NPRM Points to Flight Training’s Future

By Scott Spangler on September 15th, 2009

In the August 31, 2009 Federal Register, the FAA published Notice of Proposed Rulemaking 09-08, Pilot in Command Proficiency Check and Other Changes to the Pilot and Pilot School Certification Rules.

JetWhine_NPRM Its seemingly disparate proposals regarding flight school classrooms and online ground schools, concurrent private pilot and instrument-rating checkrides, trading complex airplane training for advanced instrument instruction, and type-specific PIC proficiency checks for VLJ pilots together paint a clear picture of the coming future of pilot training and certification.

Few would argue that technology has changed the face of aviation, from training to actually flying from Point A to Point B.  Each of the NPRM’s  proposals are related except, maybe, for the issuance of a U.S. pilot certificate to those who’ve earned their pilot license in another nation.

It seems clear that these changes are but the next step in the FAA’s effort to keep up with technology, make efficient use of training tools and time, and do its regulatory best to ensure the safety of flight. It’s a trend that will likely extend to all aspects of general aviation. As always, today’s pilots will have to adapt the most, especially those who fly behind the latest technology.

JetWhine_Cessna-VLJ From integrated glass cockpits to turbine and piston FADEC, technology has made it easier to fly high performance airplanes in an increasingly congested IFR environment. The single pilot of a VLJ (or a TAA piston, for that matter) has the same responsibility for the safety of flight as the two-pilot crew of bigger jets.

To ensure that VLJ aviators are up to speed, the NPRM makes the logical proposal that they undergo proficiency checks in their VLJ, as type-rated crews must. As the regs,  61.48 and 61.58, now read, a pilot can do his or her PIC check in a Cessna 150 and be good to go in a VLJ.  And it’s not too hard to imagine that a future NPRM will propose a similar requirement for pilots of TAA piston aircraft like the Cirrus SR  and Cessna’s Corvalis.

This won’t be a big deal for pilots learning to fly in a world shaped by the other aspects of this NPRM (if enacted as proposed). It only makes sense to allow Part 141 schools that use online computer-based ground training to put empty classrooms to better use, perhaps by filling them with flight training devices and simulators.

JetWhine_Frasca-Mentor_G1000_Ex Allowing the concurrent issuance of a private pilot certificate and instrument rating will cement the unification of integrated training that began long ago, when the FAA first added hood time to the certification requirements. With the proper curriculum, instrument-rated private pilots will be better trained in less time for fewer dollars.

This unified training will also make it easier for prospective pilots to choose the training appropriate to their hopes and desires. Those who seek pleasure will opt for sport pilot, and those seeking practical transportation or a career will enter an integrated training program.

Career pilots will take the next step with the commercial ticket. Today, it’s technology that makes an airplane complex, not a controllable propeller or retractable gear. Pilots will take their understanding and ability to use the more nuanced capabilities of integrated avionics systems to the next level with at least 10 hours of advanced instrument training, which can be logged in the FTDs and sims that fill that once empty classroom. 

The NPRM suggests an exciting future in flight training, a future not without the heartburn that always accompanies change. Consider it the price flight schools and pilots must pay for letting technology get ahead of the training curve.

Comments on the NPRM are due on or before September 30, 2009, and you can convey your opinion at — Scott Spangler


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4 Responses to “NPRM Points to Flight Training’s Future”

  1. A Complex (Airplane) Question - Jetwhine: Aviation Buzz and Bold Opinion Says:

    […] reading last week’s post, NPRM Points to Flight Training’s Future, Jason Blair, the executive director of the National Association of Flight Instructors (NAFI), […]

  2. A Complex (Airplane) Question | RENT-A-PLANE Says:

    […] reading last week’s post, NPRM Points to Flight Training’s Future, Jason Blair, the executive director of the National Association of Flight Instructors (NAFI), […]

  3. Scott Says:

    My apologies to everyone. I got the wrong deadline for comments. It is November 30, not September 30.


  4. Torker Says:

    Can anyone tell me what the deadline for the FAA decision is regarding the use of complex aircraft for commercial and CFI traing is?

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