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Experimental Flight Training for Hire or Compensation

H. Dean Chamberlain
Reprinted with permission from FAA Aviation News

For many, the annual Sun ’n Fun Fly-In™ are the unofficial start of the year’s air show and fly-in season. One of the things that makes Sun ’n Fun interesting is it is the first large gathering of experimental aircraft each year. With thousands of pilots anxious to meet all types of new and interesting aircraft, including all of the experimental aircraft being exhibited and flown, chances are good someone will want to buy an experimental aircraft or an experimental kit.

As with any new or unfamiliar aircraft, training is key to safety. But if you buy an experimental aircraft, the odds are you cannot simply go to your local flight school and get checked out in your specific make and model of experimental aircraft. Section 91.319(a) of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) prohibits the carriage of persons or property for compensation or hire in aircraft having experimental certificates. Under the rule, a passenger or a “student trainee” is considered a person. So how can you get the safety training you need in an experimental aircraft when the regulations prohibit you from buying the training?

If you own an experimental aircraft, you could and still can pay someone to check you out in your own aircraft. But if you wanted to learn how to fly an experimental in someone else’s experimental aircraft for compensation or hire, that operator would have to have an exemption from the rule to be able to charge you for the flight training. As you may know, it was once possible for the FAA to issue an exemption allowing you to pay someone to teach you how to fly a specific make and model of experimental aircraft, using that person’s aircraft.

On October 31, 2007, however, the FAA stopped issuing these exemptions. The reason for this is a new rule, 14 CFR sections 91.319(h), that says, in part, that:

“The FAA may issue deviation authority providing relief from the provisions of paragraph (a) of this section for the purpose of conducting flight training. The FAA will issue this deviation authority as a letter of deviation authority.”

Deviation requests are submitted to the Flight Standards District Office responsible for the geographic area where the aircraft is based.

FAA Notice 8900.15, available on the FAA Internet Web site, www.faa.gov, explains the process. The notice states, in part:

“Training deviations will be issued only for training that cannot be conducted in aircraft holding standard airworthiness certificates. Training such as aerobatics, tail wheel transition, or high performance/complex transition can be conducted in aircraft holding standard airworthiness certificates and are therefore not acceptable. Acceptable training is:

(1) Experimental aircraft specific make and model initial training.
(2) Experimental aircraft specific make and model recurrent training.
(3) Jet unusual attitude and upset training.
(4) Aircraft specific instrument competence training.
(5) Experimental aircraft specific make and model flight review training.
(6) Experimental aircraft specific make and model formation training.
(7) Other specific training approved by the General Aviation and Commercial Division, AFS-800” [Editor’s Note: Flight Standards Service, Washington Headquarters].

Where Should You Look For Training?

Many of the current experimental kit aircraft manufacturers have Internet Web sites that provide make and model information. Another good source is a make and model type club. If a type club exists for your make and model aircraft, it should be searchable on the Internet. Some make, model, or category clubs provide lists of available instructors.

Once you find someone interested in providing make and model training, either in that person’s aircraft or your aircraft, you need to make sure that person is qualified, current, and competent in the make and model. If you are using that person’s experimental aircraft and you are being charged for the training, ask that person to show you his or her Letter of Deviation Authority (LODA). To be issued a LODA, the instructor had to develop and submit a complete training package to the FAA. You should expect the instructor to use an FAA-accepted training program to ensure the quality of your training. You may also want to ask the instructor for references, such as former trainees, so you can contact them for their evaluation of the instructor.

It is your training, and your money. Use both wisely.

Although it may look like any other airplane, pilots thinking about flying any type of experimental aircraft should “learn” how to fly the experimental aircraft with a qualified instructor onboard or in a similar type aircraft.

H. Dean Chamberlain is an Aviation Safety Analyst in Flight Standards Service’s General Aviation and Commercial Division. He is a Commercial Single and Multiengine Land and Sea rated pilot, a Commercial Glider pilot, a Certificated Flight Instructor Airplane Single and Multiengine and Instrument, and an aircraft owner.