USHPA’s FAA Tandem Exemption 4721, which allows certified member pilots to legally fly tandem, was renewed on October 17th, 2018 with an effective date of November 1st. The exemption includes important amendments concerning recreational tandems, which will significantly impact Tandem 1-rated pilots, and new FAA training materials, which will affect Tandem Instructors. The current exemption language as issued is available here.
The FAA did not inform us of these intended changes before issuing the exemption renewal. We understand the effect on tandem pilots and are currently in discussion with the FAA about these amendments and potential revisions.
All tandem pilots must be aware of the following changes:
1. Recreational flights
The FAA has added the following limitation: “All flights operating under this exemption must be for training purposes only.” This condition disallows purely recreational tandem flights between Tandem 1s and H1/P1 pilots and above. T1s will no longer be allowed to fly recreational tandems with other pilots after October 31st. Under the current wording, this also means that Tandem 1 pilots may only fly tandem with Tandem Instructor-rated pilots after October 31st.
Unfortunately, the amendments do not appear to leave room to keep the Tandem 1 program in its current form. We are working with the FAA on revising the exemption language to allow T1s (as Tandem Instructor candidates) to complete the Tandem Instructor training prerequisites with other rated pilots instead of requiring a Tandem Instructor for each flight. The FAA recognizes the burden of requiring every training flight to be with a Tandem Instructor and has expressed a willingness to work with us on this.
2. Training materials
As part of the instructional requirement, the FAA has specified training materials to be used for tandem students. The exemption states, “There is no training program requirement found in part 103, so training should provide sufficient understanding of information provided in the FAA Pilots Handbook and Powered Parachute Handbook as applicable to part 103 operations.”
To comply with the new training materials requirement, we will be providing tandem instructors with a web page with training resources, including these FAA documents. They will be able to direct students to this page as part of their training prior to their arriving for their instructional flight. We ask that they please integrate the part 103 relevant aspects of these materials into all tandem instructional training.
We regret the effect these amendments will have on tandem pilots, particularly Tandem 1s, and apologize for the changes and the short notice. We are working to reach a feasible solution with the FAA as quickly as possible. Once discussions and revisions with the FAA have concluded, we will email and post an update on the final outcome and impact to our tandem program.