All posts tagged 'faa' - Page 8

The Fight for Santa Monica Airport - A Timeline

"The Spirit of Santa Monica," was donated to the city by the Museum of Flying and was fully restored, and is on display at the Santa Monica Airport. The monument stands as a tribute to the legendary aircraft builder Donald Wills Douglas, Sr. and the company he founded, Douglas Aircraft Company – the city’s largest employer for 50 years. This photo can be found among many others at the Santa Monica Airport website.

Recent events regarding the future of the Santa Monica Airport (SMO) have played out across the news and websites of aviation organizations NBAA, AOPA and FAA. I went back in the archives of online news reports to build a timeline of events that have led to the recent federal court’s ruling.


June 2, 2011 - The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) today welcomed an announcement that City of Santa Monica officials would not contest a federal court's ruling that the city could not ban "Category C and D" aircraft from Santa Monica Airport (SMO). The council's announcement, made earlier this week, follows a January 21 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals in favor of a decision by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that the city's most recent attempt to ban the aircraft amounted to "unjust and unreasonable" discrimination and violated the terms of a grant agreement for accepting federal funds for the airport.

The controversy dates to 2008, when Santa Monica city officials adopted a ban against the Category C and D jets from serving SMO, on alleged safety grounds.The city's move was immediately challenged by the FAA, which ruled that the airport did not have the authority to impose the ban, and disallowed it from taking effect until the FAA could further consider the matter, with a decision from the agency being subject to a federal court appeal. Link to Details


May 7, 2013 - The Santa Monica City Council directed city staff to continue exploring options for the future of the Santa Monica Airport, including the possible impacts of a partial or complete closure. In a unanimous vote, council members voted to focus on finding ways to reduce airport noise, air pollution and safety risks through revised leasing policies, voluntary agreements and restrictions. City staff were also directed to continue to assess the potential risks and benefits of a full or partial closure of the airport.

Early on in the meeting, City Attorney Marsha Jones Moutrie outlined the city's legal options in the exploration of the future of the Santa Monica Airport. She said city staff met with representatives from the FAA to convey community sentiment about noise, safety and air quality, but did not reach a deal. Moutrie said the city owns the airport, but the city's choices are limited by federal law and several agreements, adding that the FAA has both legislative and judicial powers. The city believes its agreement with the FAA expires in 2015, while the FAA maintains the date is 2023. Link to Details


September 29, 2013 - A Cessna Citation CJ2 veered off the right side of Runway 21 after landing at Santa Monica (Calif.) Airport at 6:20 p.m. PDT. The twinjet struck a hangar and was destroyed by fire. The pilot of the plane that crashed at Santa Monica Airport, killing all four people aboard, reported no problems prior to the landing, and the plane's tires were fully inflated, despite early speculation that a blown tire may have sent the aircraft careening into a hangar, according to a preliminary report. The hangar collapsed onto the plane, which had taken off from Hailey, Idaho.

"Witnesses reported observing the airplane make a normal approach and landing," according to the NTSB report. "The airplane traveled down the right side of the runway, eventually veering off the runway, impacted the 1,000-foot runway distance remaining sign, continued to travel in a right-hand turn and impacted a hangar structural post with the right wing. The airplane came to rest inside the hangar and the damage to the hangar structure caused the roof to collapse onto the airplane. A post-accident fire quickly ensued.'' Link to Details


October 31, 2013 - In the wake of September's deadly jet crash, Santa Monica officials sued the Federal Aviation Administration on Thursday to gain control of the city's embattled airport, which local groups want to turn into a park. Filed in U.S. District Court in downtown Los Angeles, the lawsuit seeks a declaration that the city holds clear title to the 227 acres containing the oldest continuously operating airport in the county. It also challenges the constitutionality of a 1948 agreement between the city and federal authorities that requires the historic property and its 5,000-foot runway to remain an airport in perpetuity or be returned at the option of the FAA to the U.S. government.

