Since it is the time of year for resolutions, I thought I would propose some resolutions that I think would go a long way towards making 2012 a happy new year for aviation:
Resolutions by the FAA
Resolve to be consistent: Let's get rid of the inconsistent interpretation and application of the regulations not only between inspectors, but that also differ between FSDOs and even regions. If compliance is a goal, then making sure everyone is working from the same page can only enhance understanding and compliance.
Resolve to use common sense: We shouldn't waste agency funds and resources pursuing actions that do not further the goals of safety and compliance. For example, pursuing a civil penalty action against an airman for conduct that occurred before the agency revoked all of his airman certificates, when the revocation already caused the airman to file for bankruptcy, simply does not make sense. Similarly, initiating an enforcement action because an inspector has an axe to grind with an airman, should be avoided.
Resolve to actually use remedial training (and not just when a U.S. Senator is the alleged violator): If safety truly is one of the FAA's mandates (and it is), then it is unclear how a suspension that allows a pilot's skills to lapse for a period of time makes that pilot, or the aviation system as a whole, safer. For operational violations, why not require additional training to make sure the pilot will have the skills and knowledge to ensure future compliance?
Resolutions by Aircraft Buyers
Resolve to trust, but verify: Trust is an honorable quality. But don't trust blindly. When a seller tells you something, don't just take the seller at his or her word. Verify that what you are being told is actually the truth. For example, perform due diligence including a title search and name searches for the seller to discover any judgments, liens, bankruptcies or security interests
Resolve to use a purchase agreement: Using an aircraft purchase agreement can help prevent confusion and misunderstandings. If the agreement clearly explains how the transaction will happen, when it will happen and what is included in the deal, the greater the likelihood that the buyer and seller will each know the other party’s expectations and the less chance for surprises or misunderstandings. Additionally, the law in most states requires that a contract for an amount greater than $500.00 be in writing in order for it to be enforceable. This is called the statute of frauds. Although exceptions to this legal doctrine exist, complying with the law is usually safer than hoping you will be able to take advantage of an exception.
Resolve to file NASA/ASRP forms: If you are involved in an incident or something happens during a flight that makes you worried the FAA may become involved, make sure you file within 10 days in order to preserve your right to argue that any sanction the FAA may wish to impose should be waived. Since the program does not limit the number of times you can file, take advantage it, often.
If I am asked to "call the tower" or to talk to an FAA inspector or if I receive a letter of investigation from the FAA, I resolve to talk with an aviation attorney before I respond: Rather than wasting the opportunity to mitigate damage, minimize investigation or avoid providing admissions or other evidence that will later be used against you by the FAA, consult with an aviation attorney to find out where you stand or, at a minimum, to have an aviation attorney run interference between you and the FAA. Although FAA enforcement actions are not criminal proceedings, they have the potential to significantly limit, if not revoke, your privilege to operate an aircraft. Protect that privilege
Wishing everyone in the aviation industry a happy and prosperous new year!