Trivia Tester : Power Play

Aside from ultralights or any “sport class” aircraft, under what circumstances is it possible for a pilot without a medical to legally fly as PIC in a regular powered fixed-wing aircraft?

  1. When he or she possesses a flight instructor certificate, is rated in that category and class of aircraft, and is flying with another pilot who can also be PIC in that aircraft, if needed.
  2. During a power-off glide (intentional or not)
  3. If the pilot has a glider rating and he or she is piloting a motorglider (even though the aircraft may intentionally be operated under power for the entire duration of the flight).
  4. A and C.

Answer : The rules allow a pilot who has a glider rating to operate a motorglider as the sole pilot in command, even when the pilot has no medical. (The rules even allow for the carriage of passengers.) Equally surprising perhaps, the rules also allow a pilot to solo a motorglider at the age of 14, and earn PIC privileges (in what is essentially an airplane with a reliably interruptable powerplant) when only 16. It’s C.

A motorglider is still considered a glider by the FAA, although powered gliders are considered to be powered aircraft for the purpose of complying with FAR 91.205, which lists the minimum instruments required to be installed in powered aircraft.  Advisory Circular 21.17-2A lists several Type Certification Criteria for powered gliders: Its maximum weight can be no greater than 1874 lb., the maximum ratio of weight to wing span squared can not exceed 0.62 lb/sq.ft., and the number of occupants can not exceed two.

To act as Pilot In Command of a motorglider, the pilot must be rated as a Glider Pilot (with either Private or Commercial privileges), and have an endorsement in their logbook from an authorized Glider Instructor that the person has “satisfactorily accomplished ground and flight training on self-launch procedures and operations”, and that the pilot has been “found proficient in self-launch procedures and operations”, as per CFR Title 14, Part 61.31(j). This applies even if the pilot is already an airplane pilot; the pilot still must add the glider category rating to fly as PIC of a motorglider (even if   the motor is never shut off).

According to FAR 61.3(c)(2)(iv) and 61.23(b)(5), you are not required to have a medical certificate to teach, provided you are not acting as pilot in command or as a required pilot crewmember (which also includes being a safety pilot). This means the person being instructed must be fully qualified to act as PIC and current in the aircraft.

That jazz about a power off glide is baloney.