Compliance Policy would benefit from more transparency in Enforcement Cases

FAA Compliance Philosophy
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faa compliance

FAA Compliance Philosophy makes great sense

Recent string of Enforcement Cases

Application of Philosophy benefit from transparency


Press Release – FAA Proposes $167,500 Civil Penalty Against Steele Aviation of Beverly Hills, Calif.


Press Release – FAA Proposes $252,175 Civil Penalty Against Execuflight, Inc.

Press Release – FAA Proposes $75,000 Civil Penalty Against Commercial Jet, Inc


Press Release – FAA Proposes $1.76 Million Civil Penalty Against Commercial Aircraft Equipment for Producing Galley Carts Without FAA Approval


KEY ALLEGATIONS excerpted from the FAA press releases of each of the above cases:

  1. Steele Aviation, Inc., of Beverly Hills, Calif-$167,500 civil penalty
    1. allegedly conducting unauthorized air carrier operations and using unqualified pilots.
    2. at least 78 for-hire passenger-carrying flights…when neither aircraft was listed on an air carrier certificate, the FAA alleges.
    3. the pilots who conducted the majority of these flights did not meet applicable training requirements for this type of operation.
    4. the pilot who served as second in command lacked the proper pilot and medical certificates to serve in that capacity for a majority of the flights
    5. On March 2, 2016, FAA safety inspectors met the Gulfstream after it landed at Van Nuys Airport, and interviewed the pilots and their paying passenger.
    6. On April 15, 2016, an FAA inspector notified Steele Aviation it was under investigation for operating without the proper certification.
    7. The company continued to use the unqualified co-pilot until May 30, 2016 and continued to conduct unauthorized air carrier operations until June 13, 2016…
  2. Execuflight, Inc. of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.– $252,175 civil penalty
    1. the charter company allowed an unqualified worker to perform certain maintenance tasks on the company’s Gulfstream G-1159A jet.
    2. The FAA further alleges the company allowed that worker to inspect and sign off on work that he had performed, which is prohibited under FAA regulations.
    3. the FAA alleges Execuflight failed to keep accurate maintenance records for the Gulfstream, resulting in a lack of documentation that various tasks were completed or reviewed and approved.
  3. Commercial Jet, Inc. of Miami, Fla.– $75,000
    1. failed to follow the requirements of Boeing’s 767 Aircraft Maintenance Manual when it removed and replaced the left and right main landing gear on the aircraft, which was operated by Amerijet International, Inc.
    2. Commercial Jet failed to attach pressure gauges to all eight locations on the main landing gear brakes before conducting pressure checks.
    3. The FAA advised the company to contact Boeing to determine if Commercial Jets’ alternate method of testing was permissible.
    4. However, it failed to do so and returned the aircraft to service.
    5. A week later, Boeing confirmed that the testing should be performed as written in the Aircraft Maintenance Manual, with gauges on each brake.
  4. Commercial Aircraft Equipment of Dallas, Texas– $1.76 million civil penalty
    1. CAE produced and sold 160 modified airline galley carts for Atlas Air without first holding an FAA Parts Manufacturer Approval (PMA) to produce them.
    2. The FAA further alleges that despite not holding this approval, CAE attached metal “FAA-PMA” tags to each of the carts before they were delivered.

The coincidence of the issuance of these civil penalty sanctions raises questions about the two year old Compliance Philosophy. 
Based on the below articulation of the policy, it is difficult to understand the application of the policy?

FAA Safety Compliance moves from penalties to collaborative fixes of Root Causes; No/Maybe/Yes?

FAA comply

About [two] year[s] ago, FAA Administrator Huerta and Associate Administrator for Aviation Safety Gilligan established a new policy course for meeting the highest levels of safety from certificated entities. Instead of using sanctions, suspensions and revocations as a means of enforcing the FARs, the senior safety officers indicated, that based on the benefits created by the cooperative/preventative direction of SMS, the goal would be compliance and collaboration.

