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FAA Restatement of Position Reinvigorates Debate on Sport Pilot Training

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August 13, 2009 — Recently a reporter with an aviation news organization pressed the FAA on the subject of transferring a student’s flight-time credit earned during sport pilot instruction toward pursuit of a private pilot certificate. The FAA’s answer, issued just before the start of AirVenture 2009, rekindled concern within the sport pilot community about an apparent discrepancy between the sport pilot rule language on this matter and the intended outcome.

The FAA reiterated its position that not all training received from a flight instructor with only a sport pilot rating may be credited toward the subsequent pursuit of a private pilot certificate. The FAA cited language in the sport pilot rule specifying that, although a student may apply all solo time and total flight time received from a sport-pilot-rated instructor, the dual time with that instructor does not apply toward training for a private pilot certificate.

EAA and the sport pilot community have argued that these terms contradict the intent of the sport pilot regulations. “The intent was to create a category of personal flight that not only lowers barriers to participation but also serves as a stepping stone to higher certificates and ratings,” said EAA President Tom Poberezny.

Several EAA communications to the FAA have argued this point. In fact, EAA, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), and the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) on June 9 submitted a joint letter asking the FAA to expedite a solution. Additionally, EAA and AOPA both previously filed responses to the most current FAA Sport Pilot Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM), known as the “rule clean-up,” calling for all training with a sport-pilot-only instructor to apply toward the requirements of private pilot training.

“All sport pilot flight training is a directly applicable subset of the training requirements for a private pilot certificate,” said EAA President and Chairman Tom Poberezny. “Flight instructors with only sport pilot ratings have had to pass the same tests and meet the same standards within that subcategory of flight as private pilot instructors. For example, the instruction for turns around a point from either a sport pilot or private pilot instructor is the same. The dual instruction with the sport pilot instructor should apply.”

Poberezny added that this imbalance between the rule language and the original intent “unnecessarily creates perceptions of a subordinate class of instructors.”

The FAA is due to release a final version of revisions to the sport pilot and light-sport aircraft regulations in November. EAA has advocated and supported most of the anticipated revisions; however, EAA and the general aviation community are calling on the FAA to address this issue. EAA will continue to work toward including a provision that permits dual instruction time received from a sport-pilot-rated instructor to count toward higher certificates and ratings. If the matter is not addressed in the forthcoming final rule, EAA and other organizations are prepared to petition for a rule change.

Meanwhile, discussion in general-aviation, sport-pilot, and flight-instruction circles is spirited. To participate in the discussion, visit Oshkosh365, EAA’s online community of aviation’s most passionate and active participants.

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