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New Teen Solo Policy

July 27, 2016 - An exemption petition developed, supported, and recently submitted with assistance by the EAA that would have closed a gap that prevented teenagers from soloing aircraft on their 14th or 16th birthdays, has resulted in new national policy released this week by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The new FAA policy (N8900.371) allows youth to obtain their student pilot certificates up to 90 days prior to the key birthday appropriate for first PIC solo flight. Young students in training once again can exercise the PIC privileges of their certificate for first solo on their eligible birthday. This policy change is in effect immediately.

The amended process for a student pilot application has been sent to all FAA offices and individuals authorized to process student pilot applications. It allows student pilots to submit a paper application up to 90 days prior to their 14th birthday (for glider solo flights) or 16th birthday (for powered aircraft solo flights). Once approved, the temporary authorization would remain valid for 60 days, and the FAA would mail a permanent certificate to the student pilot within that 60-day window.

“The April 2016 FAA rule change regarding student pilot certificate eligibility created a situation where young people eager to make their solo flights on their first eligible birthday could not do so, because the TSA’s security vetting requirement would not allow a certificate to be issued the same day they applied,” said Sean Elliott, EAA’s vice president of advocacy and safety.

“EAA pursued an exemption to the revised rules that ultimately resulted in this new national policy that solves the problem. Soloing for the first time at the earliest possible age is a long-standing tradition in many aviation families. I’m very pleased to see that once again, working together with the FAA, we could get it done.”

This announcement is an immediate fix to allow solo flights on the first eligible birthday. In addition to this new policy solution, the FAA indicates that it is working on a simple IACRA process that will allow flight instructors to process an application through the agency’s IACRA online system up to 90 days before the student’s eligible birthday. A temporary student certificate could then be downloaded with a permanent certificate mailed after the birthday. The FAA hopes to complete that work within the next three months.

“Getting young people involved in aviation at such an important milestone in age is essential to our community and its future pilots. EAA is pleased we could partner with the FAA to knock down another barrier that may have prevented that from happening,” Elliott said. “This way, we can continue to see our sons and daughters getting a pilot certificate before a driver’s license and going on to a future in aviation.”

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