If the city is successful, there is concern among aviation organizations that it might alter the status of former military airports around the nation and encourage attempts to close some of them.

FAA officials declined to comment, saying that as a matter of policy they do not discuss pending litigation. The agency's long-held position is that the city must operate the airport through 2023 under assurances it gave in exchange for federal airport improvement grants. The FAA also has asserted that Santa Monica is further obligated to keep the airport open well beyond 2023 because it acquired the much improved airfield after World War II under terms of the federal Surplus Property Act. FAA officials have said in the past that they are committed to preserving the federal investment and keeping the airport open. Link to Details


Feb. 10, 2014 – The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) today joined in filing a brief of amicus curiae supporting a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) motion to dismiss the latest effort to close the historic airfield.

NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen called the battle over SMO a "bellwether moment" in preserving other vital general aviation (GA) airfields across the country. "Santa Monica's latest attempt to close its community airport carries very serious ramifications for the continued viability of our nation's general aviation airports," he added. "It is imperative that the FAA maintain jurisdiction over SMO, and other essential airports that our Members rely upon for convenient access to communities across the United States."

The FAA countered last month that any questions over which entity holds the title to SMO must be settled under terms of the Quiet Title Act, which requires such lawsuits to be filed within 12 years following learning of the federal government’s interest in the property. That first occurred, the agency asserted, when both parties agreed in August 1948 to return control of the airfield to the city. Link to Details


Feb. 13, 2014 - A federal judge ruled in favor of the position advocated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), namely that the city’s challenge to the requirement that Santa Monica Airport (SMO) continue to be a publicly-accessible airport was untimely. Link to Details


Mar. 25, 2014 - Marsha Moutrie, City Attorney, and Martin Pastucha, Director of Public Works for the City of Santa Monica, prepared a report that offered several options to restrict operations at SMO. Recommended option included directing staff to begin positioning the City for possible closure of all or part of the Santa Monica Airport ("Airport") after July 1, 2015, including, for instance, by preparing a preliminary conceptual plan for a smaller airport that excludes the Airport's western parcel and by preparing preliminary work plans for environmental assessment. The CA City Council voted 6 to 0 to pursue further restrictions. Link to Report Details

NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen replied, "It is clear that, despite a significant, recent legal setback, the council has voted to renew its efforts to restrict services at an important general aviation airport," Bolen said. "For decades, NBAA and others in the general aviation community have fought to preserve access to this airport, in the face of ongoing opposition by the city council. This is a battle we must and will continue to fight." Read the complete response from the NBAA at this Link to Details


For a more detailed overall history of the airport, check out their history page here.

Administrative Actions: The FAA's "Slap on the Wrist"

In past articles we have talked about FAA legal enforcement actions in which the FAA has suspended or revoked a mechanic's certificate or the certificate of an air carrier or repair station, or has assessed a civil penalty against the certificate holder.  In those situations, the FAA believed the regulatory violations committed by the certificate holders warranted the "pound of flesh" the FAA extracted with suspension or revocation of the offending party's certificate(s) or the assessed civil penalty.

But what happens when the FAA believes that compliance can best be obtained through some other action short of a legal enforcement action?   (Yes, it does happen.)  In those situations, the FAA has the option of addressing the certificate holder's alleged violations with a "slap on the wrist" through an administrative action.

When Does The FAA Use Administrative Action?

The decision of whether to use administrative action is usually made by the FAA inspector investigating the alleged violation, or his or her local office.  An FAA inspector may pursue an administrative action when the following criteria are satisfied:

1.         Where legal enforcement action is not required by law and administrative action would serve as an adequate deterrent to future violations;

2.         The violation does not indicate that the certificate holder lacks qualification to hold a certificate;

3.         The violation was inadvertent and was not the result of intentional conduct;

4.         The violation was not a substantial disregard for safety or security and the circumstances of the violation are not aggravated;

5.         The alleged violator has a constructive, compliance oriented attitude; and

6.         The alleged violation does not indicate a trend of noncompliance with, or a disregard for, the FAA’s regulations

Administrative Actions: The FAA's

By way of example, administrative action has been considered warranted in situations where a mechanic failed to make an appropriate approval for return to service maintenance record entry in an aircraft's logs after maintenance was performed or failed to accurately track airworthiness directive compliance in an aircraft's logs.  However, keep in mind that each situation is different.

