FAA consolidates and updates sim requirements

 - December 6, 2006, 9:45 AM

The FAA has adopted its four-year-old proposed rule to revise simulator and flight training device (FTD) requirements and consolidate them into a new FAR Part 60.  The new rule, which has been under discussion for more than four years, is slated to go into effect next October and gives those affected until 2013 to be in full compliance.

According to the FAA, the purpose of the new regulation is to establish qualification requirements for flight simulation training devices (FSTD). The new Part 60 consolidates and updates FSTD requirements that exist in different parts of the FAA’s regulations and in advisory circulars.

In addition, the FAA is requiring that sponsors of FSTDs have a quality-management system. The FAA says the changes are necessary to promote standardization and accountability for FSTD qualification, maintenance and evaluation. The intended effect of the new part is to ensure that FSTD users receive training in devices that closely match the performance and handling characteristics of the aircraft being simulated.

John Frasca, vice president of Frasca International, a flight-training device and flight simulator OEM, told AIN he thinks the new FAR Part 60 will be good for the industry. “I think this is a positive move because over the years a hodgepodge of advisory circulars has been issued that will now be consolidated into a single document. In addition, [the agency is] also clarifying some engineering requirements.”

Part 60 will cover the current Levels 4 through 6 FTDs and the four flight-simulator levels. The rule proposes that Level 1 through 3 FTDs are to be handled by AFS-800 in Washington via yet another advisory circular titled “Basic Aviation Training Devices and Advanced Aviation Training Devices.” While Part 60 will continue to focus more on fidelity issues and engineering requirements, the new advisory circular, aimed at generic devices, will focus on acceptable use versus technical capability. These devices have historically been used by university and other ab initio flight-training programs.

The weight of the law might have prompted the interest in establishing a new FAR part. It is fairly common knowledge that the FAA’s legal department has never liked the idea of regulating by advisory circular, which is essentially what has long controlled the manufacture and use of FTDs and simulators.

The one area of contention remains the requirement for a quality assurance program. While the airlines and the major simulation training centers have always had such programs, the ab initio flight schools might find the new rules costly to implement.