Applying for operational authorization letters from the FAA is a tricky old process, so our pals at AviationManuals have produced a very useful, in-depth guide on the process.
OPSGROUP members can download a free copy through your dashboard here:
We thought we would create a less in-depth guide to AviationManuals’ in-depth guide to help you not feel out-of-your-depth…
What is the guide for?
It is for helping you with the process of applying for LOAs. It identifies the steps that might be needed to obtain an LOA, the information you’ll need to find out, and the supporting documents you’ll need to gather.
It also lists a bunch of info on what not to do. It is very handy.
Who is the guide for?
It is for US-registered, non-commercial pilots and flight departments. So, Part 91 ops, essentially. But it will also be useful to anyone who might have anything to do with sorting out long-term FAA authorizations for Part 125 and 135 operations.
If you’re a Part 121 operator, or non-US registered then you can stop reading now, go get a cup of tea, and find something else to do. This doesn’t apply to you.
What is a Letter of Authorization – and do I need one?
A Letter of Authorization (LOA) is a sort of long term, specific permission for something.
An LOA is a formal “you’re allowed to do that” certificate given to an operator, permitting them to conduct a specific flight operation, fly in certain airspace, or use a particular bit of equipment, or document.
Yes, you need a specific document telling you you are allowed to use a specific document 😃
Anyway, because there are so many different things you need permission for, you might need various LOAs. How do you know what you need an LOA for? Well, there is a separate guide to help you with that too:
The FAA, but more specifically, your local FAA Flight Standards District Office. You can find a location of those here.
So, a Principle Operations Inspector, known as a POI is the person at the FAA FSDO who will issue your LOA.
Don’t you just love aviation acronyms 😃
How to apply
First thing first, work out what LOA you need here.
(We mentioned this link earlier. It is confusing – you need an LOA for RVSM, but it isn’t called an RVSM LOA, it is called a B046 LOA. Which is why AviationManuals have a separate guide for guiding you on what LOA you are applying for!)
So work out what LOA you are applying for. Then decide who the actual operator is. The FAA say this is “the person or entity who has operational control of the aircraft.” But they don’t mean the pilot flying it – they mean the person who has legal control, not operational control.
You will also need to decide who is the responsible person, what your primary address is, and then work out which FSDO is going to be the closest.
FSDOs have to be approached with care, much like how you would approach a wild beast. Before attempting to handle it, it is best to determine what it likes to be fed. Some FSDO’s prefer paper, some like emails…
The guide has a whole section dedicated to “how to get to know your FSDO” including working out what to send them, and how to write a nice cover letter. The what to send them section is a big read, but thankfully there are checklists to help.
You’ve made contact, sent your stuff… now what?
Now the FAA will review.
Page 34 of the guide discusses how each inspector has the power to reject the application they receive. It sounds like a fearsome process, so we recommend going back to the start of the “what and how do I submit stuff section”, and checking it all again before you submit it in case your application lands on the desk of a particularly ferocious inspector.
It also takes around 6-8 weeks (10-12 if it’s a complicated application) so you’ll want to get it right the first time.
It’s been rejected…
Don’t worry, they send a detailed list of why to help you when you re-apply. There is an easy fix list and a less easy fix list. We recommend reading through this part of the guide too prior to submitting so you can catch any bits before you make a mistake.
It’s been accepted…
Great. The rest of the guide explains how to finalise your application, what to do if anything changes, and a few other bits and pieces of info that’s important to know.
Yeah – this is a guide on a guide. It isn’t a legal document. But it’s still great! OPSGROUP’s dedicated in-house Mathematics Of Misery Prevention Department has calculated that the AviationManuals FAA Authorization Guide is 826% easier than trying to work out what to do yourself.
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