Recurrent Check for Jet Pilots Delayed
By J. Mac McClellan, Director of Publications, EAA 747337
October 20, 2011 – This summer the FAA changed the rule that requires recurrent training and checking for jet pilots to include those acting as a single pilot in a jet. When the original FAR 61.58 rules were written to require annual training and checking of jet pilots, all civil turbojets required a crew of two, so that is the standard the rule used. In other words, if an airplane - jet or propeller - required at least two pilots, then FAR 61.58 applied and the captain had to undergo training and checking once per year - and more detailed checks every other year.
But the situation changed when the FAA began to certify airplanes as “eligible” for single-pilot operation. The Cessna CJ was the first business jet in which the default rule was that two pilots are required, but if a pilot is trained, and passes an FAA-approved checkride as a single pilot, that pilot can operate as a single pilot in the CJ. Under the new rule it is the pilot, not the airplane, that dictates how many pilots are required.
Since the CJ several jets have been approved as single pilot-eligible including the Beech Premier, Embraer Phenom, Eclipse 500, and others. Several jets in development, including the HondaJet, and the single-engine jets from Cirrus, Piper, and Diamond, all anticipate certification as single pilot-eligible.
Though it’s been close to 20 years since the certification rule of a jet being eligible for either single- or two-pilot operation was enacted, FAR 61.58 didn’t change. Because some light jets and heavier turboprops such as the Beech King Air 350 do not specifically require a crew of two, FAR 61.58 did not apply to pilots flying those airplanes. A pilot could earn an initial single-pilot type rating in those airplanes and never be required to receive FAR 61.58 training and checking. Most pilots flying the light jets single-pilot do undergo recurrent training, but it was not in the rules.
The FAA rewrote FAR 61.58 earlier this year and included the catch-all “turbojet” words so that any pilot of any turbojet - or propeller airplane requiring two pilots - had to be trained and checked annually. The goal was to treat the pilots of light jets, in terms of recurrent training and checking, the same as those of larger jets where the airplane type certificate demands two pilots.
But EAA immediately spotted a problem with throwing all turbojets into the FAR 61.58 requirement. Many military jets flying under the experimental exhibition category didn’t fit smoothly into the rule. Pilots of those airplanes have to receive specific training and checking under the rules of their LOA (letter of authorization) to operate the airplane. The requirements of an LOA are more stringent than those for pilots of standard civil jets, so also requiring FAR 61.58 was doubling up the training burden.
Also, there are no simulators for experimental jets and there are few qualified FAA-designated instructor/examiners for those airplanes, so the burden on pilots of those airplanes would be unreasonable, EAA argued. EAA was mostly successful in that the new FAR 61.58 exempts pilots of single-seat jets from the recurrent training requirement, and also allows pilots of experimental jets with two or more seats to fly without carrying passengers if they do not complete the required check. If a pilot holds an LOA to fly more than one kind of experimental jet, an FAR 61.58 check in any of the airplanes will cover the requirement for the others the pilot is approved to fly.
When the new FAR 61.58 was published on August 31 of this year it was set to become effective on October 31, 2011, and did not allow any period for pilots flying as a single pilot in a jet to satisfy the rule. EAA and other associations pointed out this flaw in the new rule and on October 13 the FAA issued an amendment giving single pilots of jets until October 31, 2012, to complete proficiency training and checking to meet the requirements of FAR 61.58.
For pilots who have multiple type ratings they can complete FAR 61.58 requirements in one type one year, and another type the next year and both type ratings are current. You can keep three type ratings current by training and checking every eight months.