3 FAA Regulations That Could Use an Overhaul

At the end of last year airline passengers rejoiced as the FAA lifted a rule that banned the use of electronic devices below 10,000 feet during takeoff and landing. The FAA received great criticism over the years that the rule was outdated. Many argued that cost was the reason the FAA was reluctant to go through the process of changing the regulation. This conversation led us to wonder: Are there other FAA regulations that could use an overhaul and directly affect general aviation?

While hard to pinpoint the most dreadful or outdated regulations-- thanks to the very lengthy FAA guidelines-- we got some help from the readers over at the Aircraft Journal where they left their thoughts in the comments section of this article: The Great Debate: The worst FAA regulation is…

Here are three outdated FAA regulations that could use updating:

1. 3rd Class Medical Certificate

In order to fly an aircraft solo you need to obtain a medical certificate. This is done by passing a medical exam with an FAA authorized aviation examiner. There are different classes based on the type of flying you will do but student pilots, recreational pilots, and private pilots still must receive a 3rd-class medical certificate.  

For many general aviation and private pilots this regulation is one that’s hard to understand.  Medical certificates are not required to drive yourself, friends or family in a car, which is arguably more dangerous than flying a plane. So why does the FAA regulate this for flight?

As access to flying grows there are many limitations that keeping this medical certification in its current form, bring to light. For example, you cannot operate an aircraft if you take certain medications, which is troublesome for many pilots. And while passing this medical exam may seem like more of a nuisance than a roadblock, for general aviation pilots 3rd class medical certificates act more as another layer of red tape than on added safety precaution.

State Reps. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.) and Sam Graves (R-Mo.) agree. According to this article inGeneral Aviation News they’ve introduced a bill that seeks to abolish third-class medical certificates for pilots who fly recreationally and only require a valid driver’s license for flights meeting certain requirements.

2. Part 23 - Small Aircraft Certification Compliance

It is not surprising that the FAA regulates commercial jetliners to ensure certain equipment standards are being met. However, the same can’t be said for general aviation aircraft. With cost often being named as a barrier to entry into general aviation, small aircraft certification compliance only bolsters that argument. As it stands, small aircraft certification compliance currently prohibits aircraft owners from adding safety features without going through a prescriptive set of regulations and approvals. Further, highly specific safety objectives don’t currently cover more modern technology making the process for approvals difficult and costly for small aircraft owners.

Rob Hackman, AOPA vice president of regulatory affairs shared in this article “The current system often discourages aircraft owners from installing many of these safety enhancing devices due to costs, length of process, or simply because they are not currently allowable.”

Current compliance certification programs are costly and make it difficult for pilots and aircraft owners to install new safety enhancements because of the certification requirements. This leaves many wondering if these processes and regulations are pushing general aviation towards a slow death. Why?  Compliance regs have greatly contributed to the growing costs of general aviation. 

Luckily, changes may already be on the horizon. On July 26th, the FAA released a report by its Part 23 Reorganization Aviation Rule making Committee (ARC) following an 18-month study that examined how to reform aircraft certification. The ARC recommendations are centered on making new airplanes safer, improving existing fleets, and reducing certification costs.  

3. Private Pilots Can’t Fly for Hire

There are rules and regulations around private pilots that prevent them from getting paid to fly people for hire. You can get paid to drive people down the road in a car, but not to fly people through  the air? As the airline industry grows and people’s needs change this is another rule that seems to be becoming quickly outdated.

The cost to own, operate, and maintain aircraft is extremely high and pilots in the industry are feeling its effects. If you run a flight school, are a flight instructor, or a private pilot you are likely looking for ways to maximize the return on your investments. The rule that prevents private pilots from flying for hire is hurting the industry because it puts limits on another source of income. We talked before about the sharing economy and the impact this could have on the business of flight. Will this rule prohibit the sharing economy from taking off (pun intended)? And given the growing access to flight does it make sense to update this rule and allow private pilots to fly for hire?