What to Expect When the NPRM Finally Comes

With the expectation of “something” coming from the FAA by the “end of December” which were based on rumors from supposedly “reliable” sources evaporating and being replaced by still more rumors about the date of January 25th, we might want to turn to thinking about what we can expect in the NPRM (Notice of Proposed Rule Making) whenever it eventually materializes.

Whether it comes in January (25th?) or at some later date, based on the list of regulations listed in the requests for Section #333 exemptions, we might expect the proposed rules would reflect modifications of the following:

14 C.F.R. Part 21; (Aircraft certification requirements)
14 C.F.R. 45.23(b); (“N” numbers and markings
14 C.F.R. 61.113(a) & (b); (Private pilots operating for hire – this exemption is key)
14 C.F.R. 61.133(a); (Commercial pilots as related to above)
14 C.F.R. 91.7(a);    (Foreign aircraft operators —?)
14 C.F.R. 91.9(b)(2) & (c);  (Flight manuals, placards)
14 C.F.R. 91.103;  (pre-flight)
14 C.F.R. 91.109(a); (Dual controls for instruction)
14 C.F.R. 91.119;14  (Safe altitudes over obstacles)
C.F.R. 91.151(a);   (Fuel minimums)
14 C.F.R. 91.203(a) & (b); (Maintenance inspections)
14 C.F.R. 91.405(a);  (Maintenance related)
14 C.F.R. 91.407(a)(1); (Maintenance related)
14 C.F.R. 91.409(a)(2); (Airworthy certificates – another key issue)
14 C.F.R. 91.417(a). (Maintenance record keeping)

In most cases the changes are a matter of modifying the wording to adjust to the differences between full size and smaller aircraft, such as the size and location of N numbers, allowing flights for hire, exempting electric aircraft from 30/45 minute fuel minimums, adding designations for observers, and addressing the issue of airworthy certificates which are currently being handled as “amateur built” or “experimental”.  Some are simple to address, such as 14 C.F.R. 91.9(b)(2) & (c), as DroneGilrl points out/  which requires ‘”flight manual available in the aircraft”.  A logical solution is for the PIC to have the manual in possession when flying.

In addition, provisions would need to be made to address pilot certification and testing as well as medical requirements. The ultimate solution is to add a specific written test for UAV operation, but in the interim it can be expected that the FAA will accept passing the PAR test for private pilots but without the necessity of obtaining a full Private Pilot license. At some point it is logical that licensed Private Pilots would need to pass a certification for UAS.

Changing rules means presenting proposed rules, opening public comment for, perhaps, 60 to 90 days, and more time to implement those rules. The rule changes would then need to be reflected in publications beginning with the Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge, which would then be sent out to contractors (CATS) to be incorporated in the testing process. The publications would need to wait for their normal publication schedules.

Since a licensed pilot can’t fly an unlicensed aircraft, the aircraft registration process will be flooded with new applications, and while UAV applications are currently enjoying priority treatment, that process would likely become stressed or overloaded. By the way, it’s not all that easy to get some of the larger companies to cooperate with the requirement to provide a signed and notarized bill of sale document (Form 8050-2).

Then there would be the matter of setting training standards and designating certified flight instructors to verify that training.

It is clear that no matter what, this process will take time, and the horror stories of September 2015 may become more like sweet dreams.

During the granting of the most recent granting of exemptions for motion picture aerial video it was hinted that there were objections from within the FAA that granting those exemptions overlooked safety concerns,particularly with regard to airworthiness standards. Those objections, possibly combined with uncertainty about the passage of the budget bill, could have been behind putting of any announcements from the FAA past the rumored December 2014 release.

If those internal objections can be satisfied we could see further exemptions granted for agricultural uses, responding to strong pressures from that segment, pushing action on actual rule changes further away. If not, the granting of further objections could come to a stop.

But all that could change if, for example, there were to be some type of incident involving an actual collision of a UAV with a regular aircraft. Then the realization of the worst fears could prompt a public and political demands for action. In that event, the FAA would be forced to proceed with measures that would turn up the heat on the whole issue of UAVs in general.

Let’s hope the FAA can start to show some visible progress before anything like that happens. In the meantime the FAA is like the duck: appearing serene while paddling like crazy below the surface.

CoverMockUpKindleThe Droner’s Guide can provide the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle pilot (“Droner”) with a good collection of  resources, guidance and commentary. The material ranges from beginner safety tips and practice exercises to preparation and requirements for FAA licensing and aircraft registration to applying for a Section #333 COA. This little book has a lot more than you expect.