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FAA Eliminates Complex Airplane Requirement For Commercial Pilot Training

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In April, the FAA eliminated the requirement for complex airplanes on commercial pilot practical tests. Now they've taken the rule a step further, eliminating the complex aircraft requirement for commercial training altogether.

Starting on August 27, 2018, pilots will be able to meet their commercial training experience in a Technically Advanced Aircraft (TAA), as well as a complex or turbine-powered aircraft.

About The New Rule

Here's what the FAA has said about the upcoming regulation changes. (Read the entire rule here.)

Prior to this final rule, a pilot seeking a commercial pilot certificate with an airplane single-engine class rating was required to complete 10 hours of training in either a complex or turbine-powered airplane. In the NPRM, the FAA proposed to add a definition of technically advanced airplane (TAA) to FAR 61.1 and amend the training requirements to allow a pilot seeking a commercial pilot certificate with an airplane single-engine class rating to complete the 10 hours of training in a TAA instead of a complex or turbine-powered airplane. In addition to these regulatory changes, the FAA proposed to revise the practical test standards for commercial pilot applicants and flight instructor applicants seeking an airplane category single engine class rating to allow the use of a TAA on the practical tests.

Definition Of Technically Advanced Airplanes

So what exactly is a "technically advanced airplane"? Generally speaking, a TAA aircraft has a PFD, an MFD, and a two-axis autopilot.

However, the FAA has structured the language to give themselves discretion to approve other types of TAA in the future, without having to make new rules. It's a way they've future-proofed the changes for aircraft and technology that don't yet exist.

Here's what the FAA says about the TAA definition in the new rule:

The FAA proposed to define "technically advanced airplane" in FAR 61.1 based on the common and essential components of advanced avionics systems equipped in an airplane, including a primary flight display (PFD), a multifunction flight display (MFD) and an integrated two axis autopilot. The FAA proposed that a TAA must include a PFD that is an electronic display integrating all of the following flight instruments together: An airspeed indicator, turn coordinator, attitude indicator, heading indicator, altimeter, and vertical speed indicator. Additionally, the FAA proposed that an independent MFD must be installed that provides a GPS with moving map navigation system and an integrated two axis autopilot. The proposed definition of TAA would have applied to permanently-installed equipment.

There's more to the definition, based on industry input and FAA modifications. The FAA covers those additions and changes here: https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2018-12800/p-239

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Training Can Be Accomplished In A Combination Of Aircraft

There's flexibility in the new rule too, as it replaces the previous 10 hour training requirement in complex aircraft. Commercial pilots can now accomplish their training requirements in any combination of complex, turbine-powered, or TAA.

The FAA proposed to amend FAR 61.129(a)(3)(ii) and appendix D to part 141 to allow a pilot seeking a commercial pilot certificate with an airplane category single engine class rating to complete the 10 hours of training in a complex airplane, turbine-powered airplane, or a TAA, or any combination of these three airplanes.

Reducing Training Costs, And Consolidating Fleets

Ultimately, the new regulations give flight schools flexibility to consolidate their fleets by reducing the need to maintain single-engine complex aircraft.

As the FAA said in April, "Training providers have noted that there are far fewer single-engine complex airplanes available to meet the airplane requirements outlined in the Airman Certification Standards (ACS) or Practical Test Standards (PTS), as applicable, and the single-engine complex airplanes that are available are older airplanes that are expensive to maintain. The FAA recognizes that accomplishing the required testing in either a single-engine complex airplane or turbine-powered airplane has become cost-prohibitive for flight schools."

What Do You Think?

So what do you think about the new commercial pilot regulations? Are they a step forward into the future, or lost experience for commercial pilots in training?

Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Don't have a Facebook account? Email us your thoughts here.

Colin Cutler

Colin is a Boldmethod co-founder, pilot and graphic artist. He's been a flight instructor at the University of North Dakota, an airline pilot on the CRJ-200, and has directed development of numerous commercial and military training systems. You can reach him at colin@boldmethod.com.

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