A national defense authorization bill passed by the U.S. House December 8 on a 350-80 vote includes language reflecting the advocacy work of AOPA that will eliminate an FAA policy change made in 2021 that requires pilots—and their flight instructors—to obtain a letter of deviation authority (LODA) to give or receive flight training in experimental aircraft.
Disregarding decades of precedent, the FAA changed its tune on flight training and in July 2021 issued a directive requiring certain aircraft owners and flight instructors providing flight training in experimental aircraft to obtain a LODA in order to conduct flight training.
The new policy and its requirements drew backlash and confusion from AOPA and other aviation associations who argued that the directive was nothing more than a paperwork exercise that did nothing to enhance safety—and in fact achieved quite the opposite. Following its release, nearly 40,000 pilots were grounded overnight. Even the FAA Administrator at that time, Steve Dickson, called the LODA a “four-letter word.”
AOPA championed an effort to reverse the FAA directive. With the strong support from Reps. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), Rick Larsen (D-Wash.), and Kai Kahele (D-Hawaii) and Senators Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), a provision to eliminate the LODA requirement was included in the final defense authorization bill.
“The FAA legal office has turned the definition of flight training upside down and this provision is only the first step in getting us back to where we were and where we need to be. Flight training is a safety issue and we don’t need anything that impacts that in a negative way,” said AOPA President Mark Baker. “AOPA appreciates the bipartisan effort of members of Congress and our allies in the GA community for addressing this issue. We will continue to work with our friends in Congress to take the next step and codify the definition of flight training that has been used for more than 60 years.”
The bill is expected to pass the Senate soon and arrive on the president’s desk for signature.