Time Spent Observing or Resting May Not Count Towards Operating Experience

sleeping-pilot2In a recent legal interpretation, the FAA clarified the permissible methods by which pilots in command (PICs) and second in command (SICs) may log operating experience pursuant to FAR 121.434.  Subsection 121.434(c) sets forth the parameters by which PICs and SICs may gain operating experience.  Paragraph (c)(l)(i) specifically provides that a PIC “must perform the duties of a pilot in command under the supervision of a check pilot,” and paragraph (c)(2) specifies that a SIC “must perform the duties of a second in command under the supervision of an appropriately qualified check pilot” to acquire operating experience.

In 1995, the FAA amended the operating experience requirements of FAR 121.434 in response to a series of accidents that had occurred at least, in part, due to the inexperience of flightcrew members.   As part of the amended rule, the option allowing SIC’s to earn operating experience through observation was removed from the regulation.

In its legal interpretation, the FAA concluded that the plain language of the regulation, as well as the rulemaking history, require that PICs and SICs must actually be “seated at the controls of the airplane” and “perform the duties required of a PIC or SIC” to acquire operating experience.  Accordingly, time spent by a pilot while not seated at the controls, including time spent resting, cannot be counted to satisfy the pilot operating experience requirements of FAR 121.434 for a PIC or SIC.