Part 107 Rules (Part one)

Or, just wait for the other shoe to drop.

First, let’s go back a few decades, OK a lot of decades. WW-I pilots were coming home to the US and the era of Barnstorming began. For a dollar or two the pilot would take you up for a few minutes of flight in his surplus airplane. For five dollars he would teach you to fly. Before long there were a bunch of poorly trained and poorly maintained airplanes taking poorly informed people up for rides. Too often, these rides ended in a fatal crash.

Congress reacted by creating the Civil Aviation Authority and passed laws to promote aviation commerce and safety. One of those laws requires that any aircraft flown in commerce be piloted by a certificated operator and that the aircraft be maintained by certificated mechanic. The logic is that when a paying passenger gets into an airplane, they don’t know the pilot nor how well maintained the aircraft is. Certification of aircraft and airmen is how the government assures that when you buy an airline ticket, the pilot and mechanic’s meet at least the minimum standards of education and experience.

That’s how things have worked for the past Century. To fly for compensation you needed a commercial pilot certificate. Today, unmanned aircraft are entering the commercial space. The unmanned aircraft got cheaper and easier to fly and now there are thousands of them flying in commercial airspace. (And many thousands more are flown by hobbyists). When Congress passed the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (FMRA), it directed the FAA to integrate unmanned aircraft into the National Airspace System. Section 333 of the FMRA gave the Secretary of Transportation the authority to grant exemptions to existing FAA rules for certificated pilots to fly small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) in commerce.

The FAA recognized that learning to fly a manned aircraft to operate an unmanned sUAS was overkill. In order to comply with the FMRA and their original mission of promoting aviation commerce, the FAA proposed the Part 107 rules. The Part 107 rules introduces a new class of Airman’s Certificate that only requires a written examination. No flight time and you don’t need to learn to land a Cessna. (Though, getting a few hours in a Cessna with an instructor will greatly add to your aeronautical knowledge).

No one has seen the final rule as it hasn’t been published yet, but there are indications that it could come in early to mid-2016 with an effective date 30- to 90-days later. Shortly after the Part 107 rules are effective, the other shoe will drop. (I’ll explain in another post what “the other shoe” is).

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