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FAA Reinterprets Guidance to Allow State and Local Governments to Conduct UAS Training as part of Public Aircraft Operations

Last month the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Office of Chief Legal Counsel reconsidered their interpretation of 49 U.S.C. §40125 to include limited training as a qualified public aircraft operation (PAO) by non-federal entities. This reinterpretation allows qualified non-federal entities to conduct limited training under their Certificate of Authorization (COA) as a PAO.

This training must be limited to non-federal entity’s own aircraft and crews. The training missions must also meet the governmental function requirement. Training of another entity’s crews or on non-owned aircraft is not covered as a PAO function under this reinterpretation.

Prior to this reinterpretation, training was not allowed by State, Local, Tribal and Territory (SLTT) Governments as a PAO. This prohibited non-federal entities from training with public aircraft that did not hold a civil airworthiness certificate.

Understanding that training with specific aircraft and equipment ahead of incidents, such as wildfires, is essential for safe operations, the IAFC worked with the FAA to have their interpretation of 49 U.S.C. §40125 reconsidered. The IAFC is grateful to the FAA’s Offices of Chief Legal Counsel, Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration and Security and Hazardous Materials Safety for their hard work to reassess the FAA’s opinion of this public aircraft statute.


Ryan Woodward is the IAFC's manager of government relations and policy. 

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