And although FAA Order 2150.3B indicates that administrative action shouldn't be taken "solely as a matter of convenience or when evidence to support a finding of a violation is lacking, or in cases that are stale", in many cases I personally believe that is exactly what happens.  Thus, depending upon the facts and the FAA's analysis of the above six criteria, the FAA may not consider administrative action appropriate for all incidences of these examples of violations.

If the FAA determines that legal enforcement action is not necessary in a particular case, 14 C.F.R. § 13.11 provides the FAA with the authority to issue a warning letter or letter of correction.

The Warning Letter

The warning letter will identify the conduct at issue and the regulation(s) that the conduct allegedly violates.  The warning letter will usually state that the FAA expects the alleged violator's future compliance with the regulations.  It may also offer the opportunity for the certificate holder to submit additional information in explanation or mitigation for inclusion in the file, in the event that you hadn't already provided information in response to the letter of investigation which preceded the warning letter.

Although the warning letter is not a formal finding of violation, it stays in the certificate holder's file at the FAA for a period of two years and is then expunged from the file.  In the event of a future investigation or enforcement action prior to being expunged, the FAA will consider the warning letter when it decides how to proceed in that later case.

The Letter of Correction

The letter of correction is similar to a warning letter.  However, in addition to reciting the conduct and regulations that were allegedly violated, the letter of correction also contains an agreement under which the certificate holder agrees to take certain corrective action to address the alleged violation.  The corrective action may require the certificate holder to participate in remedial training or counseling with the FAA inspector, adopt policies or procedures to address deficiencies identified by the FAA, verify compliance with respect to matters that were not at issue in the investigation or take any other actions agreed to by the certificate holder and the FAA.

If the certificate holder fails to complete the agreed upon corrective action within the time period specified in the letter, the FAA could then proceed with legal enforcement action based upon the alleged violations.  Once completed, the letter of correction is included in the certificate holder's file at the FAA and will stay in the file for a period of two years until it is expunged.

As with the warning letter, the letter of correction is not a formal finding of violation.  However, in the event of a future investigation or enforcement action, the FAA will also take the letter of correction into consideration when it decides how to proceed in that later case.

Before agreeing to a letter of correction, it is important that the certificate holder understand the corrective action required and the criteria that will be used for determining whether action has been satisfactorily completed.  This will hopefully prevent a situation in which the certificate holder and the FAA disagree upon whether the certificate holder has completed the corrective action as required.

Conclusion

The slap on the wrist of an administrative action is definitely more acceptable to a certificate holder than having to defend against a certificate or civil penalty action, or having a finding of violation in the certificate holder's record.  Administrative action also makes more sense from an aviation safety perspective.  After all, are certificate holders actually going to be safer after a suspension or assessment of a civil penalty?  Probably not.

Unfortunately, up until recently it seemed like the majority of investigations resulted in the FAA pursuing enforcement action rather than resolving those cases through administrative action.  However, now, with the fiscal restraints imposed by sequester, it seems the FAA's use of administrative actions may increasing.  And that's good news, both for certificate holders and for aviation safety.

 

Confessions of a Student Pilot

Over the past 5 years I have more than earned my right to be called a student pilot. Between when I was 12 years old and now I have attended 3 different flight schools, passed my FAA Written Exam twice, and been lightheartedly made fun of by CFIs for rookie mistakes countless times. It’s been said that it’s about the journey, not the destination, and this rings incredibly true in the world of aviation. I have learned more about life and passion through aerospace than I ever learned in my standard high school curriculum. I have been taught discipline, self-control, dedication, logical thinking... All through my experiences in chasing my dream of becoming a pilot.

