Less than a week before it was to take effect, the FAA pulled the SAFE-requested direct-to-final rule to allow pilots up to 20 simulator hours toward an instrument rating, citing “adverse comments.” The unexpected move leaves pilots limited to no more than the 10 simulator hours allowed by FAR 61.65.
A SAFE analysis found only one adverse public comment, filed December 17, in the FAA’s docket. It resulted in an immediate protest by SAFE labeling the comment as “personal opinion, lacking substantiation and contrary to current education doctrine regarding use of training devices.”
Agency spokesman Les Dorr confirmed that the FAA is required by Federal regulations to withdraw any direct-to-final rule if even one adverse comment is received. Proposed regulations that are not expected to draw any protest from the public, such as this one, are often issued as direct-to-final rules.
“We are disappointed that this beneficial rule change was withdrawn based on a single negative comment out of the hundreds submitted on this issue,” said John Dorcey, interim Executive Director of the Society of Aviation and Flight Educators (SAFE). “We understand the FAA’s need to follow their protocols but will continue our efforts to get these changes enacted.” He said SAFE will ask the FAA to expedite re-issue of the rule as a conventional NPRM, not subject to dismissal due to a single negative comment.
Dorr said he is not aware of further FAA action planned on this rule-making, although the original document cited substantial advantages of additional simulator time, including relieving burdens on pilots seeking to obtain aeronautical experience, training and certification. It called simulators an “effective, safe and affordable means of obtaining pilot experience,” and said the rule was necessary to bring the regulations in line with current needs and activities of general aviation training community and pilots.
“The fact remains that the existing FAR 61.65(i) is outdated,” said Dorcey. “Both before and after this regulation was issued in 2009, the FAA issued hundreds of Letters of Authorization to simulator manufacturers permitting simulator hours in excess of the regulation.”
SAFE, now representing nearly 1,000 of the nation’s top flight instructors and aviation educators, works to create a safer aviation environment by supporting aviation educators with mentoring opportunities, educational resources, and other benefits; inspiring professionalism through promotion and recognition of excellence and enhanced education; representing aviation educators through interaction with the aviation industry and government and promoting learning in all areas of aviation for everyone at every level