New license requirements make skies friendlier for new pilots

New license requirements make skies friendlier for new pilots

Chris Price

Taking to the skies is a lot easier now that new rules require only 20 hours of flight training and a valid driver’s license to earn a license to fly light aircraft.

Flight school officials say they expect their business to take off.

The Federal Aviation Administration will begin issuing a sport pilot license Sept. 1 that cuts training time in half and allows a driver’s license to replace the need for a medical certification as long as a pilot does not have a medical history with the FAA.

Additionally, the FAA will issue certifications for lightweight sport aircraft.

We want to make aviation safe and affordable for recreational pilots, said FAA Administrator Marion C. Blakey. This sport pilot, light sport aircraft rule reduces the barriers to becoming a pilot and an aircraft owner while assuring that safety will always be the priority.

The FAA expects 15,000 people to qualify for the sport pilot certification next year and hopes to certify 12,000 pilots and new aircraft over the next 10 years. In 2003, the FAA issued 21,922 private pilots licenses.

Estimates range from $57.7 million to $220.3 million for the potential business impact of new licenses and planes.

The new requirements have already piqued the interest of potential New Orleans aviators.

It’s just been approved but I’ve already started receiving calls from people who are interested, said Anqur Hukmani, owner of the Flight Academy of New Orleans. It’s going to bring us a lot of business.

Randolph Taylor, director of aviation at Lakefront Airport, said the new classification will increase airport traffic and stimulate interest in flight school. Since 9/11, we’ve lost a lot of our smaller aircraft traffic and flight school traffic because insurance has been higher, he said.

Officials said the new classifications should not raise concerns about terrorism. Flight schools are more concerned with their training and they’re taking the proper steps to ensure safety, Taylor said. They conduct background checks and if anything suspicious comes up, it is turned over to the proper authorities.

Terry Ebbert, director of the New Orleans Office of Homeland Security and Public Safety said, I don’t think there is any concern because the whole reporting system has been increased in terms of oversight. Everything from aircraft sales to training in flight schools is covered by homeland security directives.

The new rules are aimed at reducing the red tape involved with earning a private pilot’s license, which requires 40 hours of training and medical approval by a FAA-approved physician. The new rules make it easier for recreational flyers to earn their wings and should also give the general aviation community better access to insurance, financing and airports.

This allows people at the entry level who want to fly an opportunity to get licensed under the standards and basic qualifications set by the FAA, said Ray Stinchcomb, manager of the general aviation and commercial division of the FAA.

The new certifications will allow pilots to fly low-powered, single engine personal aircraft weighing 254 pounds up to 1,320 pounds capable of a maximum airspeed in level flight of 120 knots. Sport pilot certificate holders will be able to fly at altitudes up to 10,000 feet during the day and in good visibility with one passenger.

People who are interested in flying will be able to because this gives them an affordable option, said Sandra Gardner, media representative for the FAA Flight Standards Service. In the past they may have thought flying would be too expensive but this eliminates that.

Gardner said licensing and training will cost about $2,500. Lightweight planes average between $15,000 and $60,000 depending on the options, she said.

Because the aircraft are smaller and less expensive, there will be correspondingly lower plane prices, insurance and rental fees, said Chris Dancy, director of news media and public relations for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.

It means pilots who left aviation because of the expense may have a way to get back into it, Dancy said. Likewise, people who are interested in aviation, but who have been put off by the cost of learning to fly may now have a more attractive, less expensive way to enjoy flying.

Dancy said the sport certification’s elimination of the medical examination will have a profound impact on pilots.

That will really help people who have let their medical certification lapse because they may have started a family or couldn’t afford to fly, he said. They can get a sport pilot’s license, avoiding the time and expense of getting an FAA medical certification.

Copyright 2004 Dolan Media Newswires

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