I hope to help other student pilots remember why they are doing this. It can be such a challenge to continue training when you feel you are stuck in a rut, or you will never achieve the dream that we all chase after. I have compiled a few observations or "confessions," if you will, that have stuck out to me during my journey. A few come with stories, a few are simply food for thought. Here are my confessions of a student pilot.

Keep your training consistent. This may seem obvious, but it keeps many student pilots from advancing quickly enough to reach their full potential. It is far better to wait and save up enough money for a flight lesson every week or so than to attend your flight school sporadically. For the first 3 years of my training I could only afford one lesson every month (between allowance and babysitting money that wasn’t too bad!) If I could go back and do it again, I would have saved up for a year or so and had lessons sequentially in just a couple months. In having to wait, I kept relearning the same concepts every month and was nowhere near reaching my full potential.

Don’t be scared to be assertive. On June 19th, 2013 I was on a routine flight with my instructor, going around the traffic pattern at Capital City airport. As my instructor continually pointed out, I was spending too much time with my eyes glued to the instrument panel and not enough time looking outside. As I turned for my downwind leg, he held a sheet of paper over the instrument panel to stop my nervous eyes from glancing inside too much. I huffed a bit, then began making a call to other traffic that I was on downwind. "Capital City traffic, Cessna -" my heart sank. I hadn’t memorized our tail number yet and the sheet of paper was obscuring my view of it. Without skipping a beat, I forcefully moved (read: slapped) my instructor’s hand out of the way, read the tail number off, and finished my radio call. I immediately felt bad and apologized for what I had done, but I had never seen my instructor so thrilled. "That’s what I’m talking about! THAT was a pilot in command move. If you know what you need to do, don’t ask my permission." The very next day I was endorsed and did my first solo flight. Which is the perfect segway into my next point...

Your solo IS as big of a deal as everyone says. Let’s say you have comprehended enough knowledge to safely takeoff and land an aircraft, and your instructor has enough faith in your abilities to let you do it completely by yourself. Congratulations, it’s time to fly solo! The whole ordeal in and of itself isn’t a big change from your previous lessons, as you have probably done exactly the same routine of taking off and landing many times before your instructor steps out. The real value and importance of a solo isn’t in the fact that there is one less passenger, it is that YOU are now the pilot in command. According to Federal Aviation Regulation 91.3, "The pilot in command of an aircraft is directly responsible for, and is the final authority as to, the operation of that aircraft." You are now the CEO head honcho in charge of all aspects of safely executing your current flight mission. The boost of confidence that a student pilot gains after safely landing their first solo flight is astronomical. Celebrate this accomplishment and truly think about what it means to now be the pilot in command.

Networking is everything. I am a first-generation pilot. Nobody in my family has any ties to aviation, besides a strange obsession with warbirds my father and grandfather share. When I first started my flight training I felt like a very tiny fish in a very huge pond. All that I knew was that becoming a pilot was extremely expensive, difficult, and overwhelming... but that I absolutely could not live my life without doing it. I had not met a single female pilot in my first two years of training, but I knew they had to be out there. I began doing google searches, talking to family friends, and subscribed to seven different flight magazines in an attempt to gain an understanding of the general aviation community as a whole. Through a family friend I came in contact with a female UPS pilot, and she introduced me to the Ninety-Nines. From there I learned about Women in Aviation, AOPA, EAA, NBAA, all of these crazy acronyms which represented different organizations in the aviation community. I have met tons of interesting people who have taken a genuine interest in my future as a pilot, and I have learned so much about the different pathways that are available to me in the aerospace industry. Having a good network to support you is incredibly important for an aspiring pilot.

