The FAA has made a bold move and dropped the requirement for a complex aircraft for the single-engine commercial and CFI tests. Dr. Donna Wilt, a professor at FIT in aviation and our SAFE representative on the ACS working group, alerted me to this change as it was being written earlier this week. We had heard hints of this when we met Brad Palmer at Sun ‘N Fun a few weeks ago. His team at AFS 800 was very concerned about the safety of our aging fleet of complex planes. To be clear the requirement in 61.129(3)ii for 10 hours of experience still is in place (only an NPRM process can change a regulation, and this has been pending for over a year). With a stroke of the pen however, the complex requirement in testing is gone.
So what does this mean for flight training and safety? For flight students there was a collective sigh of relief for reduced requirements and cheaper acquisition of their certificates. For older pilots there was a lot of justifiable grumbling about “lowering standards” and future safety implications. Obviously there is always a compromise between safety and proficiency in all our training standards but I think the recent Piper Arrow accident in Florida tipped the scales on this decision.
SAFE clearly stated our position on the proposed NPRM changing comples standards in August 2016; lowering the training requirements is not commensurate with greater safety. But given grave concerns about the Piper Arrow wing spar issues, many flight schools are already operating under an FAA Waiver that eliminates the complex requirement. Why should Part 61 candidates not have this same relief from this regulation for a complex A/C on tests?
Pilots in training will inevitably seek the easiest and cheapest pathway to their certification. But those pilots who truly value safety and proficiency will go further and seek out tail wheel, glider and other categories to build additional skills and proficiency. (Witness the recommendations from senior aviators at the NTSB LOC Roundtable yesterday.) Our job at SAFE is to inspire, encourage and enable the latter pathway; toward the voluntary pursuit greater proficiency and aviation excellence. We continuously work with the FAA to achieve reasonable solutions. We have all seen pilots that despite regulations, cut every corner and take the “low road” satisfying every requirement. Join and support SAFE to inspire and enable aviation excellence and professionalism. Your thoughts?
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