The flight simulator world has come a long way since the days of Microsoft Flight Simulator, which was the base software used on some RedBird flight training devices. We have come so far that the FAA now allows pilots to log flight training, pilot time, and aeronautical experience requirements in Aviation Training Devices (ATDs).
ATDs come in two flavors, basic and advanced. Each of them can be evaluated by the FAA and issued a Letter of Authorization (LOA) that allows you to log time for flight by reference to instruments, abnormal and emergency procedures, radio navigation, instrument approach, communications, and cross-country procedures.
Of course, these devices don't fly, so the time spent in them can't be logged as flight time, however, approved ATDs can be used to log as dual, simulated instrument time, or even total time. If you are going to log any time though, you will need to log the type and identification of the ATD with the logbook entry. Evaluators and Designated Pilot Examiners (DPEs) are instructed to request a copy of the LOA when verifying the time acquired in ATDs to qualify for a certificate. So applicants are encouraged to request/obtain a copy of the LOA for the ATD they have used.
It is the responsibility of us as users to verify that the device is qualified and approved for the training or experience it is being used for. So how do you tell if the ATD you are using is approved? The FAA has provided a list of devices that it has issued LOAs for and you can find it here: FAA Approved Aviation Training Devices
Resources: AC 61-36B
Evaluators and Designated Pilot Examiners (DPEs) are instructed to request a copy of the LOA when verifying the time acquired in ATDs to qualify for a certificate. So applicants are encouraged to request/obtain a copy of the LOA for the ATD they have used.
“Encouraged” really isn't a strong enough word. And since the LoA is a document issued for that sim, you really need a copy of that letter that was current at the time of the training. For example, FlyThisSim failed to renew the LoA for their TouchTrainer in 2021. Professional Instrument Courses, which operated about 15 FTS-TT's, obtained its own LoA. Anyone else using a FTS-TT is out of luck unless they obtain their own LoA or authorization from PIC to operate under PIC's. No doubt there are other sims out there (the old ATC 610J's come to mind) with similar documentation issues.
And I have all my Instrument trainees take a picture of the PIC LoA to take to the checkride. 😉
We in the Pilot Information Center always appreciate your follow-ups and insights on the posts here. Genuinely, we do.
The FAA reference that mentions retaining a copy of the LOA is worded less forcefully than I summarized, so I didn't want too far from what they wrote. I would imagine that if an applicant is told that DPE's will be asking for it that they should make sure they can provide it.