This question comes from Sylvia:
This came up recently at the airfield coffee shop: what qualifies a pilot to act as a safety pilot? Specifically in terms of the 3 take-offs and landings every 90 days in order to stay current … is it ok to take a pilot with you for safety? Or do you have to do have a qualified instructor if you are nervous about doing your circuits solo, having gone out of date?
Safety Pilot. As you hang around an airport, you’ll hear this term quite a bit and if you listen to how this word is used you’ll notice that the term has taken on a life of it’s own. Some people use it to define flying around the pattern with another pilot friend or has someone who works the radios on a cross country flight. If you are looking for a safety pilot, there is even a Safety Pilot Club website! However, I think it is important to begin with the official definition and designation from the FAA.
A safety pilot is mentioned only in a couple of places in the regulations. The primary reg being 14 CFR 91.109 . In this reg. you find the official definition and designation of a safety pilot. The reg says:
(b) No person may operate a civil aircraft in simulated instrument flight unless—
(1) The other control seat is occupied by a safety pilot who possesses at least a private pilot certificate with category and class ratings appropriate to the aircraft being flown.
The only other regulation that mentions a safety pilot is 61.51 which deals with logging of instrument time. In summary this reg says that you have to record the name of the safety pilot if required by the aforementioned 91.109.
So basically, a safety pilot has one purpose: Look out the window for traffic when the other pilot isn’t!
So getting back to the question from Sylvia. It would be my interpretation that you cannot use a safety pilot to get current on landings. Why? Because unless they are required for flight in simulated instrument conditions they are not a required crewmember and then would fall into the category of passenger, not pilot. And in order to fly passengers, you of course, need to meet the requirements of 61.57 – recent flight experience.
Some may argue that you could use a Safety Pilot if the Safety Pilot was fully qualified and current to be PIC and allowed the pilot to take the controls for the 3 required landings. My question however is then, how would that time be logged? You couldn’t log it as PIC in your log book (only one crewmember required) and you couldn’t log it as dual received or SIC.
I think the only answer the regulations provide is that you either have to fly by yourself or take a CFI in order to meet the recency requirements of 61.157. I promise I’m not just saying that because I am a CFI 🙂 Again, this is just my humble interpretation and that a $.50 still won’t buy you a coffee.
I think this stresses the need to stay current and the continuing maintenance aspect of becoming a pilot, whatever your level. I don’t know about you, but I get rusty after not flying for two weeks, I can’t imagine how rough it would be after 3 months!
So make sure you are flying frequently and always