5,529 FAA Section 333 Exemption were updated (36 pages of docket numbers) with a blanket exemption amendment. This is great news as it provides many exemptions with new capabilities which were not possible before. The FAA has slowly been updating things such as when they updated the blanket COA and when they changed the format of the “stock 333” around 3/7/2016.
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Important Points of the FAA Section 333 Exemption Update
1. Registration Under Part 48
Many can now register via Part 48 or Part 47. Some of the older 333’s were ONLY Part 47. This is great as the Part 47 registration method is a pain to do. Please remember that the Part 48 registration database is being challenged in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals by John Taylor. I’m helping him with the case and I think there are good reasons why the regulations were illegal and should be thrown out. See my article explaining why the regulations were illegally created. If John Taylor is successful, the registration database will be thrown out.
2. “Super List” of UA
The FAA created a giant list of approved aircraft. The FAA became tired of granting 333 exemption amendment requests to add aircraft. To solve this once and for all, the FAA approved the exemption holder for whatever was on the list. The FAA just kept updating the list over time and this met the needs of many; however, if you were granted an exemption prior to around May 2015, you most likely did not have the “super list” provision in your 333 exemption. The super list is specifically listed in docket FAA-2007-3330. Keep checking it as it is continually being updated to add on new aircraft. You should print it out and keep it with you as part of your operating documents. Make sure your aircraft is located on it!
3. Flight Instruction is Allowed
Great job on doing this FAA! This will help promote safety and a culture of professionalism in the drone industry. I always made it a point to tell my flight students working on their private pilot certificates that their certificate was only a certificate allowing them to legally go out and accidentally kill themselves. It was really a license to learn, not to get cocky and start playing “Highway to the Danger Zone.” I instilled in them the need for safety. Additionally, flight instructors are role models for their students and we all know the drone community needs more pros, and less bros.
For a long time, only Kansas State had a 333 exemption that allowed flight instructing. The FAA has subsequently granted some 333 exemptions; however, all the older exemptions would have to petition for amendment to do instruction.
Why would this be beneficial? One example I know of is a large company that has protocols figured out and implemented for 333 exemption operations while they haven’t figured out how to operate under Part 107. Large battleships turn slowly. Another example is where a company has certain COA approvals for controlled airspace they obtained a long time ago. They would rather operate under those COAs than risk trying to obtain a newer airspace authorization. I can understand that. The FAA has been slow at things in the past; however, the FAA does seem to be making great strides in getting the airspace authorizations and waivers approved faster. The most recently granted night waivers were around 30 days from start to finish. One was super-fast at 13 days later; however, there are a few that are past 30 days waiting for the FAA. The one thing that is consistent is the different processors in the waiver and authorizations departments work at different paces.
4. Foreigners (Non-U.S. Citizens or Non-Permanent Residents)
The older 333 exemptions did not have a provision to allow the operation of foreign civil aircraft which is “(a) an aircraft of foreign registry that is not part of the armed forces of a foreign nation, or (b) a U.S.-registered aircraft owned, controlled or operated by persons who are not citizens or permanent residents of the United States.” See 14 CFR § 375.1 (emphasis mine). Now you can obtain a Foreign Aircraft Permit to allow a foreigner to operate under the 333.
Things NOT Changed In the FAA Section 333 Exemption Update
Still Sport Certificate or Higher
Unfortunately, you still must have a sport certificate or higher. A 107 Remote Pilot Certificate or student certificate will NOT work. One thing you might want to consider is if you do have a sport license or higher, doing work in the 333 exemption only aircraft area because that area will have less competition. 55 pound and heavier operations cannot be done under Part 107 but can be done by a 333 exemption. It may be a smart business idea to start focusing on offering 55 pound and heavier services, such as when you need to use a 55 pound+ crop duster, a heavy rig drone for cinematography, etc. for the service. You might be able to command higher profit margins since there are few legal alternative options for clients.
Does NOT Extend Previous 333 Expiration Date
The exemption says, “This exemption terminates on the date provided in the petitioner’s original exemption or amendment most recently granted prior to the date of this amendment, unless sooner superseded or rescinded.” Big bummer. If you are interested in hiring me to renew your older 333, contact me.
Side by Side Comparison of the Different FAA Section 333 Exemption Provisions
Please keep in mind that I picked the latest stock 333 for comparison. The exemptions have morphed over the years so your 333 might differ from what is listed as a “stock 333.” Keep in mind that some of the provisions are the same but the number just changed. Underlining and bold means something is new while bold and strikethrough means it was deleted.