Amazon appears to be interested in operating (wet lease or under its own certificate?) B-767Fs to distribute its goods. Whether the company holds authority directly or works through an operator, the good news for aviation safety is that the Seattle company will get an education in the FARs, compliance and safety culture.
Why SHOULD AMAZON’S ENTRY INTO FAA CERTIFICATION be of interest to everyone who operates aircraft?
Jeff Bezos’ incredible vision resulted in the innovative, but regulatory testing Prime Air. He challenged, and basically tried to bully, the FAA as he attempted to use UASs to deliver his warehouse inventory in a new time dimension. Regulators and entrepreneurs do not play together well, because of their very different tolerance for risk. This approach had some success, in large part due to the fact that the regulatory regime of drones was not well defined; indeed the FAA delay in its formulation of the relevant rules added to the Bezos leverage.
After a while, the entrepreneurial passion gained some perspective. Amazon seemed to understand that valid safety imperatives, not just “superfluous” regulatory “impediments,” should be addressed. To its credit, the Prime Air team announced that it was contributing to technology developments which would support its proposed operations.
As the biggest and most visible player in the drone arena, Amazon’s laissez-faire approach to the FARs was evident to the thousands (now millions?) of UAS owners. Drone nation is heavily invested in the notion that they need not adhere to the FAA rules, reflecting the industry leader’s frequent example of attacking the regulator.
Safety culture is critical to aviation safety and FAR compliance. Usually the training required of pilots and cabin crews indoctrinate these professionals in the strong rational why it is important to understand, know and follow the regulations. Equally, applicants for operating certificates (Parts 121, 125, 129 and 135) must demonstrate their command of these safety standards and their willingness/ability to comply with the relevant rules.
Drone operators need only read their manuals and are not required to become familiar with the regulatory system and not learn why. Anyone, who visits any of the Drone internet chat boards or FB groups, will be overwhelmed by the intransigence of the UAS community. Thus, it is not surprising that the attitude of these new entrants to aviation, who are not educated about the safety rules and their universal value to all fliers, is so hostile (“negative” is not strong enough of a word). The Amazon public stance of defiance did not help.
According to the statements in the below articles, Amazon’s exacting distribution demands cannot be met by the existing express aviation companies. The “Amazonian” executives are confident that with planes under their direct control,[i] they will be able to meet the precise schedules needed to move their inventory.
[i]If, in fact, the company must be able to dictate the departures of the B-767F flights, then Amazon must hold the FAA Part 121 or 125 certificate. Leasing of the capacity and assigning the freighters to an existing airline would not allow the level of control which the story suggests.
To hold an FAA certificate the applicant must receive a full baptism in the FARs. As a predicate to receiving the authority to fly a B-767F, it must demonstrate its compliance disposition. Today’s approval criteria include the definition and implementation of SMS. That is a risk anticipation and prevention discipline.
If Amazon receives the necessary FAA authority, its laissez-faire attitude will diminish. No longer will Drone Nation be able to point to the big, bad Amazon example; safety culture will benefit from this new role model.