The documents supporting this new approach were FAA Order 8300.323, FAA Order 8000.373: Federal Aviation Administration Compliance Philosophy, and related changes to FAA Order 2150.3B. Historically the FAA field staff found great comfort with their “traffic cop ticket writing role” and there was reason to believe that the new directive would not be well received by the field due to their lack of support for the lack of “punishment” and their new role of working with the regulated. A very instrumental change was made organizationally to assure that the transition was implemented consistent with the new approach.

9/8/15  N 8900.323

Order 8000.323: Compliance Philosophy

…To promote the highest level of safety and compliance with regulatory standards, the FAA is implementing Safety Management System constructs based on comprehensive safety data sharing between the FAA and the aviation community. To foster this open and transparent exchange of data, the FAA believes that its compliance philosophy, supported by an established safety culture, is instrumental in ensuring both compliance with regulations and the identification of hazards and management of risk. When deviations from regulatory standards do occur, the FAA’s goal is to use the most effective means to return an individual or entity that holds an FAA certificate, approval, authorization, permit, or license to full compliance and to prevent recurrence. The FAA recognizes that some deviations arise from factors such as flawed procedures, simple mistakes, lack of understanding, or diminished skills. The Agency believes that deviations of this nature can most effectively be corrected through root cause analysis and training, education, or other appropriate improvements to procedures or training programs for regulated entities, which are documented and verified to ensure effectiveness. However, reluctance or failure in adopting these methods to remediate deviations or instances of repeated deviations might result in enforcement.

The FAA views those intentional or reckless deviations from regulatory standards, as defined in the Agency’s safety oversight guidance, or deviations from regulatory standards that otherwise present an unacceptable risk to safety, as posing the highest risk to safe operation of the NAS, and thus requiring strong enforcement. Matters involving competence or qualification of certificate, license, or permit holders will be addressed with appropriate remedial measures, which might include retraining or enforcement. Regulatory violations involving law enforcement-related activities may be addressed with enforcement. In addition, legal enforcement will be taken when required by law.

In the application of its new Compliance Philosophy, it would appear prudent to provide guidance to other certificate holders, the public and the FAA field. It is difficult to synthesis these four contemporary actions:


  1. Steele Aviation continued to operate flights without the appropriate authority and also allowed pilots without training and/or medical certificates to fly.
    1. Is that not intentional or reckless deviations from regulatory standards?
    2. The allegation involves pilot competence or qualification—what remedial action has been taken?
    3. How does 78 illegal flights translate to a proposed civil penalty of $167,500?
  2. Execuflight, Inc. was alleged to have allowed one employee who was unqualified to maintain its records.
    1. There is no mention of remedial action.
    2. Its civil penalty is proposed at the level of $252,175.
  1. Commercial Jet, Inc. is alleged to have failed to follow the Aircraft Maintenance Manual. After being told that its work was unairworthy, but the company released the aircraft for operation.
    1. There is no mention of remedial action.
    2. An intentional action receives a proposed civil penalty of only $75,000.
  2. Commercial Aircraft Equipment, a well-established manufacturer of commercial equipment with engineering, design and certification qualifications, is alleged to have modified airline galley carts without holding a PMA but having attached PMA tags to the product.
    1. There is no mention of remedial action.
    2. This civil penalty of $1.76 million reflects a severe level of non-compliance, which may have supported amendment, suspension or revocation of its FAA authorities.

The Compliance Philosophy makes great sense.  SMS provides a more rational, real time approach to deal with issues. The FARs are a stagnant set of rules in a highly dynamic operational work environment. Today the certificate holders and the FAA address potential safety risks before problems occur. The Compliance Philosophy and the old enforcement approach have contradictory premises. However, Order 8900.323 retains the enforcement option.

 faa field


In the absence of any mention of remedial actions, with cases which appear to reach “intentional or reckless” levels and with such large variations in the civil penalty dollar amounts, it is difficult to understand the rational.  An enlightened policy would be better served by more transparency in these decisions.


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