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June 27, 2012

Does Each Occupant Over The Age Of Two Have To Have His Or Her Own Seat-Belt?

The FAA's Office of the Chief Counsel was recently asked the question "whether 91.205(b)(l3) requires that each occupant over 2 years of age have their own individual seat belt in light of the fact that 91.107 allows the shared use of seat belts in certain situations?" The short answer, according to the Legal Interpretation issued by the Chief Counsel's office, is "no".

The Interpretation observed that FAR 91.107 provides the minimum standards for seat belt use in Part 91 flight and permits aircraft occupants to share seat belts in certain situations. It then noted that FAR 91.205(b)(l3) prohibits operation of a powered civil aircraft with a standard category U.S. airworthiness certificate under VFR during the day unless it has "[a]n approved safety belt with an approved metal-to-metal latching device for each occupant 2 years of age or older."

Reading these two regulations together, the Interpretation concluded "that 91.205(b)(13) does not mandate that each aircraft occupant have their own individual seat belt", but rather "permits aircraft occupants to share an approved safety belt with an approved metal-to-metal latching device as long as each occupant who is sharing the safety belt is securely restrained by the approved safety belt."

However, the Interpretation added that FAR 91.107 permits the use of a seat belt and/or seat by more than one occupant "only if the seat usage conforms to the limitations contained in the approved portion of the Airplane Flight Manual (AFM)." As a result, in order to allow this use of a seat belt or seat by more than one occupant, the Interpretation states that the pilot in command "must also check whether: (l) the seat belt is approved and rated for such use; and (2) the structural strength requirements for the seat are not exceeded", assuming that information is available to the PIC.

For more information on FAA interpretation of seat belt requirements, you can also read the FAA's May 24, 2012 Clarification of Prior Interpretations of the Seat Belt and Seating Requirements for General Aviation Flights.

Posted by Greg

June 22, 2012

May An Inspector Return An Aircraft To Service As Airworthy If The Aircraft's Registration Has Expired?

According to the FAA, the answer is "yes." This question was discussed and answered in a recent Legal Interpretation issued by the FAA's Office of Chief Counsel. The issue arose after the FAA amended FAR 47.40 to mandate that failure to renew an aircraft's U.S. registration at the end of the three-year registration period results in the expiration of the certificate. Apparently at least one Flight Standards District Office ("FSDO"), and other individuals, had taken the position that an aircraft could not be returned to service as airworthy after an inspection if the aircraft's U.S. registration had expired.

The Interpretation initially observed that an aircraft's airworthiness certificate is not "effective" if the aircraft's U.S. registration is expired. It also noted that FAR Part 43, which contains the FAA's general maintenance rules, applies to a U.S. registered aircraft whether or not it has a current registration certificate and "[n]othing in the regulation indicates that a failure by the owner to renew the registration is a type of discrepancy contemplated by part 43."

The Interpretation concluded that "no current FAA regulation proscribes an approval for return to service of a U.S.-registered aircraft following an inspection required by parts 91, 125, or 135 if the aircraft's registration certificate is not current." As a result, an aircraft may be approved for return to service as airworthy as long as the aircraft
  1. has an airworthiness certificate (regardless of whether or not it is effective);

  2. conforms to its type certificate (including any applicable supplemental type certificates (STC) and is in compliance with all applicable airworthiness directives (AD)); and

  3. is in condition for safe operation.

What can we learn from this situation, beyond the obvious interpretation of the regulations? FSDOs don't always interpret or apply the FARs correctly. As a result, if you disagree with a FSDO's interpretation and application of the FARs, you should definitely pursue relief up the FAA food-chain to the regional or national level. Although you still may not get the relief you would like, at least you should be able to get the correct answer.

Posted by Greg

June 21, 2012

What Paperwork Is Required For A Private Pilot Practical Exam?

