Rulemaking is a Pain


Although I’ve never been involved in rulemaking, I can understand why it is a thorn in the side for a regulatory agency. Recently proposed changes for use of simulator time towards an instrument rating make a perfect example.

Since the 1980’s, the amount of time an applicant could use in an aviation training device (ATD, although that is not what they were called at the time) towards an instrument rating was included in the letter of authorization (LOA) approving the device. This was based on guidance in advisory circulars.

In 2009, the FAA added ATD time to part 61 experience requirements for the first time. The new regulation limited ATD time to a total of 10 hours. This limit was lower than what was allowed by many ATD LOAs. To fix this discrepancy, the FAA had to issue a notice of policy requiring issuance of new LOAs for ATDs to align them with the regulatory limit of 10 hours.

To alleviate the discrepancy between the historical credit allowed under LOAs and the 2009 regulations, the agency issued a direct final rule in 2014 increasing allowable ATD time to 20 hours. Unfortunately, direct final rules can only take effect if there are no objections. Guess what? Out of 20 comments received, two were objections.

Fast forward to 2015, and the FAA currently has a notice of proposed rulemaking responding to the objections and proposing the same changes as originally submitted in the direct final rule.

What was really just a regulatory house-cleaning when it began has now been a six-year process. I don’t blame the FAA for wanting to avoid that when possible.


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