Last week EAA and Warbirds of America filed joint comments to an FAA Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that codifies new rules for flight training in experimental, limited, and primary-category aircraft. The FAA states that the NPRM is intended to re-establish the status quo prior to a June 2021 court ruling that turned longstanding policy on flight training in these aircraft on its head. This led to several years of experimental aircraft owners requiring letters of deviation authority (LODAs) to train in their own aircraft and owners of limited category aircraft needing exemptions to do the same. Legislation late last year eliminated the LODA requirement for most experimental aircraft owners.
The NPRM confirms that additional authorization is only required in the case of an experimental aircraft being used in a commercial flight training operation, which was established policy prior to June 2021. In order to allow limited category aircraft to receive LODAs, the NPRM moves the LODA rule into a different paragraph in Part 91. It also rewrites the primary category rule to explicitly allow compensated flight training, which was the original intent for the rule stated in its preamble.
Beyond correcting the 2021 court ruling, the proposal expands the types of flight training operations allowed under a LODA – following several years of advocacy by EAA and other groups. New additions include training for endorsements, aerobatics, flight reviews, and even expanded training opportunities for a sport pilot certificate. Some of these new additions require the applicant to show “specific need” to conduct such training in an experimental or limited category aircraft.
Fulfilling another EAA advocacy priority, the NPRM removes the experimental light-sport (E-LSA) “sunset date” for training, allowing for these types to again be available to train the public for operation of an ultralight vehicle under a LODA with a rated sport pilot instructor.
EAA and Warbirds’ comments, created in consultation with leaders from several aviation communities, are generally supportive of the changes within the context of the 2021 court decision, its fallout, and long-sought reforms to the traditional LODA system. The comments are mainly technical in nature and request, in summary:
- Allowing all E-LSAs to be used for training under a LODA. As written, only aircraft certificated under 14 CFR 21.191(i)(1) would be allowed to provide instruction to the flying public. These are primarily “two-seat ultralights” originally operated under ultralight training exemptions held by EAA and others. Given that experimental amateur-built aircraft are permitted to offer LODA training, EAA feels that E-LSAs certificated under 14 CFR 21.191(i)(2) and (3) – aircraft built from kits and converted from special light-sport aircraft (S-LSAs), respectively – are appropriate for such training as well.
- Eliminating the “specific need” requirement for certain types of training. EAA and Warbirds note that transition training with an appropriately rated and endorsed pilot does not require specific need, so training toward an endorsement, aerobatics, and other types of training with an otherwise qualified pilot applicant should not be restricted.
- Removing language that suggests flights should be restricted to one person receiving training. In some large warbirds, it is common practice to fly with multiple students on a single training flight in order to rotate students through a training task with fewer takeoffs and landings.
- Rewriting the language on LODA issuance to make the rule clearer and less prescriptive.
- Clarifying policy language so that low-mass, high-drag, fixed-wing experimental aircraft can be used for training toward a sport pilot certificate. This is intended to address a lack of suitable S-LSAs in this segment and allow pilots and instructors to train in aircraft similar to what they will ultimately fly.
The Commemorative Air Force and the Association of Professional Warbird Operators offered input to the comments submitted by EAA and Warbirds of America and added letters of concurrence to the NPRM docket.
EAA will continue to advocate for access to quality flight training across all types, with appropriate risk mitigations where needed.