The FAA Office of Chief Counsel addressed this issue in a recent Legal Interpretation. Specifically, the Interpretation responded to the following questions posed to the FAA:
  1. What documentation is required by FAR 61.105 prior to conducting a private pilot practical exam when the applicant has gained the requisite knowledge through a home-study curriculum;

  2. What language is required on the FAR 61.103(d) and 61.35(a)(1) endorsement to take a knowledge test and practical exam; and

  3. What documentation is required by FAR 61.107 to conduct a private pilot practical exam.

With respect to the first question, the Interpretation observed that specific documentation is not required prior to conducting a private pilot practical exam when the applicant has prepared using home-study curriculum. It then supported this observation by stating that FAR 61.105(a) "does not set forth any documentation requirements for an applicant who has completed a home-study course on the aeronautical knowledge areas that apply to the aircraft category and class rating sought."

In response to the second question, the Interpretation states "there are no specific language requirements, only an endorsement requirement." It goes on to explain that "to meet the requirements of both section 61.103(d) and section 61.35(a)(1), an applicant must provide a logbook endorsement from an authorized instructor who either conducted the training or reviewed the applicant's home study curriculum that applies to the aircraft rating sought, and the instructor must certify that the applicant (1) completed the appropriate ground-training or home-study course, and (2) is prepared for the applicable knowledge test."

Finally, regarding question three the Interpretation says "[t]he regulation requires that the applicant receive and log both ground and flight training from an authorized instructor on the areas listed in the regulations. There is no requirement in the regulations that an instructor must state verbatim each area of study required by section 61.107(b) in the applicant's logbook."

Thus, an applicant doesn't need any specific or particular "document" to take the knowledge or practical exam. However, the applicant will need the appropriate logbook endorsement, which, from my perspective, could be characterized as a "document." Although the Interpretation doesn't say it, I believe what the FAA is trying to say is that a particular form or format for the "document" is not required.

Similarly, although the actual endorsement doesn't have to use particular language, it will need to sufficiently recite the areas of study covered during the applicant's instruction to convince the examiner that the applicant has completed the required training. Apparently the instructor can use whatever language he or she thinks will be sufficient for the examiner. Probably better for an instructor to err on the side of longer, more detailed endorsements to make sure the applicant is covered.

Posted by Greg

June 19, 2012

FAA Defines "In Furtherance Of Business" Restriction On Operations By A Sport Pilot

In a recent Legal Interpretation, the FAA Office of Chief Counsel responded to a request for a definition of what it means to be "in furtherance of a business" in the context of the limitation upon sport pilot privileges. As you may know, FAR 61.315(c)(3) prohibits an individual exercising sport pilot privileges from acting as pilot in command of a light-sport aircraft when he or she is (1) carrying a passenger or property for compensation or hire, (2) operating for compensation or hire, or (3) operating in the furtherance of business.

The Interpretation notes that, rather than actually defining "sport and recreational flying", the intended limitation on sport pilot operations, it made more sense to define the types of operations that were not permitted for a sport pilot. This was "intended to better clarify [the FAA's] original intent and align the privileges and limitations of a sport pilot certificate with those of a recreational pilot certificate found in FAR 61.101(e)(3) through (5) (prohibiting a recreational pilot from acting as pilot in command of an aircraft "in furtherance of a business.")

The FAA also wanted to distinguish the sport and recreational pilot privileges and limitations from those of private pilots under FAR 61.113(b) (permitting a private pilot to act as pilot in command of an aircraft for compensation or hire in connection with any business or employment if the flight is only incidental to that business or employment and the aircraft does not carry passengers or property for compensation or hire.) The Interpretation observes that "[f]lights typically permitted to be carried out by a private pilot under the provisions of 61.113(b) would not be permitted to be engaged in by a person exercising sport pilot privileges."

To further explain this limitation, the Interpretation notes that "flights in which transportation is provided for a business purpose, 'even if incidental to your employment or the business you intend to conduct, and not required by your business or employment would be considered in furtherance of a business.'" Thus, if a flight is conducted for a business purpose, even if it is only incidental to that purpose, then the flight would be considered to be "in furtherance of a business" and could not be conducted by a sport pilot.

Finally, it is important to note that "the restriction on the use of a light-sport aircraft in furtherance of a business is not based on the certification of the aircraft being used but rather on the certification of the airman operating the aircraft." As a result, light-sport aircraft may be used in furtherance of a business etc. provided the flights are operated by an airman with a private pilot or higher certificate.

Posted by Greg

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