Last fall, I, along with several members of NATA’s flight training committee, had the pleasure of participating in an event hosted by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) that was aimed at taking an in-depth look at ways the flight training industry could improve. We have all heard the statistic that around 70% of students beginning flight training quit before achieving their goal of receiving their pilot license. Attendees at the AOPA event learned that despite this high washout rate most students described their flight training experience positively and rated it as a good value. When I heard that, my first reaction was, What? How could a group with such a high dropout rate still have a good experience and also feel that their training was a good value? I think the answer is that it is indicative of a very complex problem. I don’t think there is any way we can solve all that ails flight training in one blog post, but I do want to look at one simple effort that is under way to encourage pilots to receive additional training and pursue additional ratings.
Right now, there exists a significant roadblock for pilots who have entered aviation at the sport pilot level and desire to continue training for a higher certificate, such as a recreational or private pilot certificate. If those sport pilots received their training from a sport pilot instructor, they are currently forced to start over at basically zero hours when training for a recreational or private pilot certificate. This is despite the fact that many of the training topics are identical. In essence, an experienced sport pilot would not be able to credit a single hour of their training towards either the recreational or private pilot certificate and would have to be trained just like someone who had never sat in an airplane. This “training penalty” serves as a disincentive for pilots to receive additional voluntary training. That doesn’t make sense!
Last week, NATA submitted a letter to the FAA in support of a petition for rulemaking initiated by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) and the National Association of Flight Instructors (NAFI). The petition seeks to make very minor changes to the regulations affecting private and recreational pilot certification to allow some credit for training received in pursuit of a sport pilot certificate. The petition accomplishes this by modifying the requirements for aeronautical experience to allow for sport pilot training credit. Safety and a rigorous training regimen are maintained by not modifying any of the requirements for aeronautical knowledge, flight proficiency, training recency or the FAA’s final authority in issuing certificates. NATA believes that the changes contained in the petition will remove the roadblock to additional training and do so without adversely affecting safety.
NATA will continue working with AOPA, EAA, GAMA, NAFI and the FAA because we believe that creating a regulatory environment that recognizes achievement and training is vital to ensuring the long-term success of our industry and creating safe pilots.
Submitted by Michael France, NATA Director of Regulatory Affairs, firstname.lastname@example.org
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