Waiting for FAA action

WASHINGTON, D.C. — There’s a quip here that asks: Why don’t government workers look out of the windows in the morning? The answer is: If they did that they wouldn’t have anything to do in the afternoon.

Things are not that bad in all offices, but two examples at the FAA lend credence to that bad joke.

Ten years ago then-President George W. Bush signed into law a bill requiring the issuance of final regulations to improve security of domestic and foreign repair stations. That was during the celebration time for the 100th anniversary of the Wright brothers’ first flight. It called for the regulations to be in effect by August 2004. There was no action.

Congress again called on the Transportation Security Administration to act by August 2008, warning that the FAA would not be able to issue any new foreign station certifications afterward. No action. The ban has been in effect since that time.

Again, on Dec. 17, 2013, the 110th anniversary of the first flight, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) urged action. Still no action.

As the world enters 2014, everything is speeded up — computers, cell phones, iPads, cameras in eyeglasses, and on and on. And people want faster action from government agencies.

About two years ago, the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) and Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA petitioned the FAA to change the medical requirements for pilots by eliminating the physical examination for a third class certificate. It would simply require the individual possess a valid driver’s license to indicate medical competence to operate a vehicle.

After no action from the FAA in all this time, two members of Congress, both pilots and members of AOPA, introduced a bill which, after passage, would give the FAA 180 days to redefine the third-class medical. Reps. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.) and Sam Graves (R-Mo), who introduced the bill, had four co-sponsors: Rep. Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.), Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas), and Mike Pompeo (R-Kan). All are members of the General Aviation Caucus. The number of co-sponsors continues to grow, adding to 13 by the time this was written.

The bill would limit pilots to flying with no more than five passengers, staying below 14,000 feet, no faster than 250 knots, and in aircraft with maximum takeoff weight no more than 6,000 pounds. AOPA points out that by way of comparison, most large sport vehicles travelling the streets and highways weigh in excess of 6,000 pounds and can carry six and seven passengers.

There is a long road to travel to move any legislation through Congress. First it goes before a subcommittee, then the full committee, and finally to the full House of Representatives. It then goes to the Senate where it moves through a similar route. There is also the possibility of a presidential veto, which could further delay any movement toward an easing of the licensing procedures.

Action on this bill will not expected until several weeks into 2014 because of issues such as debt ceilings, which will keep workers on Capitol Hill busy.

And so the wait begins…


  1. Mack says

    The FAA people I know, live in a mansion.

    They are married, and look out for each other, at work.

    They don’t even fly anymore, because it’s too much of a hassle for their lifestyle!

  2. says

    Lily Tomlin skewered the bureaucracy at The Phone Company with “We don’t care. We don’t have to” (smirk). That’s appropriate here, too. At the senior level, FAA is all about control. Nothing more. Thank goodness here are still some folks down in the trenches who do care and perform their functions admirably.

  3. Greg W says

    The sleep apnea issue has languished as well for years after proposal by NTSB. Perhaps the rapid announcement of the BMI guidelines without normal rule making process is connected? When Congress acted quickly about the “stalled” 3rd class medical, this sleep apnea problem was suddenly announced. Sure does seem like a “smack” with a rolled up news paper to let everyone know who is really in charge, legally or not. Mr Spence with your time in Washington you certainly know the saying,”Bureaucracy exists for and to perpetuate itself” and boy do ours work hard at that!

  4. unclelar says

    As many of us know, the FAA has been like this almost as far back as we can remember. They always have one of the lowest levels of employee satisfaction among any agency in government. Truly, they must have terrible management and it must be deeply ingrained in their culture. This has gone on under both Democrat and Republican administrations. What is a bit different now is that under this administration govt. agencies just do whatever they want no matter what the law, precedence or common sense actually dictates. This is rampant in our current govt. Federal employees think they can do anything they want and no be held accountable. And they are right. And they make way more and have way more benefits than the rest of us. I know, I’m retired after 37 yrs of govt service. At least I hope it was service. I’m afraid that this will continue until we cut their budgets way more and make sure that they learn to manage like the rest of us.
    Yeah, I’m hoping for an end to world hunger too.

  5. Jim Hackman says

    I forget when the Congress mandated FAA add photos to Airman Certificates. The FAA response is “still studying implementation” although they complied with the spirit by adding Wilbur and Orville on the back!
    The recent FAR 23 change legislation requires FAA to act by 2015. You’d have a hard time just getting a 135, 141 or 145 certificate by 2015! Hopeless.

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