FAA Legal Interpretations “Starter Kit”

Aviation educators are regarded as the local authorities in the aviation community. Superior knowledge and familiarity with the regulations are essential for conducting the job of flight educator in a professional manner.

For example, 61.57(c)(1)(i) specifies that an instrument-rated pilot must conduct (and log) a minimum of six IAPs every 6 months in order to maintain his or her IFR currency. But what counts as an “instrument approach?” What if you break out at 600 feet, is that “an approach?” Check FAA InFo 15012 for the answer. (and watch those FAA urls, they move around faster than the stairways at Hogwarts). What is legal definition of “known icing?” A careful reading of CFR 61.1 (“Applicability and definitions”) resolves most of those noisy hangar flying arguments.

Rizner (1991)

  • What are the minimum qualifications required to act as a safety pilot?
  • FAA rules changed allowing Basic Med 2 days ago.

Hicks (1993)

  • Academy version of PIC time: sole manipulator and safety pilot

Harrington (1997)

  • “Building up of flight time may be compensatory in nature if the pilot does not have to pay the costs of operating the aircraft”

Kortokrax (2006)

  • Are students or instructors considered passengers for recency of experience requirement purposes?

Glaser (2008)

  • Do PAR and ASR approaches “count” for instrument training and currency?

Sisk (2008)

  • Does the long cross-country required for the instrument rating require any leg to be at least 50 nm?
  • Does a flight with multiple points of landing require any single leg to be over 50 nm to be considered cross-country?

Bell (2009)

Gebhart (2009)

  • Safety pilot logging PIC and cross-country time?

Glenn (2009)

  • Logging cross-country time as a safety pilot
  • Logging SIC time as a safety pilot

Herman (2009)

  • Logging time while sole manipulator and appropriately rated, how about endorsements?

Hilliard (2009)

  • Cross-country time split with another pilot where both pilots take turns as PIC?

Mangiamele (2009)

  • Requirements for flying as a charitable fundraiser
  • Reimbursement for operating costs for business travel via private aircraft

MURPHY (2009)

  • Pilot pilot applicant *MAY* log flight test as PIC.

Speranza (2009)

  • Logging PIC while sole manipulator on IFR flight plan, but not instrument rated

Van Zanen (2009)

  • Defining flight time to optimize cross-country time?

Coleal (2010)

  • “Preventative Maintenance” and the 31 items on the list in Appendix A to Part 43?

Hartzell (2010)

  • Can commercial instrument training requirements be met by prior instrument rating training? See also this AOPA article and “Oord Letter” below.

Lamb-2 (2010)

  • What is “incidental?” Getting paid for your flying?

Theriault (2010)

  • Can you fly an aircraft not rated for IFR on an IFR flight plan in VMC?
  • Can commercial instrument training requirements be met by prior instrument rating training?
  • Can the night cross-country from private pilot training be used to satisfy the requirement for night cross-country flight for a Commercial Pilot Certificate?

Haberkorn (2011)

  • Finding passengers via social media
  • Clarifying “common purpose”

MURPHY (2011) and LETTS 2017

The FAA’s view of the “anti-collision light system” (when is it “inoperative?” ALSO in Murphy: can a student pilot X-C be used for Comm. X-C certificate experience? (“mining” logbook time)

Walker (2011)

  • Logging PIC and actual IMC while sole-manipulator in IMC, but not instrument rated
  • Logging time as an instrument-rated PIC while not sole-manipulator
  • Safety piloting in actual IMC

COUNSIL (2012)

  • Under certain conditions, an SIC (fully rated) can log PIC when “sole manipulator!”

Roberts (2012)

  • Is a safety pilot required to pay pro-rata share while logging PIC?

Pratte (2012)

  • Is the list of acceptable instrument approach types for instrument training in Glaser (2008) exhaustive?

Trussell (2012)

  • What can a safety pilot log if the pilot flying elects to remain acting PIC?
  • What obligation does a safety pilot have to share expenses?

Hancock (2013)

  • Does loaning an airplane to a pilot count as “compensation?”
  • Does the owner of an airplane have the responsibility if a person borrowing the airplane violates FARs?

Kuhn (2014)

  • “Performing the duties of pilot in command” with a CFI on board?
  • How can a CFI log time while riding along with a commercial student “performing the duties of pilot in command”?

Rohlfing (2016)

  • Do the three hours of instrument training from private pilot training apply to instrument rating training? (Work for total hood time but must be CFII for “training time)

Fitzpatrick – Spartan College (2018)

  • Parachute for spin training for CFI initial? No, “regardless of what certificate or rating the applicant is seeking”.

Oord – AOPA (2018)

  • Can commercial instrument training requirements be met by prior instrument rating training? (Proper endorsements…)
  • Depends on Theriault (2010), Theriault (2011), and Hartzell (2010)

And these interpretations *do* change, so stay current!

The resulting February 28 [2022] memorandum overruled two prior FAA legal interpretations of FAR 61.65, specifically reversing interpretations in 2008 and 2012 that required the use of “three different kinds of navigation systems” to meet the requirements of 61.65 (d)(2)(ii)(C). In the first case, the FAA had determined that three different navigation systems had to be used, and the 2012 interpretation affirmed that conclusion—and went a step further by determining that precision approach radars and airport surveillance radars do not count as “navigation systems” for the purposes of satisfying the applicant’s required experience. AOPA

An AOPA membership is a great way to stay current on these legal issues (their benefits and advocacy are essential to every pilot).

Other helpful info:


  • This InFO clarifies the conditions under which a pilot may log an IAP in his or her logbook

AOPA Legal on Basic Med. for checkrides.

CFII teaching “simulated instrument flight” with Basic Med.

This just changed 2 days ago and will be legal 30 days after publication in the Federal Register (told you those stairways move frequently). If you can’t find what you’re looking for in the most common above, try searching the FAA’s Legal Interpretations website. Fly safe out there (and often).

Mark Kolber has written many excellent legal articles for IFR Magazine. I find his following example of “legal vs safe” a vindication of all the risk management/judgment standards SAFE has helped embed into the testing standards:

a technically legal operation can be “careless and reckless” under 91.13, depending on the circumstances. The warning is not hollow. In a 1993 case, George Murphy was tired of waiting for his IFR release from a nontowered airport, so he took off uncontrolled IFR into low ceilings with passengers, figuring he would reach VMC before entering controlled airspace at 700 AGL. The violation for operating without a clearance was dismissed, but that did not stop the NTSB from giving him a 90-day flight vacation for careless and reckless operation.

See our newly launched SAFE website HERE

Join SAFE and get great benefits. You get 1/3 off ForeFlight and your membership supports our mission of increasing aviation safety by promoting excellence in education.  Our FREE SAFE Toolkit App puts required pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smartphone and facilitates CFI+DPE teamwork. Our CFI insurance was developed by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business).

Author: David St. George

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

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