Some good news regarding a recent legal interpretation from the FAA Office of Chief Legal Counsel (AGC) regarding the issue that training was not currently allowed by State, Local, Tribal and Territory (SLTT) Governments as part Public Aircraft Operations. This prohibited agencies from training with aircraft that were public aircraft and did not hold a civil airworthiness certificate. The ability to train with the specific aircraft and equipment that a government agency will use operationally for events, such as wildfires, is essential for safe operations in the National Airspace.
On November 12, 2021, AGC reconsidered their interpretation of 49 USC 40125 to include limited training as a qualified public aircraft operation by non-federal entities. This means that qualified non-federal entities can now do some limited training under their Certificate of Authorization (COA) as a Public Aircraft Operation (PAO). The training is limited to their own aircraft and their own crews and mission training for missions that meet the governmental function requirement. Training of another entity’s crews or on non-owned aircraft is not a PAO function.
Huge thanks to the FAA’s Deputy Associate Administrator for Security and Hazardous Materials Safety (ASH) Tonya Coultas for working with the FAA’s Public Aircraft Attorney Karen Petronis (AGC) to clarify the issue which resulted in the interpretation that now allows SLTT to now train with their public aircraft. I have attached a copy of the legal interpretation to this email and it can also be found at: https://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/agc/practice_areas/regulations/interpretations/data/interps/2021/Public_Aircraft_Training_Flights%20-%202021%20Legal%20Interpretation.pdf
If you have questions about what all this means, please feel free to reach out to me.
Keep safe and well,
Michael K. O’Shea
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Aviation Safety (AVS)
Program Manager/Public Safety Liaison
Safety and Integration Division, AUS-400
Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Office