Too many rules

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Do you ever get the feeling that there is an increasing number of rules and regulations for flying?

I do, because here in Washington I am constantly exposed to what the FAA, Congress, NTSB, Homeland Security, and other agencies and departments are doing. I did some cursory research to see just how busy the rulemaking machine has been.

In addition to writing Capital Comments for GAN, one of the many other interesting things I do is edit the Aeronautical Information Manual and Federal Aviation Regulations published by the McGraw-Hill Company. The ninth edition that I have edited — AIM/FAR 2005 — is available, but already there are some rule changes and additions posted for readers to print out from the McGraw-Hill website.

Page size and type size are about the same each year. In the 1997 edition, the total book size was 686 pages. The 2005 edition has 904 pages. Some of this increase has been in the Aeronautical Information Manual section. In 1997, however, Federal Aviation Regulations required 357 pages. The current edition needs 470 pages. This includes a section on rules from the Transportation Security Administration that wasn’t in the 1997 book. None of the editions include regulations for Part 121 airline operations and other sections of the FARs not applying to general aviation. Of course, none of this includes TFRs, specific Class B airspace boundaries and such, which change so frequently.

Is every one of these regulations necessary? Does every pilot know and understand every regulation?

Some 35 or 40 years ago, when there were fewer regulations, someone analyzed an air carrier flight with a professional crew going from Washington, D.C., to Philadelphia. Unknowingly and with every attempt to be legal and safe, the flight violated more than 50 regulations. Most were minor violations, as I recall, and had no effect on safety or efficiency.

On your next flight review, if the instructor asks you a question about FAA regulations to which you do not know the answer, don’t feel badly about it. The instructor doesn’t know everything in those 470 pages, either. But the regulations keep coming.

A proposed rule regarding alcohol and medical certificates is out now for comments. Two days after Christmas the FAA issued a rule easing the requirements for pyrotechnical signal devices for certain overwater flights. On the day this is being written, the FAA issued a final rule relating to age waivers for certain ATC specialists.

I am not against change, but neither am I for government regulations that are unnecessary. I guess it could be worse. As a comedian said long ago, when speaking of taxes and laws: Isn’t it great we don’t get all the government we pay for?


The National Air Transportation Association (NATA) wants 60 more days to comment on a proposed Advisory Circular regarding training programs for repair stations. The original 30 days isn’t enough to allow companies to evaluate and comment, NATA Vice President Eric Byer told the FAA.

The Transportation Research Board held its annual meeting early in January, attracting some 2,500 people from various parts of the world. Of the more than 500 sessions involving transportation of every kind, 22 sessions focused on aviation, with only one having general aviation as a subject. This was a forecasting session with a representative from Southwest Missouri State University taking a look at business aviation. The other aviation programs dealt with airline security, system planning, etc.

FAA has its website functional for airman certificate applications. The Integrated Airman Certification and/or Rating Application (IACRA) electronically captures and validates information required to complete the application and other certification documents. Information is forwarded to Airman Registry for processing. IACRA supports student pilots through airline transport pilots, flight instructor renewals, 141 schools and 142 training centers. For more information:

The FAA is setting a reservation system for Chicago’s O’Hare Airport and the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) plans to keep an eagle eye on how it is handled, particularly with Meigs Field no longer being an option for business planes that might want to go to the Windy City.

Charles Spence is GAN’s Washington, D.C., correspondent.

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