While catching up on my reading I came across your article The Perfect Storm (rogue inspectors and cozy relationships, Staying Legal, January/February 2009). First let me say that I’m a member of the choir and render a hearty, Amen! I’ve suffered the FAA for 38 years of flying and fixing. With a few exceptions, its inspectors have been of very little help and often a stumbling block in producing planes and pilots capable of doing a good, safe job. It has far too often been the reason that the statement, ‘I’m from the FAA and I’m here to help you,’ is a joke in the aviation community.
A very big problem is that the FAA protects its own. Trying to get an incompetent inspector replaced seems to take an act of God. I’m not totally convinced that even that would do it. We here in the Birmingham, AL, area suffer from an inspector who is autocratic, mean-spirited, often ill-informed, and delights in throwing his weight around. He’s closed numerous corporate flight departments, and taken away the credentials from individuals who didn’t deserve such.
One of the area’s much beloved, and clearly top-notch flight instructors had this happen to him. This man was called upon to give flight checks all over the nation because of his skills and knowledge. This inspector tried to get him on a technicality but was foiled by a good member of another FSDO. When that didn’t work he found a tiny infringement in regulations that he could use as an excuse to ground him.
A competent inspector would have mentioned the matter quietly to this man (because it was such a small and insignificant thing) and let it go at that. But no, an emergency revocation of the gentleman’s certificates followed. He’s been severely handicapped in making a living and had to hire a lawyer to try to get his certificates back.
The company I worked for was similarly shut down. No amount of letters to officials from our company lawyers got us a hearing.
We hear that this inspector will be sent to Texas in the early summer. We’ve also heard that the lady that heads up the office here will also be “promoted.” Everyone sincerely hopes that these rumors are true. Between the two of them our area has been severely impacted. Jobs have been lost and safety has not been improved one iota. This is bureaucracy at its worse, and the individual has little to no recourse. Would that all the committees would actually fix something in government. But as President Reagan said, “Government isn’t the solution, it’s the problem.”
As for me, well I’m long in the tooth (closing in on 70) and it’s a good time to be mostly retired. I sincerely feel for the young people with families who are trying to make a living in aviation today. With the liberal administration now in place I believe it’s going to be a rough road for the hard working person who would just like to keep the money he earns, and doesn’t want the government’s “help.” Keep up the good writing.
— Christine Beal-Kaplan,
ATP, A&P, IA, (RT)
I enjoyed the article on Bill O’Brien and had the pleasure of meeting him in person while attending a seminar that he was the guest speaker here in Kansas City several years ago. You listed several of his accomplishments while employed by the FAA but you missed one of his most important contributions. Your magazine is aimed primarily at the GA people so it is understandable that you missed it.
Bill O’Brien was also heavily involved in the commercial regulatory side of the agency as well. He was the architect of the now widely used FAA Form 8130 tag incorporated within all the U.S. airlines and all commercial aircraft parts vendors today! In fact, the format Bill used has been copied on all the individual airline serviceability tags, the EASA Form One tag, the JAL tag, and on virtually every parts vendor certification form that is sent out.
Just thought that Bill O’Brien should get the credit he deserves.
— Larry Turpin
Bill O’Brien’s farewell as he enters the fourth career stage
Past Contact: Mary Solbrig Gia Koontz writes regularly for AMT magazine usually about aviation mechanics from the early years. This is a beautiful article about a female mechanic from long...
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