Industry Groups Blast FAA Policy on Flight Simulators

Industry groups are sounding alarms over a surprise change to the FAA's longstanding policy toward GA flight simulators that one organization says will diminish many pilots' ability to receive adequate training.

In the policy reversal issued on January 2, the FAA said it plans to rescind all Letters of Authorization for general aviation flight simulators starting in 2015. The agency explained that many flight simulator approvals grandfathered under the LOA process have no expiration date and may not comply with new guidelines issued in 2008 covering approved Basic Aviation Training Devices (BATD) and Advanced Aviation Training Devices (AATD). The FAA has been issuing flight simulator LOAs for more than 30 years.

GA simulators affected by the FAA policy change will include virtually all Personal Computer Aviation Training Devices (PCATD), Flight Training Devices (FTD) and some BATDs and AATDs. The change will limit pilots to the FAR Part 61.65(i) maximum of 10 hours of simulator time loggable toward an instrument rating. Some LOAs for GA simulators allow as many as 20 hours of simulator training to count toward an instrument rating.

"This proposed policy change will take away much of the incentive for pilots to improve their skills in a better classroom than a noisy cockpit," said Doug Stewart, executive director of Society of Aviation and Flight Educators (SAFE), a group that is opposing the policy.

SAFE is asking the FAA to abandon the proposed policy change, arguing that it will prevent pilots from gaining the safety benefits of simulator training. The FAA hasn't responded to the organization's request, but points out in its explanation of the change that simulator makers will be able to apply for new LOAs after January 1, 2015.

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