Few have ever heard of it, and if they did, they really did not understand that this process could be used to appeal any FAA departmental action that you disagree with or question its validity. It is called the Aviation Safety Consistency and Standardization Initiative.
When this process was created in 2009 it was designed to offer an opportunity for all affected airmen or other stakeholders to question any result of action by any aviation safety office operating within the FAA. The word stakeholder simply refers to one or all of the persons or other entities who wish to dispute or question the action of FAA or its representatives.
There are of course formal regulatory appeals available that result from certificate actions that sanction airmen for conduct within the flight standards system. These appeals go to an Administrative Law Judge then to the NTSB and if necessary, further, to a U.S. District Court or District Court of Appeals. We all should be familiar with this type of appeal.
However, outside of this area there were many disputes or decisions and actions by FAA resulting in sanctions that did not provide for an “appeal” to a higher decision-making authority. Therefore, in 2009 the FAA created the Consistency and Standardization Initiative process to allow for a review of any action or decision that was not covered by a regulatory appeal procedure.
This “review” (appeal) is a powerful tool to question FAA action simply because it provides for a direct review that can go all the way to the Administrator’s office. When you file a petition for a review of any decision it has to be reviewed by the complete chain of command, at every level of management in the FAA.
The description on the FAA web site describes the process as follows, “When an aviation safety action is questioned or disputed, decision-makers at every level of the AVS management chain are expected to thoroughly review the matter and be accountable for the answers provided. AVS is proud to work on behalf of the American public to continually improve safety in our skies.”
Some of the principles of the Consistency and Standardization process are published further as:
- A timely and complete response to your inquiry or request
- A clear explanation of the requirements, alternatives, and possible outcomes associated with your inquiry or request
- A clear explanation of our decisions
- Clear guidance on how you can elevate your concerns to the next higher level of authority
Note that item (4) is the statement that supports your assurance that your question or issue will go all the way to the top of the AVS management chain, the Administrator, if not resolved at a lower level.
In addition, the Consistency and Standardization review process must include a very detailed checklist that is also set out at the web site that includes but is not limited to the following check items that must be reviewed:
- The relevant regulations
- The relevant guidance
- The legal precedents and interpretations
- Prior history of the person or entity making the petition
- The offices, regions, or directorates that have dealt with the petitioner
Recently, I have come across two cases where the process could be used and was successful in bringing about a desired result in one case.
Starting in 2012 there were many concerns surrounding a newly proposed Inspection Authorization policy that many felt was specifically designed to remove many senior mechanics’ inspection authorization. Although this was not the stated intent, it appeared to many that it was to be the result. The first instance I heard of happened to a senior mechanic who was challenged and subjected to a re-test for his IA authority by a difficult inspector regarding a clerical error on a 337 form that came to the attention of the inspector The airman handed in his IA authority after being subjected to an unnecessary 709 exam … there is of course no formal appeal of a denial of IA authority. It is simply authority that can be denied and taken away for any reason. However, if he had waited until they had withdrawn his authority, in my opinion, the Consistency and Standardization process could have been used by the mechanic to question and challenge this action.
Another example provided the desired result. A mechanic who was on an overseas assignment at the time had sent his renewal papers to his stateside managing FSDO for renewal of his IA authority. The papers were sent back to him for correction of some typos which he then resent back to the FSDO. Due to the slow arrival and delivery of mail in the part of the world where this man was, the papers arrived at the FSDO after the date required to renew. The FSDO informed him that since the time had passed to renew they were sorry but could not accommodate him. He was very upset, he would lose his job and have to return to the United States since his IA was required for his employment. He tried pleading with the FSDO for some relief to no avail. He called me and asked what he could do. I suggested that he prepare a petition to the FSDO manager citing the Consistency process relating all the facts and again asking for some relief. Subsequently he was informed that his IA authority was on the way and the FSDO was sorry for the mixup. The mere mention of invoking the Consistency and Standardization Initiative and serving the relevant papers seemed to get the desired result. We will never know for sure of course.
When all else fails try the Consistency and Standardization process and see what happens. The process is described on the FAA web site.