2. The FAA considers ALL contracted operations to be civil aircraft operations unless;
3. The contracting entity provides the operator with a written declaration (from the contracting officer or higher level official) of public aircraft status for designated qualified flights;
4. The contracted operator notifies the FAA Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) having oversight of the operator (or the operation as appropriate) that it has contracted with a government entity to conduct eligible public aircraft operations.
5. The contracted operator submits the written declaration to the FSDO with jurisdiction having oversight;
6. The flights(s) in question are determined to be legitimate public aircraft operations under the terms of the statute;
7. The declaration is made in advance of the proposed public aircraft flight.
The proposal goes on to say in essence that the contracted parties (civil operators and government) should both understand that the operators can create a significant level of liability placed on the government and/or likewise on themselves depending on their status. Further, civil operators are reminded that without public status their operations are controlled by all applicable civil aviation regulations and that the FAA retains oversight and enforcement authority over them for any violations.
Civil operators should also refuse to accept a contract to perform operations that violate 14 CFR regs if they cannot be sure that the government entity offering the contract has declared it to be a public aircraft operation and that such flight meets the eligibility requirements as outlined in the statute.
It does not take a lawyer to figure out that this whole attempt at regulating the status of aircraft used in public activities is all about money and who is liable for any accidents that occur or incidents regarding FAR violations or both. In other words, who pays? The only thing that I find surprising about the whole thing is that it has taken so long to get these arrangements down on paper! What about provisions for emergency operations where time may not permit the paper chase? Will there be situations where common sense may supercede a paper requirement? Will the issue of separation and separate tally of contract accidents vs. government flight accidents be involved?
Furthermore, some have proposed for example that ALL search and rescue operations where public aircraft are used, contractors or not, and where a person is picked up and taken to medical care, should be considered a public aircraft operation with all the attendant factors attached, as long as it is declared an emergency by the government, whoever and what ever it shall be. Should this be included in this FAA policy change proposal also? Is it not a logical extension of the mission?
It is interesting to note that the proposal invites no comments from the civil aircraft contract operators at this time. They are only requesting comments from government entities with experience using civil operators under contract. This appears to be a one-sided approach. Certainly, there are civil operator contractors, pilots, and technicians who may want to weigh in and comment on this subject. Comments are directed to PublicAircraft@faa.gov.
The contact information noted as: Monica C. Buenrostro, General Aviation and Commercial Division, Flight Standards Service, AFS 800, Federal Aviation Administration, 800 Independence Ave., S.W., Washington, D.C. 20591. email: email@example.com. Tel: (202) 287-8212. Comments are to be received until April 22, 2011. Since you who might wish to comment will be reading this piece well after this date you should keep in mind that they are usually accepted after the termination date and extensions are also routinely granted.
Stephen P. Prentice is an attorney whose practice involves FAA-NTSB issues. He has an Airframe and Powerplant certificate and is an ATP rated pilot. He worked with Western Airlines and the Allison Division of GMC in Latin America, servicing commercial and military overhaul activities and is a USAF veteran. Send comments to email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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