedures;

(ii) Flight by reference to instruments;

(iii) Navigation systems;

(iv) Instrument approach procedures;

(v) Emergency operations; and

(vi) Postflight procedures.

FAA has clarified that the task table for an IPC in the IFR ACS still applies. For the detailed response to my questions about IPCs under the new regulations, see Clarification of IPC Requirements here at BruceAir.

Completion of Commercial Pilot Training and Testing in Technically Advanced Airplanes

The new rules, effective August 28, 2018, will complement the recent changes in FAA policy that no longer require the use of complex aircraft for certain practical tests (more on this topic at BruceAir here).

The final rule substantially changes the definition of TAA in the NPRM.

§ 61.129 Aeronautical experience.

(ii) 10 hours of training in a complex airplane, a turbine-powered airplane, or a
technically advanced airplane (TAA) that meets the requirements of paragraph (j) of this section, or any combination thereof. The airplane must be appropriate to land or sea for the rating sought;…

(j) Technically advanced airplane. Unless otherwise authorized by the Administrator, a technically advanced airplane must be equipped with an electronically advanced avionics system that includes the following installed components:
(1) An electronic Primary Flight Display (PFD) that includes, at a minimum, an airspeed indicator, turn coordinator, attitude indicator, heading indicator, altimeter, and vertical speed indicator;
(2) An electronic Multifunction Display (MFD) that includes, at a minimum, a moving
map using Global Positioning System (GPS) navigation with the aircraft position displayed;
(3) A two axis autopilot integrated with the navigation and heading guidance system; and
(4) The display elements described in paragraphs (j)(1) and (2) of this section must be
continuously visible.

The discussion of the new rule expands on the reasoning behind and comments on the NPRM.

Prior to this final rule, a pilot seeking a commercial pilot certificate with an airplane single-engine class rating was required to complete 10 hours of training in either a complex or turbine-powered airplane. In the NPRM, the FAA proposed to add a definition of technically advanced airplane (TAA) to § 61.1 and amend the training requirements to allow a pilot seeking a commercial pilot certificate with an airplane single-engine class rating to complete the 10 hours of training in a TAA instead of a complex or turbine-powered airplane. In addition to these regulatory changes, the FAA proposed to revise the practical test standards for commercial pilot applicants and flight instructor applicants seeking an airplane category single engine class rating to allow the use of a TAA on the practical tests.

Several comments on the NPRM highlighted problems with the FAA’s original defintion of TAA. In response, the FAA notes that:

The FAA recognizes that the proposed definition would have been too prescriptive. …FAA has revised the proposed language in response to industry’s concerns to make it more flexible and accommodating of new technologies. Furthermore, the FAA recognizes that the definition of TAA would have inappropriately embedded requirements, which may have inhibited future technologies from falling under the definition of a TAA. The FAA is therefore revising the definition of TAA in § 61.1 to contain a more general description of a TAA. TAA is now defined as an airplane equipped with an electronically advanced avionics system. The FAA is relocating the requirements regarding what a TAA must contain to § 61.129 by adding new paragraph (j). The FAA is also adding language to § 61.129(j) to allow the FAA to authorize the use of an airplane that may not otherwise meet the requirements of a TAA. This additional language is intended to provide flexibility by allowing the FAA to accommodate future technologies that do not necessarily meet the confines of the regulatory requirements for a TAA in § 61.129(j).

The discussion of the final rule includes a detailed response to comments about the use of such terms as PFD and MFD and the description of the autopilot required in a TAA. The basic requirements are described in the FAA discussion:

FAA is retaining the terms “Primary Flight Display,” “Multifunction Display,” and “advanced” in the TAA requirements. The FAA disagrees that the terms PFD and MFD will cause confusion. These terms are currently used and described in several FAA publications that are recognized by the aviation industry…

PFD is defined as “a display that provides increased situational awareness to the pilot by replacing the traditional six instruments used for instrument flight with an easy-to-scan display that provides the horizon, airspeed, altitude, vertical speed, trend, trim, and rate of turn among other key relevant indications.” MFD is defined as a “small screen (CRT or LCD) in an aircraft that can be used to display information to the pilot in numerous configurable ways. Often an MFD will be used in concert with a primary flight display.”

