The following is a statement from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) Statement presented to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for a public meeting held on July 19, 2001:
AOPA, representing the interest of approximately 75% of all aircraft owners and 370,000+ pilots is extremely interested in the topic of Field Alteration Approvals (Field Approvals) conducted by the local FAA Flight Standards District Office (FSDO). These have been a vital method for safety enhancements to the General Aviation community for many decades. If it were not for the Field Approval process, many of the alterations and equipment installations intended to improve safety and increase the utilization of the General Aviation fleet would not have been realized.
Unfortunately, AOPA has noticed a marked decline in the ability of aircraft operators to readily obtain Field Approvals for a variety of alterations and installations over the past several years. This is important for the installation of GPS and other avionics improvements. The aviation industry and the FAA are at an impasse in the use of Field Approvals. The industry contends the FAA doesn't want to take the time for their approvals, while some in the FAA argue that many Field Approvals do not meet the regulatory requirements and, hence, create a safety concern. AOPA questions this supposition and was unable to identify any safety related study that validates this safety concern. It was only after much persistence on the part of the General Aviation community that the FAA elected to address this issue of decline through the formation of the FAA Field Approval Task Force and the Field Approval Process Improvement Team (FAPIT).
Although AOPA supports the FAA's goal to improve the Field Approval process and improve service, we believe that this effort is lacking the necessary ingredients needed for an optimum, mutually beneficial outcome. Rather than simply criticize, AOPA offers the following recommendations to improve the process:
AOPA is committed to working closely with the FAA to improve the Field Approval process. We believe that the Agency must make a commitment to increasing the use of this important authority.
Lance Nuckolls Director - Regulatory and Certification Policy July 19, 2001
AOPA thanks our members for their continued support in protecting the freedom to fly.