The Tail Wagging the Dog

The FAA's relationship with the industry

Operational control
Through standard FAA audits in the business aviation charter community in 2005 and 2006, the FAA legitimately found a few operators who were not able to demonstrate that they had “Operational Control” of all of their aircraft, a term found within 14 CFR Part 135 (among other regulations) that means basically what it says. The air carrier must have control of the operation.

In these few cases, the air carriers were contracting other aircraft to handle flights for them and were not meeting all of the required measures to show that they indeed had operational control. As it turned out, the FAA took the position that the exact definition of operational control may not have been clearly communicated, and working with industry, it provided a method and timeline for the charter industry to meet the now clearly defined requirements for operational control.

Things seemed to be going well and organizations were working with their local FAA safety inspectors to make the adjustments, if needed, to their operations and procedures.

Then out of the blue, the FAA took out its big stick “certificate action” and revoked the air carrier certificate held by AMI Jet Charter/Tag Aviation.

Again, I believe the action taken was an effort to flex the muscle of the FAA in order to scare other operators, and show Congress and the public that they are in charge. In my opinion, certificate action, being the most extreme remedy at the disposal of the FAA, was much more than was necessary. As it turned out, the aircraft were allowed to move to another certificate and some were being operated again within only a few days. If they were really unsafe, how could they be back up and running so quickly under a different certificate?

The solution
It seems ridiculous to try to increase safety by a show of power. The real solution will come when the FAA finds an effective way to train their inspectors to really work with industry, educate industry, and support industry.

In the mean time, don’t sit around waiting for the FAA to come tell you what you should change about your maintenance organization or operation. Most of them don’t know, none of them have your businesses interest in mind, and likely none of them know the processes used within your organization.

Get into the regulations. Get to where you or someone within your organization understands the meaning and purpose of the rules that govern your business, and be proactive with the FAA. You need to be able to tell the FAA what you are going to do and how it meets the requirements of the regulations.

We are in a regulated industry. In addition to knowing how to handle employee issues, or marketing concerns, or accounting methods, our businesses have also got to focus on compliance in a very on-purpose way.

Joe Hertzler is the CEO and co-founder of Avtrak Inc., provider of the industry’s first Internet-based and compliance-focused maintenance tracking service — Avtrak GlobalNet. Avtrak has earned a solid reputation for having the most comprehensive and easy-to-use compliance management system and service in the industry. Avtrak’s GlobalNet technology is the engine behind Gulfstream and Sikorsky HelotracII. GlobalNet is the system of choice for many operators of more than 140 models including Bombardier, Hawker/Beechcraft, and Dassault Falcon aircraft.

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