The FAA is faced with a difficult, but not uncommon regulatory problem. Field personnel issued Letters of Authorization (LOA) to a number of organizations that have been found competent to train general aviation pilots to meet the requirements of Part 61. Over time, some of those LOAs no longer complied with a variety of requirements like the 2009 amendment to 14 CFR § 61.65(i) where no more than 10 hours of instrument time received in an Approved Training Device (ADT) may be credited toward instrument time requirements of that section. The FAA’s proposal is to terminate the LOAs and to provide a temporary exemption to allow a transition.
In response to the Notice, the Society of Aviation and Flight Educators (SAFE) stated that FAA should reverse its proposal to terminate the LOAs. Doug Stewart, SAFE Executive Director cogently stated:
“The FAA should be encouraging better pilot training, not discouraging it…The extra simulator training hours allowed by these LOAs is invaluable.”
This group of experts in training makes an excellent point; the termination of LOAs will reduce useful instruction and thus reduce safety.
The conflict between the field actions and the regulation caused the FAA to propose revoking the authorizations. SAFE postulates that the FAA’s inadvertent grant of LOAs in conflict with the regulations has actually created a record of safety.
An alternate response to the conflict might include examining whether the 2009 amendment should be reversed. The record of pilots trained under the mistakenly granted LOAs should be assessed to determine whether their training in excess of the 10 hours actually contributed to greater safety as contended by SAFE.
The FAA, in considering the comments, might treat the information created by these inadvertent LOA grants. Might not the additional time in the ADTs create better pilots? If that is what the data proves, then the right regulatory reaction to this conflict would be to amend 14 CFR § 61.65(i)?