This “Pilot’s Tip of the Week” was originally published 7/19/2017. To get free tips like this each week, subscribe at the bottom of the page.

Pilot's tip of the week

Safety Pilot Requirements


Subscriber question:

"A friend asked me to be his safety pilot while he practices instrument approaches. I'm a private pilot and do not have an instrument rating. Can I act as his safety pilot if the practice instrument approaches are flown in VFR conditions?" - Leonard R.


“Let’s first define what a safety pilot is and when one is needed.

Instrument pilots must maintain a certain currency to act as pilot in command under IFR. One of the requirements is to conduct six instrument approaches in six months. Many people satisfy this requirement by flying approaches under simulated instrument conditions by using a view-limiting device – otherwise known as a hood.

safety-pilot-requirement.pngFAR 91.113(b) requires whether an operation is conducted under instrument flight rules or visual flight rules, vigilance shall be maintained by each person operating the aircraft so as to see and avoid other aircraft. So, if the person flying is wearing a view limiting device another qualified pilot must be on board to help see and avoid other aircraft. That qualified pilot is known as the Safety Pilot.

What qualifications are needed to be a Safety Pilot? The answer is found in several different sections of the FARS.

FAR 91.109(c)(1) requires that the Safety Pilot must hold at least a private pilot certificate. The pilot certificate must have category and class ratings that are appropriate to the aircraft being flown.

So if you hold a Private certificate with airplane single engine land rating and your friend is flying a C172, you meet this requirement.

What about a medical certificate? The FAA holds that the Safety Pilot is a required crewmember because FAR 91.109 requires one. FAR 61 c (3) states that all required crewmembers need a current medical certificate. So, you need at least a current Class III to act as Safety Pilot.

An instrument rating is not required if the flight will be conducted under VFR. Recent experience (three takeoffs and landings in 90 days) and the oft-misnamed BFR only apply to the PIC. If you only act as Safety Pilot (and not as PIC) under VFR, neither of these is required.

So to sum up, as a private pilot with a current medical and appropriate category and class rating you can act as Safety Pilot for your friend while he flies practice approaches under VFR conditions.


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