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FAA Releases Policy on Training in Experimental, Primary, and Limited Category Aircraft

July 8, 2021 – On Thursday the FAA released a yet-to-be-published policy addressing the issue of training for compensation or hire in Experimental, Primary, and Limited category aircraft. The policy follows up on a letter from the agency last month that asserted that, without exception, no compensated flight training can take place in these aircraft categories without an exemption or letter of deviation authority (LODA). The newly announced policy maintains that position while offering a short-term solution that allows these operations to continue.

The policy confirms the FAA’s position that any instructor is “operating” an aircraft, regardless of who owns, rents, or otherwise uses the aircraft, and regardless of whether the use of the aircraft is compensated. Therefore, paying any instructor to provide training violates the language of FARs 91.315 (Limited), 91.319(a)(2) (Experimental), and 91.325 (Primary).

For as long as can be remembered, the FAA rules were interpreted as an instructor could usually not charge for the use of the aircraft, but could charge for flight instruction services. FAA’s own policy on LODAs backed this up, explicitly stating that such private individuals did not require a LODA to pursue training in their own aircraft. While a commercial flight training operation could not provide the training, an individual instructor could provide training for a private owner, co-owner, flying club member, or lessee.

The FAA explained in their policy statement that the previous policy on LODAs was erroneous. The stunning turnabout meant that tens of thousands of rule-abiding warbird, homebuilt, vintage, and other pilots and instructors are instantly out of compliance with the Federal Aviation Regulations. The FAA’s only acknowledgement of this radical change for the GA community was the statement “The FAA acknowledges that the disconnect between the regulations and the guidance to inspectors has caused confusion in the industry.”

In response, the FAA admitted that flight training in one’s own aircraft is essential for flight safety, which EAA contended, and announced the rollout of a vastly expanded LODA system to authorize individuals to receive compensated training in their own aircraft.

Under the new LODA system, applicants can send an email to 9-AVS-AFG-LODA@faa.gov with their name, address, email address, pilot certificate number, flight instructor number (if applying as a CFI), aircraft registration number (if applying as an owner), aircraft make and model, and aircraft home base (if applying as an owner). The request will then flow to the local FSDO, who will issue the LODA. For aircraft owned by flying clubs, ownership groups, and other shared ownership models, the entity owning the aircraft may hold the LODA rather than each individual member. Either the owner/operator of the aircraft or the instructor can have the LODA, as long as one person in the cockpit has one. LODAs issued under this system will not allow rental of the aircraft to the general public. Those LODAs, issued for transition training and other targeted operations, will continue to be issued per the guidance in FAA Order 8900.1.

The policy is anticipated to go into effect on Monday, July 12. Due to an anticipated bottleneck, EAA is encouraging members to apply for LODAs when an anticipated need arises, to maintain capacity for those individuals who need a LODA immediately. LODAs will be effective for 48 months, by which time the FAA hopes to have a more permanent fix in place.

The LODA policy does not help owners of Limited and Primary category aircraft, as the rules associated with these categories do not contain a LODA provision. These aircraft and their operators will require exemptions. The exemption requirement for Primary category is particularly frustrating, as the category was specifically created to allow flight training as stated in the rule’s preamble.

“This LODA/exemption process is not a permanent solution. It is cumbersome, can easily be taken away, and is a solution to a nonexistent problem,” said Jack Pelton, EAA CEO and chairman of the board. “Under no circumstances is a private individual who receives training in their own aircraft detrimental to safety. EAA will continue seeking a rule change or legislation to permanently restore the longstanding and common sense ‘facts on the ground’ for the GA community.”

Pelton continued: “This entire episode is a scary example of how new interpretations of the regulations can upend the entire community. While this short-term fix allows operations to continue, it never should have come to this point. Creating more than 30,000 new LODAs and exemptions is a paperwork exercise that does nothing to advance safety.”

There are many more questions surrounding this still-evolving issue. If you have questions of your own, please call us at 800-564-6322 or send an email to govt@eaa.org.

Correction: This story was updated to reflect that either the owner/operator of the aircraft or instructor can have the LODA, as long as one person in the cockpit has one.

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