A Practical Primer on how FAA staff can use COMPLIANCE for daily work

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The FAA’s shift from strict enforcement to compliance reflects a more sophisticated/demanding regulatory regime, a superior method for achieving risk reduction and a reality that the FAA staffing could not meet the goals of the old philosophy. However brilliant that change may be, there have been questions as to how/if the field would respond to this new and challenging rubric. Here are a few of the thoughts expressed on these considerations:

·        FAA Administrator issues new Order on Enforcement Policy; will Field follow it?

·        Change, Change, Change is coming to Flight Standards, for better

·        New FAA Compliance Policy a Sea Change from Enforcement—10 Forcing Elements

·        Flight Safety Foundation praises FAA’s & CASA’s new Safety Compliance Approach; Impact?

·        FAA’s new Compliance Policy will take time, but Safety will be better for the wait


·        FAA Legal Reorganization is an Effective Mechanism of a New Compliance Policy Now

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


Compliance Philosophy for Flight Instructors

A Look at Regulations and Safety Management

What is most compelling is the scenario used to illustrate how this new use of the FARs reinforces safety based on the considerations established in those rules. It shows how risk management is an element of flight preparation. Prior to the Gilligan led change (and now Bahrami  leading), a flight instructor would tell the student if you violate this FAR, you will get a nasty letter threatening your ticket. This paper shows how the compliance with the rules should be internalized; the hypothetical exercise is even more individuated in that the discussion focuses on the specific conditions and the individual pilot.

The above link will take you to this instructional piece; here are a few illustrative excerpts:

·         Looking back to my occupation as a full-time flight instructor, I recall generally framing the regulations as something that had to be done to avoid a potential punitive response on the part of the FAA. While it is true that deviating from the regulations may invoke FAA action, I really missed an opportunity to discuss the regulations with safety considerations as the main focus.

·         The Compliance Philosophy:

o    requires and expects compliance with the regulations,

o    is designed to manage risk through identification and control of existing or emerging safety issues,

o    places emphasis on effective compliance by focusing on how participants in the National Airspace System (NAS) ensure compliance,

o    fosters an open exchange of information between the FAA and the aviation community to allow safety problems to be understood and appropriately addressed,

o    encourages a problem solving approach to finding and fixing problems in the NAS, and

o    expects NAS participants to utilize safety management system constructs to identify risks.

·          While it may be easy to teach the regulations as simply something that must be followed, I encourage you to take it a step further; consider the regulations as risk controls. This makes sense considering the FAA generally takes rulemaking action to address those risks that are common to all or large portions of participants in the NAS.

·         The objective of most regulations is to reduce the likelihood of hazard(s) resulting in a negative outcome (such as an accident). If the regulation is not met, the level of risk should be considered uncontrolled. This means there is no level of noncompliance with the regulations that can be considered acceptable.

·         The actions for effective compliance can be broken down as follows:

o    Determine what regulations are applicable to the flight

o    Consider the hazards addressed in those applicable regulations, and

o    Decide what action(s) to take to conform to the regulations in a manner that effectively controls the risk

·          Using the cross-country as an example, you would likely determine that Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) section 91.155(a) — part of the basic VFR weather minimums — is applicable. The hazards being addressed by this regulation include clouds and restrictions to flight visibility. One of the risks involved with not adhering to this regulation is the potential for a mid-air collision. You and your student review the weather forecast and plan to fly at an altitude that will keep you below the bottom cloud layer. You also plan to check weather at nearby airports during the flight to make sure the cloud heights and visibility remain as forecasted. You also remind your student of the importance to visually scan for other aircraft throughout the flight.

·         As noted in this issue’s Checklist department (“Communicating the Concept of Compliance”), the FAA recognizes that should a regulatory deviation occur, it likely results from a lack of training or knowledge, diminished skills, and/or flawed procedures. Such deviations can most often be addressed with non-enforcement means — called Compliance Actions — that include on-the-spot corrections, counseling, and remedial training.


o    Help your students develop safety management principles, including personal minimums, checklists, and memory aids such as IMSAFE and PAVE.

o    Encourage your students to seek recurrent training above the minimum required by the regulations.

o    Strive to provide comprehensive flight reviews and instrument proficiency checks.

o    Encourage those whom you fly with to seek proficiency training when their skills/knowledge may have diminished, or if they are flying in a different aircraft or environment from what they are used to.

o    Advocate staying engaged with updates affecting general aviation. One way to do this is to share with your students the resources that you use to stay current.

   Jeffrey Smith, FAA Airman Training and Certification Branch Manager, author of the above FAA Safety article, should be commended for taking a very ethereal concept and reified it into practical, realistic terms. THANKS. This and other similar translations of compliance philosophy into very day examples should help the FAA staff charged with employing it on a day-to-day basis. Most significantly from a learning standpoint, Mr. Smith does an excellent job explaining the why’s which support the expected FAA actions.  

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