Training In Experimental Aircraft!

The FAA Warbird Adventures legal decision set off a firestorm of panic and confusion in the aviation community. All this grief originated from a single P-40 operation in Florida. Instead of accurately litigating against a single operator, the FAA legal wizards completely reinterpreted “flight training” contradicting their own published policy and making a whole area of flight operations illegal.  CFIs were also caught in the crossfire. The significant immediate result is that >30,000 experimental aircraft (and <100 “primary A/C” and <500 “limited A/C”) become illegal for any dual instruction as of July 12th unless each aircraft has a deviation letter! Downstream consequences for CFIs are still to be determined.

This all came when the FAA suddenly redefined flight instruction as “flight for compensation and hire” after years of legal precedent as “educators only.” Once this interpretation is published in the Federal Register on July 12th  this becomes law. It will immediately be illegal to teach in experimental, limited, and primary aircraft until you get a LODA. The questions also start about medical requirements for CFIs and also increased legal liability.

SAFE objected to this legal error and the FAA responded on July 8th. Though they tacitly agreed on the historic CFI role FAA legal continued to support the flight instruction “for comp. and hire” error. All the “alphabets” met on Zoom but it is clear this error is about to become law July 12th when it is published in the Federal Register (get your flight review this weekend). Pilots of experimental aircraft will (technically) be illegal taking flight instruction in an experimental, limited or primary aircraft without a “Letter of Demonstrated Authority (LODA).” (CFIs conducting flight training in these A/C will also be illegal). A LODA can now be more easily be acquired thanks to a new system. A LODA is linked to the aircraft N# (a CFI can apply for a LODA but this exemption is linked to a specific N# like an MEL).

To be clear, the only restriction affects only flight training in experimental, primary and limited aircraft categories. Any pilot can still legally fly their plane provided both pilot and plane are legally compliant.

To continue to get training in your experimental the new FAA workaround is a very simple e-mail:

Write to this address: 9-AVS-AFG-LODA[a]

Include: Name, Address, e-mail, pilot certificate number or flight instructor certificate number (if applying as CFI), aircraft registration number (if applying as an owner), aircraft make/model in which you will receive or provide instruction, aircraft home base airport (if applying as an owner). The FAA promises expedited service through the new system.

The bigger issue (long-term effect) on flight training “for compensation and hire” has been obscured by the immediate chaos caused by experimental aircraft dual. SAFE is also focused on the bigger picture of downstream consequences affecting all flight instructors and the legal liability and medical results of this FAA reversal of policy. Fly SAFE out there (and often)!

If you are a subscriber to this blog (friend of SAFE) and want to attend our SAFE dinner at Oshkosh, you are invited  to join us at the Oshkosh Terminal on Thursday, July 29th from 6-8PM at the SAFE dinner. This is a networking opportunity (after a year of quarantine) and we would love to Meet/Greet/and Eat with you. Tickets are $25 and include; food, drinks and dessert (and FUN!)

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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