The ongoing controversy about new FAA policy concerning flight training in certain aircraft loomed large at Thursday’s “Meet The Administrator” forum at EAA AirVenture. FAA chief Steve Dickson expressed sympathy regarding the confusion and the odious mountains of additional paperwork the policy has created for aircraft owners and instructors but failed to explain the need for the change to the satisfaction of most in attendance, including EAA chairman and CEO Jack Pelton.
Effective July 12, the FAA is requiring owners and instructors for hire in certain primary, limited, and experimental category aircraft to obtain a letter of deviation authorization (LODA) before performing compensated instruction in such aircraft. The policy change was necessary, according to FAA acting general counsel Mark Bury, because “it is our position that the LODA process will enhance safety by precisely defining which flight training operations may be conducted legally. Equally important, it will prevent operators from broadly offering their aircraft for joyrides and other similar experiences under the guise of flight training.”
In June, the FAA conceded that the new policy was confusing but defended it just the same, writing, “Where a regulation and guidance conflict, the regulation controls. Accordingly, owners of experimental aircraft and flight instructors who have operated experimental aircraft for the purpose of compensated flight training without obtaining an exemption, will [now] be required to obtain a LODA to remain compliant with the regulations.”
But Pelton and other aviation industry leaders blasted the new requirement as unnecessary and burdensome. “We didn’t have a problem for the last 60 years, so I’m not quite sure what we are fixing,” Pelton told Dickson, adding that although the FAA allows owners and instructors to apply for the LODA online, when the EAA accessed the appropriate web portal, the exercise took two days.
Dickson, in a video of the EAA event posted by Aero-News Network, told the audience, “This letter of deviation authorization has been on my mind, and I am not any happier about this situation than you are.” But he nevertheless defended it: “The bottom line is that we have got a rule on this topic that does not say what we want it to say. And we had guidance out there, for the agency and the inspectors, in particular, that was incorrect. We do need to rewrite the rule so that it says what we all want it to say. The problem that we have, as I have seen when I got to the agency about two years ago, is that this dog-gone rulemaking process takes a lot of time. And we need a solution in the near term. So that [LODA] was to set up a way for owners and instructors to receive a letter of deviation authority so they could operate in compliance with the regulation and we could have all the documentation up to snuff. This is a big documentation exercise, no doubt. And I told my people once this became apparent that if we had to do this we needed to make it as painless as we possibly could.”
Dickson said that once received, the LODAs would be valid for 48 months and, by then, the FAA should have a new rule in place.
On another topic of interest, Dickson said the FAA hoped to issue its rule on the Modernization of Special Airworthiness Certification (MOSAIC) governing light sport aircraft by September 2023. The rule is widely anticipated to allow the light-sport category to expand into four-seat aircraft with larger engines.