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7 Of The Most Confusing FAA Regulations, Explained

The FARs get a little confusing at times, but here are 7 regs that you won't wonder about ever again.

1) A private pilot without an instrument rating can log PIC time during instrument flight training with a CFII onboard, even while on an IFR flight plan or in IMC.

To act as PIC, you must meet all certification and recent currency requirements for that flight. But to log PIC time, you'll only need to be the sole operator of the controls in an airplane you're rated to fly (or if you fall under some of the other categories listed in 61.51(e).

Swayne Martin

2) Landings counted towards night currency must be made to a full stop.

According to FAR 61.57(b), to carry passengers between 1 hour after sunset and ending 1 hour before sunrise, you need to make at least 3 takeoffs and landings to a full stop in the preceding 90 days during the period beginning 1 hour after sunset and ending 1 hour before sunrise.

3) You can log PIC time when you're in flight training.

To act as PIC, you must meet all certification and recent currency requirements for your flight. But to log PIC time, you'll only need to be the sole manipulator of the controls in an airplane you're rated to fly (or if you fall under some of the other categories listed in 61.51(e)). For example, if you're a private pilot without an instrument rating, you can log PIC time during instrument flight training with your CFII on board, even while you're on an IFR flight plan.

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4) If you want your choice of landing, ask for the option.

Looking for the most choices you can get from a tower controller? Then this one is for you! When you're "cleared for the option", you can pretty much do it all. ATC authorizes you for a touch-and-go, stop-and-go, low approach, missed approach, or a full stop landing.

So when would you use this? It's really useful in training, especially if you're not sure what maneuver you're going to need (If you grease your landing, you might call it quits. But if you bounce it, you might want to try another landing.)

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5) You can't start logging night time right after sunset.

The FAA's definition of night time is in Section 1.1 of the FARs. Here's what they have to say: "Night means the time between the end of evening civil twilight and the beginning of morning civil twilight, as published in the Air Almanac, converted to local time." If you fall in that time period, you can log night flight time, and your plane needs to be night VFR equipped.

So when exactly do the twilight times begin and end? The easiest way to tell is to use the US Navy's Air Almanac website. A good rule-of-thumb for the calculating civil twilight is that it usually ends between 20-35 minutes after sunset.

6) If you're renting an airplane for personal use, it doesn't need a 100-hour inspection.

According to FAR 91.409(b), "...no person may operate an aircraft carrying any person (other than a crew member) for hire, and no person may give flight instruction for hire in an aircraft which that person provides, unless within the preceding 100 hours of time in service the aircraft has received an annual or 100-hour inspection..." The key here is that if you aren't carrying passengers for hire, and if you aren't giving flight instruction in an aircraft that you're providing, then you don't fall under the 100-hour requirement.

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7) You need a valid medical to act as safety pilot.

To act as a safety pilot according to FAR 91.109, you need to be at least a private pilot with appropriate category and class ratings for the aircraft you're in, have adequate forward and side vision, a set of dual controls, and determine that the flight can be made safely.

While 91.109 doesn't directly address the medical, FAR 61.3(c) does, stating that "A person may serve as a required pilot flight crewmember of an aircraft only if that person holds the appropriate medical certificate..."

As for the definition of a crewmember, that's covered in FAR 1.1 It's an example of 3 separate FARs converging for one type of operation. Phew.

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Have any tips for mastering difficult regs? Tell us in the comments below.

Swayne Martin

Swayne is an editor at Boldmethod, certified flight instructor, and commercial pilot for Mokulele Airlines. In addition to multi-engine and instrument ratings, he holds a PIC Type Rating for Cessna Citation Jets (CE-525). He graduated as an aviation major from the University of North Dakota in 2018. He's the author of the articles, quizzes and lists you love to read every week. You can reach Swayne at swayne@boldmethod.com, and follow his flying adventures at http://www.swaynemartin.com.

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