FAA Field opinion on an FAR has a Penumbra of Power

Collings Foundation P-51D Mustang
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The FAA’s General Operating and Flight Rules (14 CFR Part 91) (Part 91) define the less strict standards applicable to general aviation. The requirements of this part are justified because the pilots may not accept “compensation or hire”, as very broadly interpreted by the FAA. This rule uses economical limits to distinguish GA from common carriage. These distinctions have, without malice aforethought, attracted a lot of attention for those who want to fly under Part 91 and somehow collect some revenue. Subpart K is an example of a permissible exception to this prohibition.

The privileges of a pilot are further defined (clarified?) in 14 CFR §61.113. The FAA Chief Counsel maintains a library of interpretations and opinions. A search there results in 120 official positions on these rules. Add to that the 7,000 employees who are involved in applying the FARs to actual flight; their collective views, if plotted on a graph, would define random distribution chart.

The point of this introduction is to highlight the most important line in the FAA statement :

“The FAA alleges that before the operations occurred, FAA inspectors 
advised the Foundation that such flights would violate FAA regulations.”

Typically, that was the best advice to heed. The individual, who said it would be a violation, is the one, who writes up an enforcement report, has a penumbra of power. THAT HIDDEN IMPACT:

Once set in motion, you spend money; the FAA incurs no additional expenses.

The issuance of a press release, as with Collings, immediately hurts your reputation.

Do not underestimate the time consumed by the regulated entity searching records, writing explanations, attending preparation meetings and traveling to/zooming with the FAA.

All too often the oral statement made by those out on the tarmac will not find support all the way through the levels and  the multiple columns of “authority”. The process of appealing a field opinion is slow, may be expensive and likely will be costly. [Perhaps the FAA’s Aviation Safety (AVS) – Consistency & Standardization Initiative will reach a quicker, more authoritative answer.]

The Collings Foundation case, unfortunately, will test the strategy of allegedly ignoring the field articulation of an FAR—legal fees and the potential for a $247,000 fine. Sadly, earlier in this timeline, an offer to spend a quarter of a million on improved Collings safety assets, like Safety Management Systems.

Collings P-51 experience


FAA Proposes $247,000 Civil Penalty Against the Collings Foundation for Allegedly Conducting Unauthorized Flights





For Immediate Release

September 4, 2020
Contact: Ian Gregor
Phone: (424) 405-7007/Email: ian.gregor@faa.gov



WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) proposes a $247,000 civil penalty against the Collings Foundation of Stow, Mass., for allegedly conducting unauthorized flights in a P-51D Mustang airplane.

The Mustang in question is a limited category aircraft, and FAA regulations prohibit charging people for flights in this category of aircraft.

The FAA alleges that between Jan. 17, 2020 and Jan. 30, 2020, the Foundation improperly operated the Mustang on 26 flights carrying people it had charged for flight training. The FAA alleges that before the operations occurred, FAA inspectors advised the Foundation that such flights would violate FAA regulations.

The Collings Foundation has 30 days after receiving the FAA’s enforcement letter to respond to the agency.

Collings Foundation Building






Added Comment from :


The Collings Foundation has had a pretty bad run of luck since an October 2019 accident with their B-17 resulted in the deaths of seven of the 13 people on board — already the subject of at least three known lawsuits and legal actions. The FAA has since suspended Collings’ operational exemption that allowed their conducting rides in their other aircraft. This decision was reached after a review of the relevant records and other evidence caused the FAA to determine Collings was not fulfilling several requirements of their exemption.


The Collings Foundation is a non-profit, Educational Foundation (501(c)3), founded in 1979. The purpose of the Collings CF logoFoundation is to organize and support “living history” events and the preservation, exhibition and interaction of historical artifacts that enable Americans to learn more about their heritage through direct participation….. During the mid-eighties, these activities were broadened to include aviation-related events such as air shows, barnstorming, historical reunions, and joint museum displays on a nationwide level.

American Heritage Museum

Over the past thirty years the Foundation has undertaken and completed more restoration projects than many of the major aviation museums in the United States such as the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum (NASM) or the United States Air Force Museum. The importance of volunteers who support the Foundation’s efforts by hosting the aircraft in their towns, maintaining and restoring the planes, educating the American public about the heritage the planes represent, and financially supporting the Foundation’s efforts is invaluable. The Foundation’s efforts have caught the attention of people of all ages and backgrounds (the youngest volunteer started at age 12). The Foundation also relies upon the volunteer services from professional pilots, mechanics, experts, education experts and people of all walks of life.

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