An A to Z about the types of aircraft under the FAA’s jurisdiction
Two recent tragic accidents have raised the media’s and thus the public’s attention to the safety of hot air balloons and parachuting/sky-diving. The NTSB warning of the FAA to increase its scrutiny of these hot air commercial operations was the subject of many headlines, even though the Board’s own records showed only 37 fatalities in these primarily sightseeing vehicles in the last 16 years.
The FAA’s goal for all aviation is ZERO accidents; however, it must prioritize the use of its resources as to preventative actions. Much of the safety agency’s attention is focused on airlines (domestic/international commercial [including charters]), domestic regional airlines and general aviation. Their actions include establishing and improving standards, surveillance (including the new SMS/SASO approaches), ramp checks, training and distributing the best practices as to operations, maintenance and piloting skills/competence. Congress, in all likelihood, would concur with this allocation rules.
Congress, when it returns from its August recess, will likely speak authoritatively about the FAA’s need to increase its vigilance as to ballooning and parachuting. Without regard to whether the reductions were justified, it is a fact that the same group of wise persons who occupy the Hill has reduced the FAA’s personnel authorizations and appropriations for years.
A bit of A to Z education about the types of aircraft under the FAA’s jurisdiction may be appropriate:
→ The relevant regulations and other FAA materials are hyperlinked to the title of each aircraft type.
A. Airship—there are rules about the certification and operation of this class of aircraft—14 CFR Parts 21, 43 and 91 plus a list of 6 Advisory Circulars, plus a bunch of other materials.
A. Amateur-Built Aircraft—a surprisingly active segment of GA; the EAA section of these aircraft is large; the innovations which the Rutan’s have brought to planes and space vehicles were incubated here.
A. Autocar—they are coming and they pose challenges
C. Drones – a tremendously transformational form of aviation likely to impact the FAA; the new Part 107 has rules about their “certification” and operations.
E. Experimental— Research and development, showing compliance with regulations, crew training, exhibition, Air racing and market surveys are limited uses allowed under these rules (amateur/home built is related).
G. Glider—a form of aviation with little emphasis even though a former FAA Administrator died in a “sailplane” accident.
L. LSA—a category created by the FAA to encourage flying in inexpensive aircraft.
P. Parachutes – another point of recent attention and the FARs prescribe the operations of them plus regulates who/how they are packed.
S. Seaplane, Skiplane, and Float/Ski Equipped Helicopter – separate handbook for operations.
U. Ultralights—another segment of aviation which encourages recreation in flight with few limitations.
→ This list is of the aircraft subject to FAA regulations. Additionally it is responsible for maintenance facilities (US and foreign), training organizations, airframe manufacturing (commercial and GA), powerplant manufacturing, helicopter manufacturing, international relations, environmental standards, PLUS operating and maintaining the NAS!
These 12 segments cover, literally, a lot of ground (and water); most of these vehicles can depart from places other than airports. Consequently, the FAA’s surveillance becomes a more difficult process to schedule. If Congress decides, upon its return to DC, that the level of scrutiny expected of the agency should be increased, it should also ponder whether additional staff is needed and whether the Treasury can pay for these added inspectors.
The White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security, a/k/a the Gore Commission in 1984, on a micro FAA basis and the Grace Commission also in 1984, on a government wide review, both examined the question of staffing of federal employees. Neither has had much impact. Congress might want to reread[i] them before they legislate added FAA priorities without increased resources.
[i] surely 32 years ago some members scrutinized these documents?