How to take to the skies with the right LOA [+ Free LOA Guide]

The LOA development and application process may seem daunting, especially when you’re doing it alone. With our free LOA Guide (Download Here), we provide an overview of what LOAs are, when you need them, and how straightforward the application process can be.


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What is an FAA Letter of Authorization (LOA)?

A Letter of Authorization (LOA) in aviation is a formal document approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for Part 91 operators (known as Operations Specifications (OpSpecs) for Part 135) authorizing them to engage in specific flight activity. For example, when an operator wishes to use data link when flying outside of the United States, they would need to apply for a Data Link Communications LOA – otherwise known as an LOA A056. Always check which LOAs are required when planning your trip, especially when flying abroad.

Here are a few useful LOA facts:

  • LOAs do not expire, unless under exceptional circumstances. You do not need to renew your LOA, unless significant operational information changes, since LOAs are tied to the aircraft and operator.
  • For an LOA to be in effect, the indicated operator should have operational control of the flight.
  • Once you receive your approved LOA, there’s not much else to do – no follow up is required with your Flight Standards District Office, unless you’re looking to add an authorization or revise the information on an LOA.

For an overview of all LOAs and when you need them, take a look at our LOA Guide.

Applying for an LOA

The FAA is responsible for issuing LOAs to the rightful operator, or the entity with operational control over the aircraft for a particular flight. However, the operator is not necessarily the manager or owner of the aircraft. Where multiple operators use the same aircraft, separate LOAs would be required for each operator. 

When applying for an LOA, there are a few steps to take to ensure you have all the required materials:

  1. Make sure you have the right manual for the right LOA ready and up-to-date. Prepare the necessary operations procedures by either creating a standalone manual, or adding an appendix to an existing one.
  2. Gather all supporting documentation required by the FAA, such as training certificates, or company procedures, as well as a cover letter, along with potential FAA checklists, forms, or job aids.
  3. Once you have all documentation in place and have looked over all FAA instructions, the final step is submitting the application. Each FSDO (Flight Standards District Office) is different though, so you can expect additional instructions or feedback. Be meticulous in preparing all documentation to avoid your application being delayed or even denied. Keep in mind that we can support you throughout the entire LOA application process.

Application turnaround times vary according to which LOA you’ve applied for. Since it can take anywhere from three weeks to six months, plan your LOA application well before you plan to take to the skies.

Download your free LOA guide now to learn more about the application process, which LOAs are required when, as well as application turnaround times. Reach out to us for any questions you may have. Our LOA experts are here to help!

Data Link and RNP-4 LOAs: What You Need to Know

Clear communication between aircraft and Air Traffic Control (ATC) is especially important when conducting operations over oceanic airspace. To ensure safe passage, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) released regulatory guidelines mandating that crews flying over much of the North Atlantic (NAT) must have Letters of Authorization for Data Link and RNP-4 by January 30, 2020. With these regulations already in effect, we want to make sure you have all the information you need to obtain your LOAs and keep your operations running smoothly.

What Are RNP-4 and Data Link and Why Do You Need Them?

The only way to permit more aircraft in a high-use airspace is to lower the separation standards between them. ICAO has mandated RNP-4 and Data Link to keep up with the growing air traffic in the NAT. This equipment helps to ensure efficient communication and minimum navigation performance allowing the distance between traffic to be reduced.

  • RNP-4: More accurate navigation equipment, which is certified in accordance with ICAO’s “Require Navigation Performance” specifications, ensures that aircraft can fly accurately to a centerline.  The lower the RNP value, the more accurate the equipment.  This is especially important in oceanic or remote airspace where control centers are not available. In a highly trafficked airspace such as the NAT, it is critical that as many aircraft be certified with the most precise navigation equipment possible.
  • Data Link: Navigation is only part of the equation; ATC still requires position reporting information from aircraft to properly track and control flights.  Relying on pure voice communications for those position reports would be impractical as traffic expands — enter Data Link.  By automating position reports with Automatic Dependent Surveillance — Contract (ADS-C) and Controller Pilot Data Link Communications (CPDLC) technology, ATC can ensure that critical position information is transmitted quickly and reliably.

What Should I Do Before Applying for These LOAs?

