FAA Policy Reversal on CFI!

SAFE has historically worked closely with the FAA improving flight training (e.g. developing the new ACS) and on other initiatives. After all these years of personal involvement with the FAA as a DPE and FAAST team Lead Rep. you start to think you know what is going on, how the program runs. The historic policy on flight instruction was stated very clearly by David P Byrne (September 18, 1995), then Assistant Chief Counsel Regulations Division:

“The FAA has determined that the compensation a certificated flight instructor receives for flight instruction is not compensation for piloting the aircraft but is rather compensation for the instruction.”

Now without changing any regulations (which would require extensive public notification and public comment of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking), the FAA has launched a whole new interpretation that dramatically affects all CFIs (and is contrary to their current written policy). A June 4th letter from the FAA, signed by Ali Bahrami Associate Administrator for Aviation Safety says:

Although a person may hold the appropriate privileges “to act as a required crewmember” or “conduct flight training” under part 61, the regulations in part 91 may restrict the exercise of those privileges in a particular category of aircraft under certain conditions, such as operations conducted for compensation or hire.

The decisiveness of this FAA reversal is clear in the recent FAA Letter which also states the new policy is in conflict with the published 8900.1 – FAA day-to-day guidance on how to conduct business in aviation:

The guidance for inspectors on flight training in an experimental aircraft in FAA Order 8900.1 is not consistent with the plain language of § 91.319. FAA Order 8900.1, Vol. 3, Chpt 11, sec. 1, para. 3-292. Where a regulation and guidance conflict, the regulation controls.

So the 8900.1 will be rewritten to support this new interpretation also. Don’t panic yet, and remember these are restrictions for 61.315 and 61.319, and 61.325 (Limited, Experimental, and Primary).  The FAA bases its new interpretation on the Warbird Adventures Case and also the Gregory Morris Legal Interpretation from 2014.

These current changes mostly affect pilots of experimental aircraft (for now). Going forward (if this stands) pilots in experimental, limited and primary aircraft will need a Letter of Deviation Authority (LODA) if they want flight instruction in their plane (currently only required for a CFI teaching in their own experimental and not an easy process).

Unfortunately, this also starts the legal ball rolling for all kinds of negative downstream effects concerning liability and medical requirements for CFIs. This is certainly not what we need to encourage senior CFIs to continue in the industry already starved for experienced CFIs. SAFE has written directly to the FAA in protest and we encourage every concerned aviation citizen to copy our letter and send it here immediately (quick cut and paste). Stand by for FAA official policy (and watch our new section on the webpage). Fly safely (and often)!

Please see last week’s blog if you missed it: CFIs as “Media Influencers!” It is vital to direct your student’s media intake toward positive online programs.


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About the author

David St. George

David St. George is an FAA DPE (Sport to Multi ATP) and a Part 135 charter pilot flying the Pilatus PC-12 in the NYC area. He recently renewed his Master Instructor for the tenth time and is a Charter member of SAFE. Formerly a 141 Chief Instructor for over 25 years, with a Gold Seal CFI. David started flying at 16 and has logged over 15,000 hours. He owns a 1946 7AC Aeronca Champ and wrote the SAFE Toolkit app.


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