AOPA Fights for Public Benefit Exemptions, Accommodations

In an April 1 letter to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) and seven other industry groups urged the agency to support the multibillion-dollar general aviation (GA) industry through extensions to examinations, certifications, maintenance, and filings. GA has stepped up in many ways to help the nation deal with the COVID-19 crisis through its more than 5,000 public airports across the country, providing transportation and logistical support for needed supplies and personnel.

“General aviation has long been vital to the nation’s transportation and economic infrastructure,” said Christopher Cooper, AOPA director of regulatory affairs. “From providing medical resources to remote locations to supporting millions of jobs and economic activity across the United States, the benefit general aviation provides to the public, especially in times of national crisis, is enormous. Having these exemptions and deviations approved by the FAA will ensure general aviation has limited delay in operations to help the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.”

In the letter to FAA Associate Administrator for Aviation Safety Ali Bahrami, the groups also cited a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP study showing that GA contributes 1.2 million jobs and $247 billion in economic activity to the United States. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), which falls under the Department of Homeland Security, has designated transportation, which includes GA, as a critical infrastructure sector. Air medical is specifically named by CISA as a critical workforce, and air medical aircraft continue to provide lifesaving missions for those in need whether stricken by COVID-19 or other health emergencies.

“This letter builds upon an earlier request sent to the FAA on March 17, further explaining why these extensions are justified since general aviation is, indeed, a public good. Regulations and exemptions must be found to be for the public good, and this is the rationale the FAA used to provide exemptions for air carriers and commercial operations. We believe general aviation should also be provided exemptions based on the same rationale,” said Cooper.

Similar regulatory activity has already been enacted by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency in Europe and the Civil Aviation Authority in the United Kingdom, where comparable exemptions have been granted to both commercial and noncommercial operations in their respective countries.

Along with AOPA, the Air Medical Operators Association, the Experimental Aircraft Association, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, Helicopter Association International, the National Agricultural Aviation Association, the National Air Transportation Association, and the National Business Aviation Association signed the April 1 letter.

Requested exemptions:

Extension of FAR Part 61 pilot currency requirements, including the flight review and instrument proficiency check.

Guidance that 709 reexaminations or paperwork inspections in person (such as logbook inspections under FAR 61.51, or maintenance record inspections under FAR 91.417) be deferred or at least be conducted electronically during the current social distancing safety protocols and directives regarding nonessential activities.

Extensions for certificated flight instructor certificate renewal, expiration, and endorsement periods.

Extension of knowledge exam expiration period.

Extensions for applicants on the ability to complete practical examinations.

Extension for filing documents under FAR Part 13 (Subparts C, D, and G).

Extensions for aircraft maintenance and continuing airworthiness requirements with necessary mitigation procedures.

AOPA’s Pilot Information Center staff are standing by to answer questions that are likely to arise in light of the FAA policy decision, based on each member’s individual circumstances. Members can reach AOPA staff online, or by phone at 800-USA-AOPA (872-2672) Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern time.

AOPA is continuously updating its coverage of the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on general aviation. For more information please visit this page.