  1. Make sure you have completed any necessary upgrades to your aircraft. Check your Airplane Flight Manual and consult with your maintenance team to ensure the aircraft is actually capable of both RNP-4 and Data Link. This is typically outlined in the “limitations” section of the AFM.  If a Service Bulletin / Change or STC is required, schedule those installations as soon as you can.  It might be possible for the FAA to begin reviewing an LOA request while maintenance is still in progress, but it is definitely impossible to get an LOA for something your aircraft can’t currently do.
  2. Review your current RNP LOA, if any. Your flight department may or may not have an LOA for oceanic RNP operations already.  Check if the FAA has already issued you a paragraph B036 LOA, and if so, check whether it lists “RNP-4.”  Most non-NAT oceanic operations only require RNP-10, and for many years that was the only authorization given. It’s possible that you might only have RNP-10 even if your aircraft was capable of RNP-4 when you first applied for LOAs. 
  3. Make sure your pilots’ training is up to date. For Part 91 operators, training requirements are a bit more relaxed than for the rest of the aviation world. This means you can take some liberties with training schedules and deadlines. However, to ensure that pilots are familiar with current procedures in the NAT, the FAA will likely hold you to a 24-month currency for your international / RNP training, if not even less.  If your training is older than 24 months, it is recommended that you schedule a recurrent course ASAP.
  4. Contact a flight planning service to obtain a sample flight plan. For both the RNP-4 and Data Link LOAs, the FAA will require that you provide a complete sample flight plan.  Note that this sample should reflect both a full crew plan (i.e., the computer printout, including the fuel block, waypoints, ETPs, etc.) and the one-page ICAO flight plan.  The FAA may check your plan for any number of potential issues, including compliance with fuel requirements, the equipment codes used, or even just that you’ve selected an appropriate destination alternate.  So, it is important to choose a flight planning vendor that you trust to provide an accurate and suitable plan. Check out our top tips and tricks for ensuring your flight plan is ready in our Flight Planning Codes Demystified article.

LOA Applications Now Will Yield Cost Savings in the Long Run

While LOA applications may seem like a lot of work, shirking them can have real-world consequences. There are significant financial penalties for being caught flying without required LOAs and the alternative — flying around, above, or below the airspaces with these mandates — isn’t much better. You may be forced to fly hours out of the way, incurring unnecessary additional fuel costs and delays.

The applications can be a process, but the time and cost of applying for these LOA applications does not compare to the price of flying an additional four or five hours, or the fine for avoiding them altogether.

Once approved, your LOAs likely won’t need to be considered again until the FAA releases new regulations and guidelines. But if there ever is a reason to resubmit an LOA application, subscribing to our manual revision service can help you stay on top of such changes. When we hear about new regulations that could affect operators’ LOAs, we can push news out to our subscribers, detailing what those changes are and what actions departments will have to take. What LOAs look like now is not what they looked like five years ago, and most likely not what they will look like five years in the future, so it is best to have the tools to react quickly.

Contact us for any LOA support, and check out our free LOA Guide for more information.

LOAs: what they are, who they’re for, and how to get them

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on September 25th, 2017. It has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

You have probably heard about Letters of Authorization (LOA). But do you know what they are or if they apply to you?

If you are a Part 91 operator, chances are you have heard about Letters of Authorization (LOAs). There is also a good chance that you’re not entirely certain what they do or if they even apply to you.

What are LOAs?

An LOA is a formal approval issued by the FAA to Part 91 operators. With an LOA, an operator can engage in a specific flight activity that requires authorization. For example, if you want to fly in Reduced Vertical Separation Minimum (RVSM) airspace, then you must have an RVSM LOA. But if you have no plans of using RVSM airspace, then you don’t need the LOA.

Each of the following types of operation require FAA authorization and thus its own LOA:

  • Reduced Vertical Separation Minimum (RVSM)
  • Required Navigation Performance (RNP) -10/4
  • North Atlantic High Level Airspace (NAT HLA)
  • Area Navigation (B-RNAV / RNAV-5 and P-RNAV / RNAV-1)*
  • Data Link Communications (ADS-C / CPDLC)

*Although an LOA is not required for domestic US operations, foreign countries may require authorization (i.e., an LOA) prior to conducting these operations in their airspace.

(Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast (ADS-B) Out operations formerly needed an LOA. However, in late 2018 the FAA removed this requirement and is not issuing any LOAs for ADS-B Out operations. NOTE: ADS-B In operations does still require an LOA. Get more information here).

Who Needs an LOA?

The FAA issues LOAs to the aircraft’s operator. According to the FAA, an operator is the entity having operational control of the aircraft for a particular flight. Operational control is defined as having the ‘exercise of authority over initiating, conducting or terminating a flight’ (14 CFR Part 1.1).

It is important to note that:

  • The operator is not necessarily the manager or owner of the aircraft.
  • For the LOA to be in effect, the operator named on the LOA must be the same as the operator who has operational control of a flight.
  • If multiple operators operate the same aircraft, then separate LOAs for each operator are required.

How to Apply

Applying for an LOA typically means:

  • Preparing the required operations procedures (either as a standalone manual or appendix to existing manual)
  • Completing an application to the FAA, including a cover letter and any available FAA checklists, forms or job aids
  • Gathering all supporting documentation required by the FAA (copies of AFM pages, training certificates, etc.)
  • Submitting the application to the FAA

It is essential that you carefully follow all FAA instructions and include all necessary documents. Failure to do so could delay your application or be grounds for denial – so always double-check everything before submitting!

In our next post, we’ll separate LOA fact from fiction.

AviationManuals can assist you with obtaining your LOAs. To learn more, contact us today.

What Should You Do to Respond To the Data Link LOA A056 Changes

The FAA introduced a new template for LOA A056 for Data Link communications in November 2017. The new template adds two pieces of information that were not previously tracked. The changes focus on the PBCS capabilities, in order to meet the March 29, 2018, PBCS implementation, and the name of the service provider used for Data Link services for each aircraft.

Here are four paths to take when responding to the Data Link LOA changes, depending on your status:

I already have an approved LOA A056 and it is in the new format:

  •  You are in compliance with both the PBCS implementation and Data Link mandate already. No further action is needed.

I already have an approved LOA A056, but it is not yet in the new format:

  • Fill out a new A056 application and ask FSDO to reissue your A056 in the new format.
  • In rare cases your FSDO may issue you the new LOA A056 without a full resubmission. Be sure to speak with your inspector to get a better idea of what exactly they would like you to submit.

I do not have an approved LOA A056, but have submitted an application OR I have submitted a request to add a new aircraft to my LOA A056:

  • Be sure your submission has been prepared using the FAA’s newest format.
  • If you submitted prior to November 2017, and your request hasn’t been approved yet, you will need to re-prepare and re-submit.

I do not have an approved LOA A056, and have not yet applied:

  • Be sure to have your aircraft upgraded to meet Data Link requirements as soon as practical if you intend to keep operating in the NAT. Right now, Data Link is required for any NAT operations at FL340 to FL390.  Beginning in January 2020, Data Link will be required for all NAT operations at FL290 and above.
  • Apply for an LOA A056 using the FAA’s newest format.

To learn more about how AviationManuals can help, contact us today.


10 Facts About Letters of Authorization (LOAs)

Just because you have one or two LOAs stored in your aircraft doesn’t mean you understand them. AviationManuals gets to the facts.

Although LOAs are a common requirement for Part 91 operators, there remains considerable confusion as to the details.

To clear the air, let’s look at some LOA facts.

