Faa Enforcement Actions Essay, Research Paper
FAA Enforcement Actions The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) handbook of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) enforcement actions gives us a very comprehensive explanation about FAA actions and how to deal with them if we are involved in some case of violation of the FARs. It shows all the enforcement procedures that can be used by the FAA, how to respond to the FAA, some information about Remedial Training, accident reporting and notification, the Aviation Safety Reporting Program, and some of the consequences of being involved in FAR violations. The first we need to know is which are the enforcement procedures that the FAA can use against General Aviation pilots. These procedures are: administrative action, reexamination, certificate action, civil penalty, and criminal action. The Administrative Action is issued in 2 ways, which are the Letter of Correction and the Warning Notice. Both are used in violations that are considered too minor to warrant legal enforcement action. The letters mainly say that some corrective action has been taken or will be taken in the future. The next procedure is reexamination, which consists in a reexamination of an airman at any time the FAA has reasonable grounds that may indicate that the pilot is not qualified to hold his certificate. In cases like this the FAA inspector sends a letter to the pilot explaining why and what are basis on which he is going to be reexamined. If the pilot passes the reexamination, nothing else happens, but if he fails, the FAA takes the necessary steps to revoke the license. If at any moment the pilot refuses to take the reexamination, a suspension order will be issued until he takes and passes the reexamination. Something that pilots should be aware is that FAA inspectors don t have the right to ask for the certificate. You do not have to give it to them. For example, in some cases pilots think that if they have failed the reexamination they have to surrender their certificate. This is not true. Even if the examination is failed, the FAA must still follow certain procedures according to Section 609 of the Federal Aviation Act in order to revoke the certificate. Those procedures are explained in the next paragraph, since they are the same for certificate and penalty actions. The certificate and civil penalty actions are the 2 most used by the FAA. The certificate penalty consists of suspending or revoking the pilot s license, however, the civil penalty action is basically a fine that the FAA establishes and can be up to $1000. If the FAA chooses any of these procedures, they must follow certain steps in advising the pilot. First, the pilot receives a Notice of Proposed Certificate Action or Notice of Proposed Civil Penalty. In the case that the pilot wants to contest the action, he must first request an informal conference with the FAA attorney in charge of the case. If the problem is not solved at this stage and the FAA issues an order suspending or revoking the certificate, the pilot has the right to appeal to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). During this period the certificate is still valid, unless the FAA determines that an emergency exists and that safety requires the immediate suspension of the certificate. After the NTSB s decision the pilot or the FAA may appeal if not satisfied to the full five-member board. If after that stage they are not satisfied they can appeal to a federal court. Finally the last enforcement action that FAA uses is the criminal action, which at the beginning was only used in the case of aircraft piracy or carrying weapons aboard the airplane, but recently it is being applied to false markings of aircraft, illegal aircraft registration and airport security violations. During the last years, and since the airspace and regulations are more and more complex, even the best trained and most careful pilot can inadvertently break some of the rules. That is why pilots should know how to respond to the FAA. Generally an FAA inspector will send you a letter in which he explains that he is investigating a case in which you are involved, and would like to know the story from your point of view. At this point, the first reaction that everybody has is to respond quickly. Some also think that they are obligated to respond. The truth is that they do not have any obligation to respond, and should also be aware that any letter that they send could be used against the pilot during the trial. Another similar case occurs when the traffic controller asks you to call to the tower after landing. Everybody thinks that they are obligated to call, but actually they are under no legal obligation to respond. The letter of investigation that the FAA inspector sends you could also offer the pilot the chance to participate in remedial training as an alternative to legal enforcement action. The way this works is very simple. If the FAA inspector considers that remedial training would be more appropriate than a legal enforcement, he will ask the pilot to respond to the letter expressing the interest in the program and cooperation in the investigation. Another way is that the pilot could suggest remedial training if it was not mentioned in the letter. If the pilot expresses that his wish to go trough remedial training, the inspector will deliver a copy of the file to an FAA Accident Prevention Specialist (APS) who will have a personal meeting with the pilot. Afterwards the pilot and the APS must agree on a course of study, this agreement must be signed by both parties in a letter. Within the period specified in the letter of agreement, the pilot must take and successfully complete the course at his own expenses. The APS will confirm that the training was completed and will return the file to the FAA inspector, who will send to the pilot a letter of correction stating that the remedial training was completed and will close the investigation.
Another good way of minimizing the chances to convert an aircraft incident into an enforcement case is first of all recognizing the jurisdiction of the NTSB over the FAA. Almost everybody thinks that the FAA is the primary authority in aircraft accident investigation and that the reports should be made to the FAA. The truth is that the NTSB is the federal agency that investigates the vast majority of accidents, so all reports should also be submitted to the NTSB. The second aspect before reporting an accident is to see if it fits the definition of an aircraft accident according to the NTSB, there are a lot of incidents that do not even need to be reported. The definition of an accident says that it must involve death, serious injury, or substantial damage, which in many cases do not occur. If the incident is between the parameters, the pilot should limit his notifications and if possible go directly to the NTSB instead of reporting it through an FAA office or facility. A program that is available for pilots and helps in avoiding suspensions or fines resulting from enforcement actions is the Aviation Safety Reporting Program (ASRP). In order to get the immunity, the pilot has to file the Aviation Safety Report within 10 days of the incident on which an enforcement action could be based. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) works as a third party in this program. They are in charge of receiving the reports and then tear the part in which the pilot s name is printed. Then they send this part to the pilot as proof. This gives immunity to the pilot, and the FAA cannot take actions on him. This immunity is only granted under some rules, like if the violation was inadvertent and not deliberate. Despite the fact that the FAA knows that an ASRP has been filed, they will fully investigate the suspected violation, but they cannot take any action against the pilot if he filed the report and meets all the requirements. Also the ASRP cannot be used against the pilot during the trial. Finally the handbook refers to the effects of being involved in violations of the FARs. For the majority of the pilots the effects have not been serious. They have paid their fines, complied their suspensions, taken their check rides, learned from the experience and came back to their flying activities. However, there are some cases where being involved in these cases can put the pilot in some troubles. One of them is if you are again involved in some kind of repeated offense, since Past Violation History is the first item in the FAA Manual on Enforcement List. Also you may have troubles when applying for jobs, since airlines take this matter very seriously for contracting pilots. Minor mistakes early on in one s training are less significant and would not make a big difference. Regardless of that, we should try to our maximum capabilities to stay away of this kind of violations. In my personal opinion I think that the AOPA s Handbook of FAA Enforcement Actions is very helpful, since it shows us some of the basic procedures and ways to respond if we are involved in some problems with the FAA regarding FARs violations.