Sarah Deener AOPA
FAA Offers Tips for Pilots Making a Switch
July 14, 2015
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  • Whether you’re stepping up to something faster, making the switch to an experimental aircraft, or renting a familiar model airplane with different avionics, transitioning to an unfamiliar aircraft involves risk. The FAA offers tips for mitigating risk during that transition in an updated Advisory Circular 90-109A – “Transition to Unfamiliar Aircraft” released June 29.

    The updated advisory circular expands an earlier version that had been focused on experimental aircraft to make it applicable “to owners and pilots of experimental, simple, complex, high-performance, and/or unfamiliar airplanes.” AOPA, which helped develop the guidance in the advisory circular, recommended broadening its scope and incorporated information from the circular into an interactive online course released in March.

    The Air Safety Institute’s online course Transitioning to Other Airplanes, like the advisory circular, guides pilots through considerations for various types of transition training, including common pitfalls, for aircraft grouped by performance and handling characteristics. Transition training addresses one factor in accidents involving loss of control, a topic of educational efforts by the FAA and of concern by the NTSB in 2015.

    “One of the most exciting things a pilot can do is fly different types of aircraft,” said Air Safety Institute Senior Vice President George Perry. “Each different airplane teaches us something and opens up a world of new possibilities. However, we can’t just jump in with both feet. When transitioning to a new aircraft, there are risks inherent in unfamiliarity and we as pilots should be aware of those risks. Both the FAA advisory circular and Air Safety InstituteTransitioning to other Airplanes online course offer some great guidance to help guide pilots through the process.”

    AOPA, the Experimental Aircraft Association, and other groups participated in a “tabletop” group that developed guidance for the advisory circular. The association recommended expanding the scope of the advisory circular in a 2014 letter to the FAA Airmen Certification and Training Branch, noting that recommended changes would make it “more applicable to all types of transition—regardless if it is up, down, or sideways on a performance matrix.”

    The advisory circular complements AC 90-89, “Amateur-Built Aircraft and Ultralight Flight Testing Handbook,” which is for the testing of newly built experimental aircraft.