Confusing Enforcement Cases may create doubts about Compliance Policy

FAA compliance philosophy
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Compass and NavWorX get FAA sanctions

Compliance v. Enforcement in age of SMS

FAA Proposes $869,125 Civil Penalty Against Compass Airlines, LLC

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“The U.S Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) proposes an $869,125 civil penalty against Compass Airlines, LLC, of St. Louis, Mo., for allegedly failing to provide flight crews with complete weather information.

The FAA alleges the company, which does business as Delta Connection, operated 47 flights between May 18, 2015 and June 19, 2015 without correctly using an approved system for obtaining weather forecasts and reports of adverse weather. Compass flew to and from Monterrey, Mexico, without the required Mexican Significant Meteorological Information in its flight weather packages, the agency alleges.

“It is imperative that all operators have complete and accurate weather information,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “That ensures they’re aware of potentially dangerous clear air turbulence, thunderstorms and low-altitude wind shear, all of which could affect the safety of flight.”

The FAA further alleges that Compass did not notify its operations personnel about potentially hazardous meteorological conditions.

Compass has 30 days from receiving the FAA’s civil penalty letter to respond to the agency.”

 


FAA Proposes Civil Penalty of Nearly $3.7 Million Against Manufacturer of ADS-B Navigation Units

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) proposes a civil penalty of $3,685,000 against NavWorx Inc. of Rowlett, Texas, for allegedly producing and selling navigation units that did not meet FAA requirements and for allegedly misleading customers about those products.

“The FAA has strict requirements for navigation units to ensure the reliability of the information they provide both to pilots and to air traffic controllers,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “Customers of these products must be able to trust that their equipment meets our safety standards.”

During an investigation, the FAA found that NavWorx produced certain Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) navigation units containing an internal Global Positioning System (GPS) chip that did not meet the FAA’s standards for integrity.

In March 2015, the FAA notified the aviation industry that it had tightened its System Integrity Level (SIL) standards for GPS chips in units that meet the FAA’s January 1, 2020 mandatory deadline for operators to equip their aircraft with ADS-B transmitters. Such units, when properly manufactured and operated, broadcast an aircraft’s precise position.

The FAA alleges that, rather than replace the chips in its ADS600-B units, NavWorx knowingly altered the units’ internal software to transmit a code that indicated the units met the new SIL standard even though they did not. The FAA further alleges that the company subsequently refused to comply with the FAA’s direction to modify the software to transmit an accurate code.

The FAA also alleges that NavWorX advertised on its company website and through transactions with customers that ADS600-B part numbers 200-0012 and 200-0013 met the FAA’s tighter standards for the 2020 installation deadline. These advertisements omitted and materially misrepresented the essential fact that the units contain a GPS chip that is incapable of meeting the FAA’s standards.

In November 2016, the FAA issued an emergency order suspending the authorization that NavWorx uses to manufacture the affected ADS-B units after the company repeatedly refused to allow the FAA to inspect its records and manufacturing facilities. The authorization, known as a Technical Standard Order Authorization (TSOA), enables suppliers to produce components for use on aircraft after proving that each component meets FAA standards.

Federal regulations set forth FAA’s authority to inspect suppliers’ quality systems, facilities, technical data, and products to determine whether they meet safety standards. These regulations also provide that the FAA may witness any tests necessary to determine a product’s compliance. The company subsequently allowed the inspections to occur and the FAA reinstated NavWorx’s manufacturing authorization.

The FAA is continuing to work with NavWorx customers to ensure the safety and accuracy of the affected products. In June 2017, the FAA published a final Airworthiness Directive (AD) that requires owners to remove or disable these ADS-B units. The AD also allows the owner to modify the unit by linking it with a GPS unit that contains a certified chip that meets FAA standards.

NavWorx has been in communication with the FAA about the case.

NavWorX ADS-B unit

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For a lot of good reasons, the FAA Senior Staff decided to initiate a New Compliance Philosophy which comports completely with the logic and the approach of SMS. Instead of using sanctions, suspensions and revocations as a means of enforcing the FARs, the goal would be to achieve compliance and collaboration through the cooperative/preventative direction of SMS.

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.

Under the new philosophy, these facts would seem to merit the heavy punitive tact and/or a cease and desist order:

FAA Order 8900.323

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.

The NavWorX case seems to fall under the exception to the Order 8300.323 philosophy and enforcement action was merited.  The FAA press release clearly states: “the company subsequently refused to comply with the FAA’s direction to modify the software to transmit an accurate code.” The FAA field should recognize that the repeated failure to comply explicitly fits the policy.

Not so clear with Compass Airlines. On the face of the allegations, it is hard to identify the “intentional or reckless deviations.” The press release indicates that the company failed to use the right weather source, the Mexican Significant Meteorological. The language announcing this Press Release does not include words justifying removal of the case from the Order 8300.323 general rule.

As with any new policy, particularly one which involves precise distinctions, the field carefully watches the cases which are announced:

It is easy to expect that the field, which has lived (and succeeded) under the old policy, will be somewhat askance about the novel Compliance rubric. These seemingly conflicting cases will contribute to doubts within the ranks.

Even more so, those, who work with the FAA through SMS and who expect that inadvertent errors are not the basis for enforcement, will have increased trust in their SMS participation through clearer explanations of such decisions.

 

 

 

 

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