Learn More: LOAs – what they are, who they’re for and how to get them

  1. An LOA is tied to the aircraft and operator, not the documentation.
    Whenever an aircraft is sold or the operator changes, you must apply for a new LOA. If, however, the only change is to the documentation supporting the LOA (i.e., training certificates or operations manuals), then you do not need to apply for a new LOA.
  2. LOAs do not expire.
    Yes, way back when Reduced Vertical Separation Minimum (RVSM) was a new thing, LOAs came with an expiration date. However, this is no longer the case except in rare circumstances. Therefore, you do not need to renew LOAs on a regular basis.
  3. Get it. Store it.
    LOAs are typically ‘one-and-done’. Once you have it, stick it in your aircraft and leave it well enough alone. There’s rarely – if ever – a need to follow up with your Flight Standards District Office (FSDO). In fact, there’s only two reasons to speak to an FSDO about an existing LOA: to add an authorization (such as a new aircraft or capabilities) or to revise its information.
  4. The FAA has authority to pull an LOA.
    The FAA does have the authority to revoke an LOA. However, it is unusual for them to exercise this authority. For example, if you report an incident to the FAA, they could place a hold on an LOA while reviewing your records.
  5. Only an operator (or their authorized representative) and the FAA have the authority to withdraw an LOA.
    In other words, unless specifically authorized to do so, a third party cannot request that your LOA be withdrawn.
  6. Part 91 operators don’t need to have IOMs regularly reviewed by the FAA.
    Part 135 operators must have all changes to the IOM submitted as they happen.
    Although the FAA doesn’t require Part 91 operators to update IOMs, they do expect you to stay current on changing procedures. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you invest in an update service.
  7. You do not have to notify the FAA when you switch manual vendors.
    You can change your vendor to your heart’s content without ever giving notice to the FAA. That being said, it’s always a good idea to inform your Principal Operations Inspector (POI) about any changes.
  8. RVSM maintenance programs are no longer required.
    The days of the RVSM maintenance program are gone, so you can stop maintaining them.
  9. If you’re worried about losing an LOA when switching manuals, consider starting your manual as an additional IOM.
    While the additional IOM is being reviewed, keep your current manual as is. Once you get the ok from the FAA, cancel the old service. This eliminates any ‘gap’ that could be misconstrued as being non-compliant with your LOA. Even though you would never actually be non-compliant, this strategy gives you an additional layer of support.
  10.   If you do run into trouble, seek the advice of an experienced, responsive vendor like AviationManuals.

To learn more about how AviationManuals can help, contact us today.

You Don’t Need an LOA for RNAV… Unless You Do!

Part 91 operators aren’t required to obtain a Letter of Authorization (LOA) for RNAV or GPS-based ILS procedures (also called RNP APCH). So why does the FAA offer such an LOA – what’s the point? AviationManuals explains.

In the US, RNAV procedures are commonplace. That’s because the FAA’s Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) – a Satellite Based Augmentation System (SBAS) that augments GPS to improve its accuracy, integrity and availability – has been helping pilots land at small and regional airports around the country for years. Because of this history, Part 91 operators do not need a Letter of Authorization (LOA) to use RNP APCH procedures within the US.

Outside the US, however, it’s a different story.

As SBAS is so effective at opening up small and regional airports to general and business aviation traffic, many other regions are now building their own SBAS systems. For example, Europe’s EGNOS system is already fully operational and capable of augmenting both GPS and Galileo signals.

First the good news…

For international operators, the good news is your WAAS-capable avionics is most likely fully compatible with many of these other systems, so you can already take advantage of these new satellite-based procedures.

The not so good news, however, is that in order to do so, you first have to show that you are authorized to fly RNAV procedures.

This is because unlike in the US, in Europe, for example, these procedures are a relatively new concept that require not only that an aircraft have the corresponding airworthiness approval, but also that the pilots have the appropriate training, checking standards and operational procedures in place.

You can’t go wrong with an LOA

Although in Europe, EASA is working to amend some of these regulations, as a general rule, all operators are required to follow the necessary operational procedures. CAT operators must therefore amend their operational manual accordingly as part of their air operator approval. But don’t worry, there’s no additional training required. All you need to do is to get an LOA C052 from the FAA, which shows that your aircraft is capable of SBAS-augmented approaches.

If you frequently conduct international operations, it’s probably a good idea to add this authorization to your LOAs. On the one hand, this covers you in any country that does require specific authorization for RNAV procedures, such as Hong Kong. On the other hand, even where such authorization isn’t required, a country, such as the UK, may require you to have a valid state authorization in order to use MDA as a DA/DH with the approach. The MDA as DA/DH authorization is given under LOA C073, and a prerequisite for this is – you guessed it – the C052.

AviationManuals is able to assist you in obtaining both a C052 and C073 authorization. The overall process is simple and affordable and dovetails easily with your existing International Operations Manual. Contact us today for a quote.