A survey conducted by the National Air Transportation Association (NATA) to gather data on inconsistent FAA regulatory interpretations has yielded troubling, yet expected, results, association officials say.
“This survey clearly demonstrates the high, unnecessary costs, delays and obstacles aviation businesses suffer due to the FAA’s inconsistent interpretation of the federal aviation regulations,” said NATA President James Coyne. “The FAA absolutely must find a way to provide consistent regulatory guidance and interpretation.”
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has been commissioned by Congress to conduct a report to review how inconsistent regulatory interpretations are costing the FAA and the aviation industry millions of dollars in resources and raising serious concerns about unified safety standards.
NATA conducted the survey in response to numerous members’ reports of having experienced varying interpretations of federal aviation regulations (FARs) by the agency’s Regional, Aircraft Certification (ACOs) and Flight Standards District Offices (FSDOs). The association plans to provide specific information to the GAO as it conducts its study.
According to survey respondents, many affected companies continue to be challenged by regulatory interpretations that vary from one inspector within one FSDO or ACO, to another. These varying interpretations of how to achieve or demonstrate compliance with the FARs are estimated by the respondents to cost general aviation businesses hundreds of millions of dollars annually when previously approved actions are subjected to “re-interpretation.” The results of the survey showed:
- 87% of respondents stated that their businesses have experienced problems due to inconsistent or incorrect interpretations by local FAA inspectors.
- 57% believe that an inconsistent or incorrect local FAA position had safety consequences for their business. Members rated the safety significance as very serious (17%); serious (40%); somewhat serious (35%); not too serious (8%).
- 85% stated they have experienced delays in response by the FAA that have interrupted their ability to do business.
- 75% believe that the delay or denial for a new safety program was related to an incorrect or inconsistent interpretation. In resolving discrepancies, 23% said it took up to 90 days; 20% said up to 120 days; 19% said more than 121 days and 36% said their issue still is unresolved.
“Inconsistent compliance interpretations of the FARs are not only costly for the industry, they also demonstrate a shortcoming in the FAA’s ability to coordinate its workforce and ensure that the decision-making abilities vested in inspectors are respected across all divisions of the agency,” said Coyne.
For more information: NATA.aero.