FAA Issues New Guidance on Enforcement

Many pilots and lawyers representing pilots have been concerned with what they see as an over-emphasis on punishment as opposed to correction by the FAA. A number of us practicing in the field have begun to notice a relaxation of this focus in the past year or so.  On June 26, 2015, the FAA published Order 8000.373, an order setting out the Federal Aviation Administration Compliance Philosophy, described as “the overarching guidance for implementing the FAA’s strategic safety oversight approach to meet the challenges of today’s rapidly changing aerospace system.”

Perhaps the heart of the 2-page guidance is a recognition that, while some pilot deviations are intentional, many are unintentional and would be more effectively corrected by actions short of formal enforcement.

The FAA recognizes that some deviations arise from factors such as flawed procedures, simple mistakes, lack of understanding, or diminished skills. The Agency believes that deviations of this nature can most effectively be corrected through root cause analysis and training, education or other appropriate improvements to procedures or training programs for regulated entities, which are documented and verified to ensure effectiveness. However, reluctance or failure in adopting these methods to remediate deviations or instances of repeated deviations might result in enforcement.

It remains to be seen what effect this will have on the overall enforcement culture of FSDOs (Flight Standards District Offices) and FAA Inspectors. But, from the little I’ve seen in the past year, this publication is, at least in part, an announcement of a change that is already in the works.