Todd H. Huvard is the president of AircraftMerchants, a North Carolina-based aircraft brokerage. Todd is an active commercial pilot with multi-engine, instrument and seaplane ratings and is typed in Cessna 500 and Falcon 20 jets. He founding editor and publisher of The Southern Aviator.
It has been a while since I have lifted the poison pen to joust at the windmill of the FAA bureaucracy. But, Sancho, the work of the weary pilot is never done.
When an airplane needs to be moved and it is broken or suspect, or it is simply out of annual inspection, a process exists for having a Special Flight Permit authorized by the local FSDO. This is a routine exercise for maintenance shops and hundreds of ferry permits are issued every week around the country. In the interests of safety, the process calls for an aircraft mechanic to inspect the airplane and certify that is it airworthy for the intended flight. Simple enough.
No where in the regulations for issuing the permit does it call for the local FAA maintenance inspector to become belligerent or obstructionist in the process. But the rules seem to be interpreted differently at the Atlanta FSDO, where the pawns have become the kings.
When I called the ATL FSDO recently to secure a ferry permit I found a Airworthiness Inspector on a mission – which was simply to cover his own ass. Never mind that other people are actually trying to make a living, conduct business and create tax base. This guy goes by the book – but edits the book at the same time.
And he had the temerity to hang up on me when I asked why he felt so empowered. Now, I admit that I am the type of guy you might want to hang up on sometimes. But this time, I was all peaches and cream when I called for the permit. And he reasoned that if he did not want to talk to a customer, hell, he could just hang up.
At issue was the AD on the Beech electrical switches – AD 2008-17 – which was foisted on an entire fleet because one switch failed. All Bonanza owners can testify that the very expensive solution of installing a dozen or so new switches was further made a pain by not having a supply of them available, resulting in long waits for parts. The local FSDO could authorize airplanes to keep flying while they waited for parts by issuing an AMOC, or letter of Alternative Method of Compliance.
OK. We all know about that. Except this one guy at the Atlanta FSDO. In order to issue the permit, he wanted the A&P/IA to certify the airplane had the AD compliance before issuing the permit. In spite of the fact that such ferry flights were anticipated by the guy that actually wrote the AD.
First, a permit is issued and then, as a condition of the permit, the inspection is made and a log book entry completed. Then flight can occur. That’s how it works.
Except in Atlanta, where the guy you call turns out to be an avionics inspector, has never issued a ferry permit and is too self-important to acknowledge he just may not know what he is doing.
We eventually got the ferry permit from another inspector. And I finally got a call from the culprit’s team leader apologizing for his rude behavior. But at issue is that in 2010, the tail is still wagging the dog at the FAA. There is no system for standardizing how the rules are interpreted and each fiefdom makes its own policies and practices. If you have to do business across the boundaries, you never know what to expect.
At least the FAA website works OK. AND IT CAN’T HANG UP ON YOU.