The FAA believes the terms PFD and MFD add clarity to the TAA requirements by
describing and prioritizing the display features and elements for TAA avionics and their respective functions. For example, the term PFD is specific to the use of the primary flight controls to maintain aircraft attitude and positive control. The PFD is used by the pilot to execute appropriate use of the control stick or yoke for pitch and bank, rudder pedals for yaw, and throttle for engine power. The PFD is designed specific to controlling the aircraft attitude and altitude relative to the horizon and the surface of the earth, especially when outside visibility is poor or unavailable. The MFD has a different priority; its function is secondary to the PFD. The MFD is designed for navigational use and position awareness information, even though it may include some PFD features for redundancy. Furthermore, the FAA is requiring certain minimum display elements for both a PFD and MFD, respectively, thereby clarifying what will be considered a PFD or MFD…

Section 61.129(j)(2) requires only the minimum elements of a MFD; it does not preclude the use of a split-screen display or two independent screens contained within a single physical unit. Therefore, a manufacturer may use a split-screen display or two independent screens for the PFD and MFD provided the displays contain the minimum elements required for each…

FAA is clarifying the MFD requirements by first describing what the display shows (i.e., a moving map) and then describing how the display is facilitated (i.e., using GPS navigation). Accordingly, § 61.129(j)(2) now requires the MFD to include, at a minimum, a moving map using GPS navigation. The FAA believes this
revision to the proposed language clarifies that a system with a moving map display common to GPS/WAAS navigators would satisfy the MFD requirement. Additionally, the FAA is requiring the aircraft position to be displayed on the moving map…

FAA removing the phrase “independent additional” from the proposed language to allow a single piece of equipment or single display to satisfy the requirement for both a PFD and MFD. However, to ensure that both displays are visible at the same time, the FAA is requiring the display elements for both the PFD and MFD (paragraphs (j)(1) and (2)) to be continuously visible…

FAA did not intend to exclude systems that provide autopilot functions separate from the MFD. The FAA is therefore separating the “two-axis autopilot” requirement from the MFD requirement. Accordingly, under new § 61.129(j)(3), the two axis autopilot is no longer required to be included as part of the MFD. This change from what was proposed allows the use of independent/aftermarket autopilot systems…

The TAA requirements in no way restrict the use of peripheral or supporting equipment that enables the display functionality described for the PFD and MFD in the TAA requirements…

While there may be different TSOs for the various functions of GPS, moving map, and navigation resulting in separate pieces of underlying equipment, this equipment can support the MFD requirements so long as the MFD includes a moving map that uses GPS navigation with the aircraft position displayed…

The TAA requirements of § 61.129(j) do not require the autopilot to have GPSS. However, § 61.129(j) specifies only the minimum requirements for a TAA. Therefore, an autopilot may have additional features, including GPSS. The “two axis” requirement refers to the lateral and longitudinal axes. The autopilot at a minimum must be able to track a predetermined GPS course or heading selection, and also be able to hold a selected altitude. The autopilot is not, however, required to control vertical navigation other than holding a selected altitude…

Revised Definition of Pilot Time

The new rule changes the definition of pilot time in § 61.1 to read:

Pilot time means that time in which a person—
(i) Serves as a required pilot flight crewmember;
(ii) Receives training from an authorized instructor in an aircraft, full flight simulator, flight training device, or aviation training device; or
(iii) Gives training as an authorized instructor in an aircraft, full flight simulator, flight training device, or aviation training device.

Effective Dates

The changes to the regulations become effective as follows:

This rule is effective July 27, 2018, except for the amendments to §§ 61.31(e)(2) and (f)(2), 61.129(a)(3)(ii), (b)(3)(ii) and (j), 61.197, 61.199, 61.412, 61.415, 91.109, and appendix D to part 141, which are effective August 27, 2018; the amendments to §§ 61.1 (amendatory instruction 10 revising the definition of ‘‘Pilot time’’), 61.39, 61.51(e) and (f), 61.57(c), 61.159(a), (c), (d), (e), and (f), 61.161(c), (d), and (e), 135.99, and 141.5(d) which are effective November 26, 2018; and the amendments to §§ 61.3, 63.3, 63.16, 91.313, 91.1015, 121.383, and 135.95, which are effective December 24, 2018.

 

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Comments on Proposed Rule Changes

The FAA recently proposed several significant changes to regulations that expand the use of aviation training devices, training for the commercial pilot and certified flight instructor certificates, maintaining instrument currency, and other issues of interest to many general aviation pilots and flight instructor.

Below are my comments on some portions of the proposed rules, which I have submitted to the docket.

Use of TAA for Commercial and Flight Instructor Certificates

For all the reasons outlined in the proposal, I support the option to substitute a TAA (as redefined in the proposed rule) for the training and practical tests required for the commercial pilot and certified flight instructor certificates with single-engine-land ratings.

