Why FAA Compliance and Record-keeping Matter?

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Any FAA certificate is THE quintessential document for an air carrier and any other entity with aviation safety authority. In the FAA lexicon, the word “REVOKE” connotes death, the termination of the company’s ability to do business. The below article, which is solely based on the FAA’s version of the facts, provides a lot of lessons about what is likely to incur the ire of the regulator.

To repeat, the “facts” discussed below assume that the FAA’s allegations will be proved, which does not always happen. The intent is to use this real world example as a teaching moment.

The starting point is that the carrier failed to place a Cessna 550 jet on its Operations Specifications. That is not merely a record-keeping mistake; for prior to entering it on to a commercial certificate, the FAA must determine that the aircraft meets the requirements of Part 135 as to airworthiness as well as the company has the appropriate pilots, maintenance, training, etc.

In addition, the carrier was cited with the following violations:

· did not have a qualified chief pilot

· allegedly used crew members unqualified for for-compensation or for-hire operations

· The airline knew that it did not have a qualified chief pilot nor was it using unqualified crew members.

Those substantial allegations, by themselves, might not merit revocation. The carrier cascaded its initial problem into a series of ever greater transgressions. The FAA listed the following efforts to “cover up” its violation with:

· in response to an FAA request for the company’s flight logs, the carrier provided “falsified” logs and

· the airline did not produce the invoices which showed that the flights were paid for.

Such abrogations of trust tend to be fatal to any certificate (assuming the FAA’s allegations.) If the FAA proves these two actions, it has made a case that the carrier does not have proper compliance disposition.

A carrier, following best practices, should have a Safety Officer and a Regulatory Affairs Officer (though neither is required by 14 CFR §119.69) as well as must have a qualified Director of Operations 14 CFR §§119.69, 119.71). Strong professionals in anyone of those positions would likely have exercised the judgment to comply with the FARs and avoided the addition of “revocation” to its authority.

The basis of all FAA certificates is that the holders will assiduously adhere to every FAR. Congress made it clear when it established the statutory standard (49 USC§ 44701(d)(1)(A)) that a carrier must meet “the highest possible degree of safety in the public interest” .

It is reasonable to infer that record- keeping was not a priority with this carrier. The excuse, frequently heard, is that revenue-producing work pays the bills and writing up the FAR-required papers does not. This set of allegations demonstrates that a certificate holder SHALL not place revenue over records. The proposition, that the most valuable asset of any holder of FAA is that piece of paper (shown at the beginning of this post), must be reinforced by a well-established Regulatory Affairs organization. The allocation of a carrier budget to educate and support such preventative maintenance of your FAA certificate is well advised.

With a proactive Regulatory Affairs program, the word “REVOKE” may never be inscribed on your authority.

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