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New Rule Brings Benefits to Sport Pilot, Commercial, and Simulator Training

June 28, 2018 — On Wednesday, the FAA released a sweeping rule change that addresses many barriers to affordability in flight training. Included in this change is a fix to the sport pilot rule that resolves a nearly decade-long dispute over credit for dual time logged with a sport pilot CFI (CFI-S), alternatives to complex aircraft in obtaining the commercial pilot rating, more credit for simulator time, and other valuable changes.

Fewer Limitations on Sport Pilot CFIs

An FAA legal interpretation issued in 2009 asserted that time logged with a CFI-S was inapplicable toward any higher ratings, including recreational and private pilot certificates. This essentially meant that unless the sport pilot syllabus was completed with a “traditional” (Part 61 Subpart H) CFI, a sport pilot would need to repeat every hour of dual when upgrading to a higher rating.

EAA and others argued that the sport pilot syllabus for airplanes is fundamentally the same as higher ratings, with small differences reflecting the limited privileges of sport pilots (e.g. the lack of night training, etc.). Many at FAA agreed and sought to change the rule.

The initial draft of the proposed rule came out in summer of 2016 and allowed for time with a CFI-S to count for up to half of the dual requirement for a higher rating. The FAA, however, invited arguments for further credit, which EAA provided in its comments at the time.

“The light-sport certificate provides the pilot with the same fundamental knowledge that any other certificate is built upon, and a [CFI-S] is equally capable of delivering instruction on any of these points as any other CFI,” wrote Sean Elliott, EAA vice president of advocacy and safety, in the association’s public comments. “The fundamentals taught to sport pilots are not cheapened if the teacher holds a [CFI-S] rating.”

In the final draft of the rule, the FAA concurred with EAA’s comments and allowed for all dual logged with a CFI-S to count, with the only caveat being that the time must have been spent covering material that is required for both sport pilot and the higher rating sought.

The rule also corrects an oddity of the sport pilot rule that requires pilots flying certain light-sport aircraft to receive basic instrument flight training, but did not allow a CFI-S to provide that training. Under the new rule, A CFI-S can provide this training after a one-time endorsement.

Easier Commercial Training

Complex aircraft are becoming harder to come by in the fleet, as small piston singles move away from the weight and complications of retractable landing gear in favor of lighter and cleaner airframes. At the same time, glass cockpits are nearly ubiquitous in new aircraft, emphasizing different elements of systems management training. Following the recommendations of the industry, the FAA is changing the rule to allow technologically advanced aircraft (TAA) to substitute for complex aircraft in single-engine commercial pilot training. A TAA is any aircraft with a primary flight display (PFD), multifunction display (MFD), and an autopilot.

Simulator Training and More

The rule eases the restrictions on credit for simulator time, allowing greater and easier credit toward ratings and currency. For example, an instrument pilot may now satisfy his or her entire six-month proficiency requirement in an appropriate simulator.

Of note to certain warbird and unique commercial operators, the new rule also allows for expanded training in restricted-category aircraft and allows for expanded single-pilot operations in some larger jet aircraft.

An Example of Good Rulemaking

“This is a long-anticipated rulemaking package with many important fixes and updates for GA flight training,” said EAA Government Relations Director Tom Charpentier. “We are especially pleased that the FAA accepted our recommendation to allow nearly all time with a CFI-S to count toward higher levels of pilot certification. This will greatly enhance the value of the CFI-S rating.”

The final rule as published will go into effect gradually over the next six months. See the Federal Register notice for more details.

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