UPDATED: FAA amends COVID-relief for pilots


The FAA amends SFAR for COVID relief

June 26, 2020 – FAA announced amended SFAR 118-1 relief on Thursday, June 25 scheduled to publish in the federal register June 29. The update essentially extends much of the previously issued relief through September.

Regarding FAA medical certificate duration (61.23), the amended relief extends medical validity by three calendar months from original expiration which applies to medicals expiring between March and September of 2020.

Regarding knowledge test results (61.39), a three calendar month extension now applies to test results set to expire between March and September.

The unpublished amended SFAR is available here.

SFAR addresses training, proficiency and testing requirements

April 30, 2020 – FAA recently released the highly-anticipated regulatory relief package for pilots in the form of a Special Federal Aviation Regulation (SFAR). As expected, the SFAR takes immediate effect without the customary comment period. The SFAR provides regulatory relief to persons who have been unable to comply with certain requirements due to COVID-19. 

The SFAR includes the following regulations:


Medical Certificates: Requirement and Duration (§61.23)

On April 1, 2020, the FAA published an Enforcement Policy for medicals notifying the public that the Agency would not take legal enforcement action based on noncompliance with medical certificate duration standards. The policy is limited to specified certificate expiration dates of March 31 through May 31, 2020 and to operations within U.S. airspace. 

The FAA also granted two exemptions relating to the duration of medical certificates limited to operations outside U.S. airspace conducted by certain air carriers. The FAA is now granting that relief to all pilots.

And for medical certificates that expire from March 31, 2020 through May 31, 2020, the FAA is extending the validity period of these medical certificates to June 30, 2020.

In issuing the relief, the FAA emphasizes that pilots may never operate with a known medical deficiency.


Knowledge test expiration (§61.39)

For pilots with knowledge test results expiring between March 2020 and June 2020, the FAA is extending the validity of the test results by three (3) calendar months. Therefore, this SFAR will allow an individual who has a knowledge test expiring between March 2020 and June 2020 to present the expired knowledge test to show eligibility for a practical test for an additional three calendar months.


Renewal Requirements for Flight Instructor Certification (§61.197)

For flight instructors who have flight instructor certificates expiring between March 31, 2020 and May 31, 2020, the FAA is extending the validity of these flight instructor certificates until June 30, 2020. 

Therefore, under this SFAR, a flight instructor who has a certificate expiring in March, April, May, or June 2020 may submit a completed and signed application with the FAA and show satisfactory completion of one of the renewal requirements until June 30, 2020. 

A person who renews his or her flight instructor certificate during this grace period will retain the original expiration month on the flight instructor certificate. For example, if a person’s flight instructor certificate expires in March 31, 2020, and that person renews his or her flight instructor certificate in June 2020, that person’s renewed flight instructor certificate will still expire on March 31, 2022. 

After June 30, 2020, a flight instructor who holds an expired flight instructor certificate must reinstate that certificate in accordance with §61.199.

As a reminder, Sporty’s online eFIRC is available FREE of charge to satisfy your renewal requirements.


Flight Reviews and instrument currency

Additional relief for flight reviews and instrument currency applies to commercial operations, or, as a Private pilot provided the pilot has at least 500 hours of total time, 400 hours PIC, and 50 hours PIC in the last 12 months. The kinds of operations permitted are those that are:

  • incidental to business or employment
  • in support of family medical needs or to transport essential goods for personal use
  • necessary to fly an aircraft to a location in order to meet a requirement of the relief

The SFAR also extends to pilots conducting charitable medical flights for a volunteer pilot organization pursuant to an exemption issued under part 11, provided the pilots continue to comply with the conditions and limitations of the exemption. For flights conducted by private pilots, no one may be carried on the aircraft unless that person is essential to the purpose of the flight, such as when transporting doctors for the purpose of providing medical care.

Flight Review (§61.56)

FAA is granting a three (3) calendar month extension for the completion of a flight review (required every 24 calendar months) for active pilots under certain conditions. The three (3) calendar month extension applies to pilots who were current to act as PIC of an aircraft in March 2020 and whose flight review was due in March 2020 through June 2020. 

To be eligible for the extension, the pilot must have logged at least 10 hours of PIC time within the 12 calendar months preceding the month the flight review was due. This flight time must be obtained in an aircraft for which that pilot is rated. In addition, eligible pilots will need to complete FAA Safety Team online courses totaling at least three WINGS credits. The courses must have been completed in January 2020 or later to meet this requirement.

View all Sporty’s accepted WINGS courses here.

Instrument Currency (§61.57)

To be instrument current, a pilot must have performed and logged, within the six (6) calendar months preceding the month of the flight, six (6) instrument approaches, holding procedures, and intercepting and tracking courses through the use of navigational systems.

The FAA is granting a three (3) calendar month extension to the instrument currency requirement. This will enable a pilot to continue exercising instrument privileges, provided the pilot has performed the required tasks within the preceding nine (9) calendar months. 

To be eligible for the instrument currency relief, the FAA is requiring that the pilot have logged, in the preceding six (6) calendar months, three (3) instrument approaches in actual or simulated conditions. Eligible pilots may exercise this relief through June 30, 2020. After that date, a pilot must establish normal instrument currency per §61.57.


The complete SFAR which also includes relief for certain turbojet requirements and other special training regulations is available here.

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It was his first airplane trip at age seven that made Eric decide to become a pilot. "While boarding the airplane, a flight attendant noticed my interest in the flight deck and urged me to go talk to the pilot. I give a lot of credit to that pilot for my career choice." He earned a bachelor’s degree in finance and went on to an airline career. Eric now heads Sporty’s flight school and directs the University of Cincinnati’s Professional Pilot Training Program. In addition, Eric serves as a Captain in Sporty’s corporate flight department.


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