Do not give up. The most important "confession" I have for fellow student pilots is to not give up, no matter how difficult it becomes. Keep trying. Stay motivated. There have been times in my training where I have been completely overwhelmed and felt very unsure as to whether or not I would actually achieve my dreams. When this happens, I like to take a step back and evaluate what really draws me to aviation in the first place. I watch episodes of The Aviators, or read aviation literature and really soak in the pure beauty and freedom that a pilot can obtain. The challenge is half the fun, however daunting it may seem. I encourage all student pilots to really think about what keeps them going and to cling to it until they finally reach the day of achieving their ultimate goals.

Why Did The FAA Send Me A Request For Re-Examination?

As you may know, if the FAA discovers evidence that leads it to reasonably question an airman’s qualifications to exercise the privileges of the airman’s certificate, the FAA may issue a "request for re-examination." The "evidence" is usually a situation or circumstances involving the airman and his or her operation of an aircraft. And, unfortunately for airmen, it doesn't take much for the FAA to have a reasonable basis for requesting the re-examination. As long as the FAA can show that an airman's lack of competence or qualification was a factor in causing the situation, then the request will be considered reasonable.

So, what types of situations may result in a request for re-examination? Here are a few, in no particular order:

  1. Running out of fuel.

  2. Landing with the gear up.

  3. Landing or taking off in a manner that results in damage to your aircraft (e.g. prop strike, tail strike, scraping a wingtip on the ground, striking runway lights etc.).

  4. Continuing a VFR flight into IMC.

  5. Getting caught on top of an overcast layer of clouds when you are not instrument rated or equipped.

  6. Taking off or landing on a runway at a tower controlled airport when you have not received take-off or landing clearance.

  7. Taking off from or landing on a taxiway.
  8. Getting into an accident with your aircraft.

  9. Getting caught operating your aircraft over gross.

  10. Landing at the wrong airport.

  11. Entering Class B, C or D airspace without first establishing communications with ATC controlling the airspace.

  12. Colliding with another aircraft in flight, or on the ground.

  13. Operating an aircraft on a flight without appropriate or current charts necessary for that flight.

This is only a partial list of some of the more obvious situations that may trigger a request for re-examination of an airman by the FAA. The list can, and does, go on.

Hopefully this will never happen to you. But if it does, it isn't the end of the world. Pilots survive, and even learn from, requests for re-examination all the time. For more information and tips on responding to requests for re-examination, please read my article: The 709 Ride.

What Are An Airman's Options After The FAA Denies A Medical Application Based Upon A Disqualifying Condition?

When an airman is denied a medical based upon an admitted disqualifying condition, an appeal will, in almost all cases, be unsuccessful. In that situation, the airman has the burden of proving that the airman is qualified to hold a medical certificate. That's a tough thing to accomplish if the airman has already admitted that he or she has a disqualifying condition.

If an airman is denied based upon a disqualifying condition, but the airman believes he or she is otherwise qualified, the airman should request that the FAA grant a special issuance medical certificate. A special issuance is a medical certificate that has limitations and/or conditions with which the airman must comply in order for the certificate to be valid. The conditions/limitations will often include regular testing or evaluation, test results within acceptable ranges, no changes in medication etc.

If the FAA refuses to grant an airman's request for a special issuance, the airman may appeal that denial to the NTSB. However, since the Board defers to the FAA's discretion in denying a special issuance, the only way to be successful is to show that the FAA's denial is arbitrary or capricious. For example, if a denied airman can prove that the FAA has granted a special issuance in circumstances that are very similar to or identical with those of the airman, then an ALJ may be convinced that the FAA's denial in the airman's case is arbitrary or capricious. As a practical matter, however, this can be a very difficult task.

If you have a medical condition that may disqualify you from obtaining a medical certificate, get help before you apply for your medical certificate. Talk to an aviation attorney or the medical certification professionals at AOPA or NBAA. By taking a pro-active approach and getting help, you will be able to "pick your battles" wisely to maximize your chances of successfully obtaining a medical certificate.

End of content

No more pages to load