AOPA, EAA Step In To Protect Warbird Training


Appreciating that an adverse ruling by a federal judge could provide an inaccurate picture of the role of compensation in flight training, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, the Experimental Aircraft Association and other trade groups have filed a “friend of the court” brief in a case between Warbird Adventures and the FAA. The FAA says that Warbird Adventures, which provides flight training in a range of aircraft, including those without traditional type certificates, has been illegally flying these limited-category aircraft for compensation or hire. 

According to AOPA, the amicus brief “is designed to help the judge understand the broader issue of compensation for hire as it relates to flight training.” Justine Harrison, AOPA’s general counsel who is also representing ICAS, NAFI, and NATA in the case, said, “We don’t want broad language in a judge’s decision, which could lead to restrictions with sweeping effects on flight instruction, including the creation of barriers for owners of limited category aircraft to receive training in their own airplanes.” 

“Legal rulings and interpretations involving the Federal Aviation Regulations can have unpredictable outcomes,” said Sean Elliott, EAA Vice President of Advocacy and Safety. “In joining and helping to write this brief, we aim to ensure that the ruling in this case does not have far-reaching consequences for warbird and homebuilt owners. It is vital that nothing hinders the rights of these owners to train in their own aircraft.” EAA also says that “Recent FAA statements contain language that implies that all training in Limited category aircraft, compensated or not, requires an exemption,” said the groups in the joint statement. “Such an interpretation has not been previously articulated or enforced by the FAA, but if the court were to approve of such an interpretation of the applicable rules, it would devastate the warbird community.”

Limited-category aircraft are often warbirds that were produced without an airworthiness certificate, which restricts their ability to be used for compensation or hire. The named associations, which include AOPA, EAA, NAFI, ICAS, GAMA and the North American Trainers Association, “are not weighing in on the merits of the petitioner’s argument. Rather, the brief seeks to provide the judge with essential background to make an appropriately limited decision based on the key questions of the case and nothing more,” they said in a joint statement.

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KITPLANES Editor in Chief Marc Cook has been in aviation journalism for more than 30 years. He is a 4000-hour instrument-rated, multi-engine pilot with experience in nearly 150 types. He’s completed two kit aircraft, an Aero Designs Pulsar XP and a Glasair Sportsman 2+2, and currently flies a 2002 GlaStar.

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  1. Love how the FAA makes everything about protecting us all from profit incentives yet cares not that the amount of profit or wage is so often below the market rate of the individuals involved as to make the activity a virtual loss.

    If you can make $100 an hour with your primary vocation, are you really going to make bad safety decisions to avoid losing a $30 an hour flight? Seriously? I understand it’s really hard to make rules that are enforceable, but incentives should work for the regulators as well. Let’s stop allowing them incentives to stop activities we all love so their jobs can be easy and safe. Reminds me of the bureaucrat they caught holding up DC traffic everyday by blocking the passing lane at the speed limit. They investigated to find he actually had not done his job for years.

    His job was to give exceptions to regulations.

      • In the world of government agencies, no one is rewarded for taking chances or thinking outside the rules box. You maintain your upward mobility by turning down any request or proposal that requires you to make a decision that might be viewed as questioning the status quo. Thus, “no” becomes the standard response if it requires an interpretation of the rules.

        I find it interesting that the agency charged with maintaining the safe operation of all aircraft deems it illegal for an owner to get training in his/her aircraft that would make them a safer pilot. It’s okay for a private citizen to own and fly a non-certified aircraft, but they can’t legally learn how to fly it safely.

  2. Is THIS what it’s now down to … judges slicing and dicing FAR’s semantically trying to understand what some faceless (and often mindless) FAA bureaucrat intended? Whatever happened to using logic, proportion and good ‘ol common sense? We’re paying BIG bucks to the people within FAA — and THEIR lawyers — to “steer” the dwindling masses of aviators and the business of aviation yet the mythical “they” have to then use judges to interpret what they meant and to enforce sovereignty over their dominions!! Geesh!

    That AOPA and EAA are just going to file an Amicus brief as opposed to something more tangible is likewise telling. While I get that it’s desirable to choose which battles to fight and often easier to catch bees with honey vs. vinegar, SOMETIMES use of vinegar is necessary to teach a bee a lesson.

    Just this week I was thinking that I’m going to challenge Jack Pelton at next year’s Airventure EAA General Membership meeting — I HOPE it happens — on exactly that subject … acting too meek and without urgency in their dealings with the FAA. In much the same way as the masses are now turning against arbitrary and ridiculous Governmental enforcement of illogical Covid rules depriving them of their individual liberties and livelihoods, I believe it’s time for aviators to — likewise — turn against an overarching FAA who often doesn’t know who’s on first or what’s on second. If you don’t agree with me, all you have to do is think about how THEY managed the 737Max certification. I’m rooting for Warbird Adventures and laud them for fighting the good fight. It’s time for more of that from all of us. Lead, follow or at least get the heck outta our way!