U.S. House Moves To Reverse FAA Flight Training Policy

 - September 24, 2021, 1:15 PM

The U.S. House on Thursday approved a measure that would reverse a controversial FAA determination that instructors must obtain letters of deviation authority (LODA) to provide flight training in certain primary, limited, and experimental category aircraft. Offered by Reps. Sam Graves (R-Missouri.) and Kai Kahele (D-Hawaii), the measure was included in the National Defense Authorization Act that passed the House by a 316 to 113 vote. The Senate is expected to act on its version of the act in October.

Despite protests of the aviation industry, the FAA adopted the policy, effective July 12, to clarify that a flight instructor operating certain aircraft, such as a warbird, and carrying a paying student without a LODA is acting contrary to federal regulation, even if that compensation is for instruction and not carriage. FAA acting general counsel Mark Bury in July defended the policy, saying, “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.”

However, general aviation groups have strongly objected to the policy, saying it has “serious and negative implications” on the broader flight-training community.

Concerned about the FAA policy change, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) and Graves in July introduced companion The Certainty for General Aviation Pilots Act of 2021 Acts, clarifying 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.”

Graves called the passage of the amendment in the National Defense Authorization Act “an important first step toward a solution to the FAA’s misguided interpretation on flight training” and said he would work with the Senate to see it through fruition, according to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. The group praised the passage and vowed to continue to support it.