Aviation is a complex business; regulating it is even more complicated. The basic rules, 14 CFR Parts 1-198, consume over 3,500 pages of single-spaced, two column, small font pages. Those books are not enough; the FAA relies on Handbooks, Orders, Advisory Circulars, Airworthiness Directives and a long list of other documents which “clarify” what is meant. Add to that these rules are applied to huge airline fleets which are supported by large organizations to ma and pa single one engine plane flying services, from arctic to tropical operations, from mountain terrains to dry, flat deserts and a myriad of other variables which impact how to apply the rules; there, almost by definition, must be flexibility in interpreting the rules. In fact, it is a classical situation in which it is likely that reasonable people may disagree.
Given this diversity of sources and drafting that was intended to be vague, strict enforcement is somewhat incongruous.
With that background, Director of Flight Standards John Allen’s announcement of a new approach to compliance is welcomed and appropriate. John told the Aircraft Charter Safety Foundation’s annual Air Charter Safety Symposium that he is “trying to change a culture within the Flight Standards Service.” Specifically, he intimated that the first tool of his 1,500 inspectors is not to open his ticket book and begin to violate a “problem.”
John succinctly summarized the difficult balancing position that he is advocating while “[w]e are not friends,” but there should be a more cooperative approach to resolving minor problems.
Great initiative, John, and hopefully your field organization will adopt this new approach.