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5 Of The Most Confusing FAA Regulations

This story was made in partnership with AOPA. Ready to join the largest aviation community in the world? Sign up and become an AOPA Member today.

We're the first to admit, the FARs can be a little confusing. Here are 5 that take some extra reading to fully understand.

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

According to FAR 91.409(b), " 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. Looking for a little more detail? We've got it here.


2) All medical certificates are valid for 60 months, unless you're 40 or older the day you get it (then it's 24 months).

The difference in valid times, according to FAR 61.23, depends on what type of operation you use your medical for. For example, as a commercial pilot, your privileges with a Class 2 medical are valid for 12 months. Unless you get a new Class 2 medical, you can't continue acting as a commercial pilot, but you could continue using that same medical certificate for Class 3 privileges for the remainder of the time.


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.


4) During a checkride, you are the PIC, not the examiner.

This even includes student pilots taking a checkride for a private, recreational or sport pilot certificate. According to FAR 61.47, "The examiner is not the pilot in command of the aircraft during the practical test unless the examiner agrees to act in that capacity for the flight or for a portion of the flight by prior arrangement with the applicant..."


5) 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.


Ready to join the largest aviation community in the world? Sign up and become an AOPA Member today.

Colin Cutler

Colin Cutler

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

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