FAA Enforcement Refresher
Sometimes, it’s complicated
By Stephen P. Prentice
Recently, I ran into some new technicians who were not up to speed on the subject of FAA enforcement actions and what can happen when they get after you for alleged violations of the FAR’s — especially Part 43. So, as a New Year’s start, a brief shot on this subject seems to be in order. By the time you all read this, we will have a new leader at the DOT, but the same Administrator (Jane Garvey) unless she chooses to resign, and that’s not likely — too cushy a job. It will be interesting to see the interaction, keeping in mind that the Administrator works for the DOT.
Enforcement – the important first step
Whenever you see or hear of an FAA person looking into something you have done or repaired, get out your trusty NASA ARC #277D form, fill it out, and mail it! What is this form you say? Well, you better be aware of it and make use of it when necessary. It is the maintenance variety of the aviation safety reporting system form.
This system was established to identify issues in the aviation system that need attention. The program is described in FAA Advisory Circular 00-46D. The information you provide (about what you suspect might be an FAR violation by yourself) cannot be used against you in any way as stated in FAR 91.25. This FAR prohibits reports filed with NASA from being used for FAA enforcement purposes. The report is not made available to FAA. The identity strip attached to the form is returned to you, stamped as received by NASA, and the date. You are totally anonymous. A further tip is to keep a copy of the form for your records and send it certified mail, return receipt requested. This is your double insurance of proof of mailing.
Why do this? Well, if this is your only report within five years, you are immune from imposition of any sanctions as a result of what is reported, when and if FAA brings an enforcement action against you. Let the case go to hearing if necessary and if you wind up being found guilty in a certificate action or civil penalty case, you bring out your copy of the NASA report. Simply show it after the hearing is concluded. Under most conditions, you will not be held to the sanction. Do not reveal it or introduce it during the hearing — the FAA can use it against you if you do!
BUT, and it is a big but, there are some rules. The most important of which is to get the report filed A.S.A.P. There is a 10- day rule involved from the date of the "incident." Even if the time element is in question, file a report anyway! It can’t hurt you and may help you. So, for example, in the case of a pilot busting a Class B airspace restriction, he knows when it happened and should send his report immediately, whether or not he thinks the FAA knows about it. In the case of a mechanic, an example would be releasing an aircraft to return to service without making a log entry. If you could not get the log back into your hands, you should file a report immediately. Anytime, there appears to be anything out there that might come back to haunt you, file a report. Read AC 00-46D and FAR 91.25. Airline pilots and technicians don’t go anywhere without their ARC 277 form.
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