October 20, 2016 – The FAA is poised to greatly expand the availability of training in experimental category aircraft in a revamp of its guidance for issuing letters of deviation authority (LODA). This revamp will also streamline the LODA issuance process with the publication of an advisory circular (AC) to aid applicants.
LODAs allow experimental aircraft to be flown for compensation or for the purposes of flight training. Many are held by operators who offer type-specific transition training to current or prospective homebuilders, but LODAs are also a crucial element in training for certain areas of the light-sport community (such as gyroplanes) and for ultralight flying.
The new guidance will allow LODA holders, in certain cases, to provide endorsements to transition training students. Currently, students must hold all endorsements necessary to operate the training aircraft in the case of transition training. In addition, the empty weight limit for low mass, high drag aircraft eligible for ultralight training has been raised to 650 pounds. The guidance will also extend LODA eligibility to most designs with a maximum cruise speed of less than 87 knots, expanding the list of aircraft available for light-sport primary training.
Current LODAs for training in experimental light-sport aircraft (E-LSA) category, which in very limited cases were “grandfathered” in under the present policy, will cease to be valid under the new guidance. This was anticipated, as FAR 91.319(e)(2) set an intended date for the end of this activity as January 31, 2010, however EAA is already working on a fix. The organization stands ready to work with existing E-LSA training providers to secure an exemption from the rule to avoid an interruption in eligibility.
The improvements to this policy in the areas of transition training, ultralight training, and light-sport primary training for the lightplane segment are significant. These changes will help existing pilots fly safer and provide others with new, quality entry points to our community.