Certificate actions consist of either a suspension or a revocation of certificate. Suspension can be for a fixed period of time or indefinite. Certificate suspensions of a fixed number of days are issued as a disciplinary action “Hand Slap” against the violator and in an effort to deter future violations. Suspensions of an indefinite period of time are issued to prevent a certificate holder from exercising the privileges of his/her certificate until he/she has successfully demonstrated that he/she meets the requirements to hold the certificate. And then there is the most drastic measure, certificate revocation. Certificate revocations are issued when the FAA determines that a certificate holder is no longer qualified to hold a certificate. Orders of suspension and revocation issued by the FAA may be appealed to the National Transportation Safety Board, and the Board’s decisions may be reviewed by a U.S. court of appeals.
A civil penalty is basically just a monetary fine. When it comes to civil penalties, air carriers are held to a higher standard. An air carrier can be subject to a penalty of up to $11,000 for a single violation of a regulation; other certificate holders (repair stations, mechanics, pilots, etc.) can receive a penalty of up to $1,100 for each violation.
For more detailed information on enforcement actions refer to: http://www.faa.gov/
Most generally, the event that creates a concern by the FAA that your organization may have violated a regulation is a “friendly visit” from your assigned safety inspector. If you are a repair station or an air carrier, your organization is subject to yearly or more frequent “visits” by your FAA inspectors. In many cases, these visits are treated very lightly by the certificate holder, without an understanding of the importance of the outcome of the visit. Now let’s take a moment and look at how you might better handle FAA yearly inspections to minimize unnecessary confusion with the FAA.
Guidelines for an FAA visit
The FAA’s job, defined when they took their oath as safety inspectors, is to expose and take enforcement action on any violations discovered. The yearly inspection is intended to find noncompliance with your procedures and/or violations of specific regulations. Not all inspectors take enforcement action, and we can appreciate that, however, it is important to know that technically they are obliged to do so if they find something. So, how should you prepare for and handle a visit from your assigned FAA safety inspector?
The relationship that we have with our FAA inspector is important and it is important to maintain amicable cordial relations as you would in any business relationship, but be careful not to fall into a subordinate position to your inspector. You do not work for him/her. As a matter of fact, in a round about way, being the government, your inspector works for you. What can thrust you into a subordinate position with your FAA inspector is dependence upon them for guidance and answers to regulatory questions. One of the first rules in compliance management is to know and understand the regulations and how you are in compliance with each one that affects your business.
The FAA visit should last a day or two. Following these guidelines will keep you in control of most situations that could arise.
- Assign someone within your organization, a representative, to be with the FAA at all times. The person assigned should know where to find information the FAA will want to see, or have quick access to someone who knows where things are kept.
- Refrain from entering into conversation about any specific events that have taken place. The FAA should use your documentation to find answers they need. Instruct your representative on this.
- Let the FAA know that your representative will make copies of anything they might need. Don’t give the FAA free access to your copy machine. Instruct the representative to always make two copies of anything the FAA wants a copy of, one for you as well.
- Provide only the information that is requested. If the FAA asks to look at “the work orders,” ask them to be more specific. “What type of work order would you like to see?” Provide one work order at a time (for each inspector), putting them away as they are finished. Stay organized.
- Remember to keep only two years maintenance records (as a repair station). That is all you are required to have available for inspection.
- Do not get into any arguments with your FAA inspector. Let them do their job. Remember, you already hold a certificate.
- Do not agree to make any major changes in your procedures on the spot. Most of the time a change requested by the FAA verbally is simply that inspector’s opinion. Major changes to procedures can cost your company lots of money in retraining and inefficiencies. Wait to see if the inspector includes “his/her opinion” in the letter to you at the end of the inspection, then address it properly.
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