FAR 61.129(a)(4)(i) commercial long solo XC requirements
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Hi everyone,

Received a good question today that I believe could spark some back and forth discussions on here (maybe). Airports have been changed to protect the person who asked the question initially. A commercial applicant did their long solo XC in 4 legs. Here's the routing:

KDAB to KSSI to KAGS to KSSI to KDAB

Total Distance for the XC is 510nm. The legs between KDAB and KSSI are 119nm. The legs between KSSI and KAGS is 136nm. The straight line distance between KDAB and KAGS is 255nm. Here's the overall picture:



There are some that would say that this XC does not fulfill the requirement, because there isn't a single leg over 250nm. There are others that say that it does fulfill the requirements, I'm in that camp.

Here's the regulation:
 

(i) One cross-country flight of not less than 300 nautical miles total distance, with landings at a minimum of three points, one of which is a straight-line distance of at least 250 nautical miles from the original departure point. However, if this requirement is being met in Hawaii, the longest segment need only have a straight-line distance of at least 150 nautical miles;


There is no Letter of Interpretation on this one (that I found), so there isn't a "official/legal" FAA opinion. Wanted to see what the opinions were out there on this question and what your reasoning might be. If nothing else it will help clear the air on this question that comes up from time to time.
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1013 Posts
John Shea:
My question does not only apply to this particular requirement but many of the cross country experience requirements.  The wording is "from the origianl departure point" or "original point of departure".  What is the original departure point?

Essentially, it's whatever you say it is. See these interpretations (with which I do not personally agree, but by Chevron Deference , unless/until it is overturned by a Federal Court, it is what the FAA Chief Counsel says it is as long as the FAA's interpretation isn't "arbitrary, capricious, or otherwise not according to law").


https://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/agc/practice_areas/regulations/interpretations/data/interps/2009/van zanen - (2009) legal interpretation.pdf
https://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/agc/practice_areas/regulations/interpretations/data/interps/2009/keller - (2009) legal interpretation.pdf

As for overnight stops, the Chief Counsel hasn't addressed that question, but AFS-800 (which is in charge of writing Part 61) has stated, "Departure for the purpose of conducting a 'round robin' cross-country flight is a normal scenario where 'original point of departure' and destination are the same. The 'original point of departure' does not change with a new day or delay."

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My question does not only apply to this particular requirement but many of the cross country experience requirements.  The wording is "from the origianl departure point" or "original point of departure".  What is the original departure point?  For example, if one is flying from Florida to California in a Cessna 152, and the trip takes a week.  Is the "original departure point" Florida, or does it change say at the end of the flight day?  Could not find any FAA letter of interpretation to define this term.  It is not defined in the regulations either.  I do agree that the above cross country example is in compliance with 61.129.  One might be hard pressed to fly a C152 250nm without a fuel stop!  My commercial candidate flew KRHV-KPRB-KBUR-KBFL-KCVH-KRHV.   The KRHV-KBUR distance equals 253nm.
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Thanks Ron, I figured you'd come to the same conclusion. Good to hear I was on the right track. Still a lot of CFIs out there that misinterpret it.
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1013 Posts
Plain reading of the regulation says it's fine.  Nothing in that regulation says anything about the distance of any individual leg.