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EAA, NAFI Submit Comments to Proposed Sport Pilot Rule Changes

August 14, 2008 — EAA and NAFI (National Association of Flight Instructors) jointly submitted comments this week to the FAA’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on the Sport Pilot Rule with the goal of maintaining the original intent of the rule: continuing to reduce recreational aviation’s cost and regulatory barriers.

The NPRM (Certification of Aircraft and Airmen for the Operation of Light-Sport Aircraft rule, docket no. FAA-2007-29015 contains 22 proposed changes, making this the first major upgrade of the rule since it was implemented in 2004. While EAA and NAFI concur with the majority of the changes, which largely focus on flight training, they submitted several recommendations on those they oppose.

“EAA, NAFI and our members are extremely satisfied with the work the FAA has performed in developing these 22 proposed changes to the SP and LSA rules,” writes EAA’s Randy Hansen, EAA Government Relations Director. “The majority of the proposed rule changes fix long-standing barriers to participating in recreational aviation activities.”

Adds Jason Blair, NAFI executive director: “EAA and NAFI are dedicated to the sport pilot initiative and we appreciate that the FAA is doing the right things by working to make it an easier process, as well as taking the industry’s input. As we go forward we’ll continue to work together to provide for safer pilot training.”

For example, EAA and NAFI are in general agreement with the proposed implementation of aircraft category and class ratings on all pilot certificates, including sport pilots. But they recommend the FAA allow the public to participate in the logbook-to-sport pilot certificate conversion instead of totally relying on the FAA Airmen Certification Branch database, a database that the FAA acknowledges in the NPRM does not contain current pilot information. A similar public approach was done in 2004 and 2005 when experimental exhibition aircraft operator Letters of Authorization (LOA) were converted into experimental aircraft authorizations on pilot certificates. That conversion process was highly successful, with a zero error rate.

In another example, EAA and NAFI oppose a requirement that would allow only FAA designated pilot examiners (DPEs) to administer new LSA category and class ratings through practical tests. Doing so would create gridlock, as there are not sufficient numbers of DPEs to adequately handle the demand.

Instead, the EAA/NAFI recommendation is to upgrade the existing sport pilot instructor training program to include IACRA program training, and making them Sport Pilot Proficiency Examiners (SPPEs). EAA and NAFI also offered to provide training space for this initiative.

During the review of the FAA proposal to move Sport Pilot Instructors into FAR 91, Subpart H from Subpart K, EAA and NAFI discovered cause to question the move. Subpart H flight instructors must wait a full two-years before they can train other flight instructors – a restriction that does not currently exist in Subpart K. EAA and NAFI determined this restriction would place an unwarranted burden on the growing sport pilot industry and therefore recommend an alternative that would allow instructors to train another instructor if one of the three following prerequisites are met:

  • Endorse at least five applicants for practical tests with a pass rate meeting or exceeding 80 percent; or
  • Give at least 50 hours of dual flight instruction; or
  • Be certified as a sport pilot instructor for a period greater than 12 calendar months.

EAA and NAFI oppose the requirement for an authorized instructor to be in a powered parachute when providing flight instruction to a student pilot. The organizations feel that a structured professional training program for powered parachutes benefits from including supervised solo instruction with an authorized instructor observing from the ground using established radio communications.

Lastly, EAA and NAFI recommend adding gyroplanes to the proposal to revise the minimum safe-altitude requirements for powered parachutes, weight-shift-control aircraft, and balloons since the flight and public safety characteristics noted in the NPRM also apply to gyroplanes.

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