Several aviation organizations joined AOPA in sending the letter—the Experimental Aircraft Association, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, the National Business Aviation Association, the National Air Transportation Association, Flight School Associations of North America, the International Council of Airshows, Helicopter Association International, the National Association of Flight Instructors, the North American Trainer Association, and the Society of Aviation and Flight Educators. The groups asked the FAA to revisit this initial view, and to issue a statement that it will not take legal enforcement action related to any proposed new policies until a satisfactory resolution has been reached. The agency’s view was provided in a June 4 letter from Ali Bahrami, FAA associate administrator for aviation safety, which will be followed by an upcoming and more formal policy statement.
The FAA’s latest perspective opined that a flight instructor who is operating a limited category aircraft and carrying a paying student is acting contrary to federal regulation, even if that compensation is for the instruction and not carriage. Furthermore, the FAA’s letter stated that the same prohibitions may extend to an instructor providing flight training in an experimental or primary category aircraft.
The letter was in response to a request by AOPA and aviation groups for the FAA to provide guidance on the court’s April 2 decision not to lift an FAA cease-and-desist order against Warbird Adventures, a warbird flight training company. The case could have implications for a wide variety of flight instruction provided to owners in their own aircraft.
Calling the guidelines in the FAA’s response “unnecessary and unwarranted” and based on “irrational legal positions,” the letter sent from the aviation groups stated that “if the FAA were to issue and implement these proposed new policies, they will likely invite unnecessary legal battles while degrading safety.” The letter went on to point out that accessible flight training is the cornerstone of aviation and makes the U.S. aviation system the safest in the world.
“We need to get this flight training issue cleared up as quickly as possible and by any means possible,” said AOPA President Mark Baker. “I can assure you we will not stop until this situation is resolved and common sense prevails.”
The case originated with the cease-and-desist order issued by the FAA against Warbird Adventures of Kissimmee, Florida. The court issued an unpublished opinion, and its decision was to let the order stand (deny review) while two related cases involving the same parties proceed before the NTSB and the FAA. An unpublished opinion and court comments other than the decision itself are not automatically binding legal precedent that must be followed.
AOPA and other GA organizations had filed a “friend of the court” (amicus curiae) brief in anticipation of such a ruling, cautioning the court to narrowly tailor its decision to avoid negative implications for a wide variety of flight instruction provided to owners in their own aircraft.
The June 8 letter specifically addressed four potentially negative implications of the FAA’s current stance:
- Prohibiting owners of experimental aircraft from receiving flight instruction in their own aircraft without specific FAA permission to do so in the form of a Letter of Deviation Authority.
- Prohibiting owners of over 300 limited category aircraft from receiving flight instruction in their own aircraft without an exemption.
- Prohibiting owners of primary category aircraft from receiving flight instruction in their own aircraft without an exemption.
- Limiting access to flight training in a specific make and model of an aircraft.
The letter claims that the FAA’s perspective is contrary to the agency’s longstanding commitment to policies, practices, and procedures that have made and kept this nation’s national airspace system the safest in the world.