Flight Reviews, Currency requirements, and Aviation Medical during the COVID-19 Pandemic

If you have taken the stay-at-home rules of the Hawaii Governor seriously you may be out of currency for almost all of part 61 requirements by now. The FAA recognizes that the COVID-19 pandemic is putting undue strain on pilots and has issued a Special Federal Aviation Regulation (SFAR) to provide “regulatory relief to persons who have been unable to comply with certain training, recent experience, testing, and checking requirements due to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID–19) outbreak“.

Notably, the FAA provides a three-month leniency period for flight reviews required under FAR §61.56(c): “The three calendar month extension applies to pilots who were current to act as PIC of an aircraft in March 2020 and whose flight review was due in March 2020 through June 2020. To mitigate any safety risk, the pilot must have logged at least 10 hours of PIC time within the twelve calendar months preceding the month the flight review was due. […] In addition, eligible pilots will need to complete FAA Safety Team online courses totaling at least three WINGS credits. The courses must have been completed in January 2020 or later to meet this requirement.”

There are concerns that insurance companies may not cover liability cases unless the pilot in command has completed all requirements of FAR § 61.56(c). It is advisable that you obtain confirmation from your insurance in writing if you fall under this SFAR exemption. 

Importantly, the FAA does not provide relief from the recent flight experience requirements to carry passengers under FAR § 61.57. However, the requirement to have logged 6 approaches, holds and tasks, and intercepting and tracking courses through the use of navigational electronic systems under actual or simulated instrument conditions to act as PIC in instrument meteorological conditions has been extended by three months. In addition, to be eligible for this relief, the pilot must have logged at least three approaches in the past six months. Eligible pilots may exercise the relief in this SFAR through June 30, 2020. After that date, a pilot must be current in accordance with § 61.57(c).

The FAA already provided relief from the necessity to maintain a current medical certificate under the extraordinary circumstances surrounding the COVID–19 outbreak. For medical certificates that expire from March 31, 2020 through May 31, 2020, the FAA is extending the validity period of these medical certificates to June 30, 2020.

The SFAR contains a range of additional situations that are subject to exemptions, including the validity period of written exams, and commercial operations. It is a wordy document but you are well advised to read it carefully if you fall under any of the currency limitations described above. Also, consider any state rules concerning essential activities before you get behind the yoke/stick of an aircraft.

Posted in GACH.

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