One commenter objects that pilots won’t gain experience “with higher performing engine[s], retractable gear, constant speed propeller, etc.” But most flight schools offering training for those certificates rely on aircraft such as the C172RG or Piper Arrow, which have at most 200-hp engines. These are hardly high-performance aircraft, either as defined by FAA regulation or by their speed, sophisticated avionics and equipment, or handling characteristics. Pilots who want to fly aircraft with retractable landing gear, constant-speed propellers, turbocharged engines, and other characteristics typically associated with high-performance aircraft will still, as a practical matter, require checkouts and operating experience mandated by regulations (e.g., the endorsement required to act as PIC in an aircraft with an engine rated at more than 200 HP), insurance, flight school policies, commercial operator specifications, and common sense (a refreshing concept endorsed in the recent proposal to revise 14 CFR Part 23 aircraft certification rules—viz., “The part 23 regulations should not need to prescribe basic physical principles, sound engineering judgment, and common sense.”).

The checkout required for aircraft like the C172RG or Piper Arrow is hardly a leap from a Skyhawk or Warrior. Instead, it’s a small step, and learning to operate and confirm the configuration of, for example, retractable landing gear, is only a small part of a complete commercial pilot or CFI training syllabus, and that basic training hardly prepares a pilot to fly a truly high-performance “complex” aircraft such as Cirrus SR22 (which has fixed landing gear) or a Beechcraft Bonanza.

Similar examples: (1) Pilots with MEL ratings on their pilot certificates legally can fly any multiengine aircraft that doesn’t require a type rating. But in the real world, they must receive training and gain operating experience in specific makes and models to obtain insurance, fly rental aircraft, or act as PIC in a commercial operation; (2) Regulations require only a single logbook endorsement to fly tailwheel aircraft. But the handling characteristics of tailwheel aircraft vary widely (even among those that don’t have big engines, constant-speed propellers, etc.). Again, insurance, rental policies, and common sense oblige pilots who fly tailwheel aircraft to receive training and gain operating experience in specific makes and models.

Maintaining IFR Currency with ATDs

I applaud the proposed changes that would allow instrument-rated pilots to maintain currency with in any combination of aircraft, FFS, FTD, or ATD without requiring an instructor to be present. The current regulations are a deterrent to pilots who use ATDs. They must parse the rules and carefully review their logbooks to ensure that they have met the arcane requirements for various tasks, time limits, and calendar constraints. Instead of using training devices, today most pilots hop in their aircraft with a safety pilot (not necessarily an instructor) and repeatedly fly the same familiar procedures in their local areas, missing opportunities to practice the important skills of briefing and setting up a variety of DPs, arrivals, and approaches that include such elements as DME arcs and course reversals. They also typically don’t gain experience handling realistic equipment failures, challenging weather, and so forth. As the FAA notes, the proposed changes would encourage pilots to maintain their instrument skills.

My experience as an instructor strongly suggests that it’s the mental, puzzle-solving side of IFR flying that deteriorates most quickly over time. Use of training devices is the most effective, efficient way to hone and maintain those mental skills.

Pilots who want to use a training device at a flight school will still require at least an initial checkout on the equipment to ensure that they can use it effectively. Those checkouts are an opportunity for pilots to work with instructors to deficiencies in both their understanding of IFR flying and specific piloting skills, and those encounters will help instructors to develop relationships with pilots who otherwise might not be receiving training.

Pilots are upgrading aircraft to include sophisticated avionics (even if the panel doesn’t meet the revised definition of a TAA). They are increasingly using tablets and other devices as substitutes for charts and to provide information about weather, traffic, and other details. Allowing pilots wider, creditable use of training devices that include, for example, GPS navigators, will help them develop and maintain the essential skills described in such publications as the Advanced Avionics Handbook and Instrument Procedures Handbook. Using training devices also gives pilots opportunities to practice using new technology and develop good operating procedures.

Definition of ATD

The notice includes a new definition of aviation training device (ATD):

The FAA is now proposing to define ATD in § 61.1 as a training device, other than a full flight simulator or flight training device, that has been evaluated, qualified, and approved by the Administrator.

It’s not clear, however, if the proposed changes would eliminate the basic aviation training device (BATD) and advanced aviation training device (AATD) categories as described in AC 61-136 FAA Approval of Basic Aviation Training Devices (BATD) and Advanced Aviation Training Devices (AATD). The language in various sections of the proposed rules is ambiguous and should be clarified, and AC 61-136 and related policy guidance should be revised to ensure that both FAA and airmen throughout the system have a clear understanding of distinctions among the devices. I understand that for the purposes of FAA approval the existing categories may remain desirable—especially for manufacturers. But FAA inspectors, pilots, and instructors should not be confused about the practical application of ATDs for training and maintaining currency.

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.

PilotSafetyRadio Podcast

Yesterday I was interviewed for the PilotSafetyRadio podcast. The host, Mark Grady, was a traveling presenter for the AOPA ASI for many years. We talked about using flight simulations, stall/spin awareness, and flying technically advanced aircraft.

You can listen to the conversation online here.