The FAA has stopped processing Section 333 Exemption applications. With thousands of petitions in the queue, the FAA will make applicants that would qualify to operate under Part 107 wait until the new rule is effective in August to operate. Meanwhile, those petitioners that will not fall under Part 107, the FAA will continue to process the Section 333 Exemption petitions.

On June 22, the FAA issued a blanket letter to nearly 7,500 Section 333 Exemption petitioners that the fate of their requests will largely depend upon whether the petitioner’s desired operation falls into one of three “Tiers.” The Tiers, the FAA’s planned actions, and the consequences for petitioners are as follow:

  • Tier 1
    • Initial Assessment: The petition’s requested operation may be conducted entirely under Part 107 after August 29th without a waiver or exemption.
    • FAA Action: The FAA will close the petition’s docket and will not continue processing the petition.
    • Consequences: Petitioner will have to wait until August 29th to operate under Part 107.
  • Tier 2
    • Initial Assessment — The petition’s requested operation must be conducted with a waiver under Part 107.
    • FAA Action — The FAA will close the petition’s docket and treat the petition as a waiver request under Part 107.
    • Consequences — Petitioner will have to wait until August 29th to operate under Part 107, and thereafter wait for the FAA’s approval of the waiver to conduct those certain operations.
  • Tier 3
    • Initial Assessment: The petition’s requested operation may not be conducted under Part 107 or waiver without further regulatory relief.
    • FAA Action: The FAA will continue processing the petition.
    • Consequences: Petitioner will have to wait until approval of the Section 333 Exemption to operate.If pending applicants believe that their requests fall into Tiers 2 or 3, the FAA encourages the applicant to contact the FAA, if the FAA has not contacted them within 60 day.

Although the notice was released on June 22, some Tier 1 Section 333 exemption shave been granted. The criteria under which the FAA will make limited exceptions and continue processing Tier 1 petitions remains unclear.

Apart from preparing to comply with Part 107 operations, petitioners should examine which Tier their petition falls into, as well as contacting the FAA regarding the processing of their petition. Petitioners should also consider whether the waivers under Part 107 may be desirable to seek, particularly for beyond line of sight, night time, or over-crowd operations.