Training In Experimental Aircraft!

The FAA Warbird Adventures legal decision set off a firestorm of panic and confusion in the aviation community. All this grief originated from a single P-40 operation in Florida. Instead of accurately litigating against a single operator, the FAA legal wizards completely reinterpreted “flight training” contradicting their own published policy and making a whole area of flight operations illegal.  CFIs were also caught in the crossfire. The significant immediate result is that >30,000 experimental aircraft (and <100 “primary A/C” and <500 “limited A/C”) become illegal for any dual instruction as of July 12th unless each aircraft has a deviation letter! Downstream consequences for CFIs are still to be determined.

This all resulted from the FAA suddenly redefining flight instruction as “flight for compensation and hire” after years of legal precedent classifying CFIs as “educators only.” When this new legal interpretation is published in the Federal Register on July 12th  it becomes law. It will immediately be illegal to teach in experimental, limited, and primary aircraft until you get a LODA. And legal questions are on the table regarding the medical requirements and additional liability of CFIs “flying for compensation and hire.”

SAFE objected to this legal error and the FAA responded on July 8th. Though they tacitly agreed on the historic CFI role, FAA legal continued to define flight instruction as involving flight “for compensation and hire.” All the “alphabets” met on Zoom but it is clear that this error is about to become law July 12th when it is published in the Federal Register  – get your flight review this weekend. Pilots of experimental aircraft will be illegal taking flight instruction in an experimental, limited or primary aircraft without a “Letter of Deviation Authority (LODA).” (CFIs conducting flight training in these A/C will also be illegal). Thanks to some dedicate FAA people, a LODA can now be more easily be acquired with a new e-mail system. Each LODA is linked to an aircraft N# A pilot owner or a CFI can apply for a LODA but this exemption is linked to a specific N# like an MEL.

To be clear, the only restriction affects only paid flight training in experimental, primary and limited aircraft categories. Any pilot can still legally fly their plane provided both pilot and plane are legally compliant.


To continue to get training in your experimental the new FAA workaround is a very simple e-mail:

Write to this address: 9-AVS-AFG-LODA[a]faa.gov

Include: name, address, e-mail, pilot certificate number or flight instructor certificate number (if applying as CFI), aircraft registration number (if applying as an owner), aircraft make/model in which you will receive or provide instruction, aircraft home base airport (if applying as an owner). The FAA promises expedited service through the new system.

The bigger issue (long-term effect) on flight training “for compensation and hire” has been obscured by the immediate chaos caused by experimental aircraft dual. SAFE is also focused on the bigger picture of downstream consequences affecting all flight instructors; legal liability and medical . Fly SAFE out there (and often)!

If you are a subscriber to this blog (friend of SAFE) and want to attend our SAFE dinner at Oshkosh, you are invited  to join us at the Oshkosh Terminal on Thursday, July 29th from 6-8PM for our SAFE dinner. This is a networking opportunity (after a year of quarantine) and we would love to Meet/Greet/and Eat with you. Tickets are $25 and include; food, drinks, and dessert (also FUN!) We need a few drone pilots too.

Author: David St. George

SAFE Director, Master CFI (12X), FAA DPE, ATP (ME/SE) Currently jet charter captain.

15 thoughts on “Training In Experimental Aircraft!”

  1. Holy smoke David! Boy did the FAA trip over their d… shoelaces on this one! A not-inconsequential proportion of my instruction is flight reviews and transition training in Experimental: Amateur-built and Experimental: Exhibition aircraft. To require both my clients AND me to get a LODA for every aircraft is just ludicrous. The impact on safety is going to be substantial.

    FAA Legal strikes again. Sometimes I wonder if the FAA isn’t trying to eliminate all flying except the air carriers.

    1. One of our members from Australia wisely pointed out the similarities between the FAA in the Australian Aviation authorities. Doing more harm than good?

  2. i doubt the legal strategy was intentional malevolence toward GA. Ever airlines, freight haulers, medivac, aerial fire fighting, construction, and even the military will eventually be affected as the pilot pipeline (already identified as in jeopardy) is constricted even further.

    I expect the root of this incredibly stupid outcome was INCOMPETENCE at the highest levels. If personnel records were subject to FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) I think we’d learn just how sloppy internal FAA oversight is over it’s own legal teams. “Win at all costs” is likely a highly valued trait for litigation teams. ‘Successful’ litigators are rewarded with cash, increased pay, promotions, and glowing performance reviews. The Federal Government (FAA included) is supposed to comply with provisions of the Paperwork Reduction Act. The idiotic outcome just caused an explosion of unnecessary and counter productive paper work… because litigation and the outcomes therefrom are not subject to that Act of Congress. As is usually the case, the solution to this untenable outcome is a line item in one of the many bills that pass through Congress every year.

    So, dear readers of George’s blog: Write your Senators and Reps in Congress. Write now, write often, and use some of that time you would otherwise be sitting in a cockpit with a student visiting their offices and explaining how wrong headed this FAA created problem is, and how badly it affects you, your employer, and everyone down the line who benefit from a steady stream of new, well trained pilots.

  3. I am confused about CFI application for LOA
    Does the CFI request include the N number of the aircraft or is it more generic?

    1. That is what we were told- either owner *or* CFI can apply but lined to N# (FAA FAQ promised *and* pdf fillable form tomorrow!)

  4. Read the directive again. It does NOT stop all dual flight training in experimental, limited, and primary category aircraft. Can’t be compensated for the flight. Unless have a LODA before the flight. Which is not a “Letter of Demonstrated Authority” it’s a letter of DEVIATION authority (deviation from the CFR). CFIs conducting flight training in these A/C will NOT be illegal but they cannot be compensated. Read the FAA definition of compensation if not sure what that is. CFIs are not linked to a specific registered aircraft, only to make and model. And either the CFI or the owner-pilot must have a LODA if the flight will be flown for compensation. Possible near-term solutions? 1. Owner-pilots get LODAs for each owned aircraft. 2. No compensation.

    1. FAA has promised more details and a FAQ on this rule but like most things FAA a bit murky (and subject to interpretation). This form is current: https://bit.ly/FAA-LODA Typo corrected (thanks!) It does appear charity is approved without LODA (but checking that).

    1. Yes, the FAA has potentially streamlined the LODA process with a “fillable form.” It is still unclear to me who *needs* a LODA? I cannot imagine that just a CFI with a LODA (and not the plane) would be allowed. If a plane has a LODA issued, does the CFI *also* require a LODA?? This seems to be implied “CFIs may enter N/Afor the Aircraft Registration Number and HomeAirport boxes if you are seeking a LODA to instruct in a make/model, but not a specific N- number.” In this “necessary *and* sufficient?”

  5. I am trying to complete a Flight Review with owner of an RV-6A and the FAA’s promise to expedite LODA requests is nonsense. I applied for one and have never heard back from the FAA. I know that some people are trying to give the FAA the benefit of the doubt, but the FAA is an agency that has been given a bat and the power to use it and their target is pilots. Logical people can’t understand why the FAA would willing want to cause havoc to the nation’s aviation community, but this is what they forget; the FAA is made up of bureaucrats many of whom come to those positions of power due to their deep inner desire to exercise whatever power they can over others and they have no long term objective or vision. It’s an itch that needs to be scratched pure and simple.

    1. Did you apply for your LODA with expedited method released in August? I got mine in < 24 hours! We need to talk (I’m sure we can fix that!)

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