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Congress Enters FAA Directive Fray

Looking to “reverse the damaging impact of an FAA directive, Congress is introducing legislation to deter the growing controversy surrounding the treatment of flight training in experimental/limited-category aircraft.  Sen. James Inhofe and Rep. Sam Graves have introduced companion bills to clarify that such activity does not constitute commercial operation.

The Certainty for General Aviation Pilots Act of 2021 Act was introduced yesterday and would clarify that “individuals engaged in aircraft flight instruction or testing, including phased testing of experimental aircraft, are not operating an aircraft carrying persons or property for compensation or hire.”

Under the FAA directive, pilots who receive training in experimental aircraft and instructors who are paid to provide that training must first obtain letters of deviation authority from the FAA.  AOPA said that pilots and instructors involved in paid flight training in limited or primary category aircraft must first obtain a regulatory exemption.

Mark Baker, AOPA president, said, “The bureaucratic response from the FAA’s legal office actually impedes safety, which is unacceptable.  We will work with our industry partners and our membership to support legislation in Congress so we can bring clarity and coherence to this whole issue.”

Representative Graves expressed concern that the change on flight training legal guidance may “put 40,000 general aviation pilots in regulatory non-compliance overnight.  Besides creating a significant amount of confusion, the FAA needlessly added more bureaucratic red tape for pilots that does nothing to improve aviation safety.”

Eleven aviation organizations offered support for the bill in letters to the lawmakers.