FAA Proposes Training, Certification for Powered Lift Pilots

The proposed rule is the latest step toward advanced air mobility that has been under development since August.

An air taxi manufactured by Joby Aviation goes for a test flight. [Credit: Joby Aviation]

The FAA has taken another step toward enabling advanced air mobility by proposing a comprehensive rule for training and certifying pilots of powered-lift aircraft.

According to the FAA, new rules are necessary because many of the proposed aircraft takeoff and land like helicopters, but fly like airplanes en route. The powered-lift proposed rule is designed to provide clarity to pilots and the industry on what the requirements will be to operate these aircraft.

As proposed, the new rule will establish a clear pathway for pilots to earn powered-lift rating specific to the type of aircraft they are flying. For example, pilots who work for powered-lift aircraft manufacturers could serve as the initial cadre of flight instructors, who could then train instructors at flight schools, training centers, and air carriers.

In addition, the FAA is proposing alternate eligibility criteria that would enable certain pilots to meet flight-time experience requirements faster if the pilot already holds a commercial pilot certificate and instrument rating.

Under the proposal, powered-lift aircraft will be required to follow the same set of operating rules as traditional aircraft currently used in private and commercial flights, and air tours.

The proposal, as written, would conform to International Civil Aviation Organization requirements, enabling U.S. pilots to operate in other countries.

The proposed rule is set to publish in the Federal Register on June 16, launching a 60-day comment period.

The proposed rule is the latest milestone in a path that has been under development since August. Last month the FAA released an updated blueprint for airspace and procedure changes to accommodate future air taxis. Under the blueprint air taxis will use existing routes and infrastructure such as helipads and early vertiports. In addition, pilots will communicate with air traffic controllers if required in that airspace.

As the number of air taxi operations increase, air taxis will be expected to fly in corridors between major airports and vertiports in city centers. The complexity of the corridors may increase over time from single, one-way paths to routes serving multiple flows of aircraft flying in both directions.
The FAA developed the blueprint with NASA and industry stakeholders.

 “These proposed rules of the sky will safely usher in this new era of aviation and provide the certainty the industry needs to develop,” said Acting Associate Administrator for Aviation Safety David Boulter. 

Meg Godlewski has been an aviation journalist for more than 24 years and a CFI for more than 20 years. If she is not flying or teaching aviation, she is writing about it. Meg is a founding member of the Pilot Proficiency Center at EAA AirVenture and excels at the application of simulation technology to flatten the learning curve. Follow Meg on Twitter @2Lewski.

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