FAA Proposes Removing Area Proficiency Requirements for Experimental/Exhibition Warbirds
    By David Sakrison

    Current FAA regulations covering civilian-owned and -operated military and surplus aircraft are based on the assumption that these aircraft will be flown for exhibition purposes only, not simply used for personal transportation. The regulations allow certain aircraft to operate only within a specified distance from their home airports. Turbine-powered aircraft, like the T-34, can currently operate only 600 miles from their home bases. Piston-powered aircraft, including some WWII warbirds, are limited to operating within 300 miles of home. (FAA regulations do permit straight-line flights of longer distances to reach air shows or for maintenance or proficiency training.)

    EAA Warbirds of America (WOA) has been involved in a "continuing dialog" with the FAA to try to ease those area restrictions for qualified pilots, said WOA Executive Director Bill Fischer. There was good news for the Warbirds this week at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh.

    "The FAA continues to stress that some warbirds in civilian operation are intended for exhibition and not for personal transport," Fischer told AirVenture Today, "but they have conceded that lifting the area restrictions will not affect the safety of the pilots or the public. The FAA has proposed removing the proficiency area requirements currently in place for warbirds. It will mean that a civilian pilot who flies a military or surplus aircraft can fly it anywhere that a civil aircraft can go."

    The proposal is included in an FAA document titled "Program Plan for Oversight of Vintage, Surplus, and Experimental Aircraft," more commonly known as the "FAA Road Map." The Road Map is a statement of intent and guide that projects the things that will need to be done over the next several years to preserve and promote general aviation and maintain and improve GA safety.

    Fischer explained that many FAA experts have retired in recent years, and the FAA’s overall level of expertise has declined with respect to vintage, surplus, and experimental aircraft. "They are looking for the general aviation community to provide input," Fischer said, and the Road Map is one mechanism for ensuring a dialogue between the FAA and general aviation. It is constantly evolving in response to ongoing conversations between the FAA and organizations like EAA.

    "We want to ensure that warbird pilots have proper training and that
    they are given standardized checkrides," said Fischer. "We also want to remove the barriers to owning and flying these aircraft while keeping them as safe as possible."

    With the FAA Road Map as a framework, the warbird community has been working and talking extensively with the FAA Flight Standards Service and other FAA offices for several years. "It’s a cooperative effort," Fischer said, and EAA Warbirds of America has been a key player, facilitating meetings and bringing other warbird groups to the table. "AirVenture provides an excellent opportunity for all the warbird groups to interact and to speak with one voice," he said.

    The WOA also participates in the EAA/FAA Aviation Summit Meeting, held each January. The annual summit anchors a structured and productive process in which the FAA and EAA work together year-round to solve the problems that are most important to the general aviation community.

    At various meetings this week between WOA officers and the FAA, the WOA received draft copies of regulation changes and a draft advisory circular, which the FAA asked the WOA to review and comment on; heard an update on recent airworthiness directives for T-34 Mentors and T-6 Texans; and discussed with the FAA some possible ways of increasing the number of qualified flight examiners for warbirds, to improve warbird operators’ access to proficiency checkrides and other safety-related services.

    "The work we—EAA and the FAA—do here at AirVenture helps to ensure good communication and cooperation," Fischer said.

    And that helps "Keep ’em Flying."



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