AOPA letter to FAA Administrator Jane Garvey

August 1, 1999

Mrs. Jane F. Garvey
Administrator
Federal Aviation Administration
AOA-1, Room 1010
800 Independence Ave., S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20591

Dear Administrator Garvey:

As you are aware, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), representing more than 340,000 members, has been closely following the FAA’s activities concerning the “Streamlined Administrative Enforcement Process.” I noted your recognition of our member’s interest in this issue, evidenced by the number of responses received by the FAA during the public comment periods. For this reason, AOPA has responded with cautious optimism to the limited detail, outline version of the “Streamlined Administrative Action Process” you released at the General Aviation Coalition meeting on December 21, 1998.

I want to thank you for considering our comments to the earlier versions of the “ticket program.” The elimination of the procedure for the “on-the-spot” issuance of administrative actions against airmen is especially welcomed. It is our feeling this change alone will forestall the unpleasant confrontations that could result between FAA inspectors and airmen. That would have been counterproductive to our mutual aviation safety targets that rely so much on industry cooperation and which you and I have worked so hard to foster.

As you may have heard, AOPA has complimented the agency on this latest offering, citing however, that “the devil may be in the details.” To supplement the limited information provided at the meeting and to address some of these “details,” we have several questions that need clarification prior to our reaching a final position. Specifically:

  1. Will the initial “ticket program” as outlined in Compliance/Enforcement Bulletin #98-1, Streamlined Process for Administrative Action, FAA Order 2150.3A, be withdrawn, or will the bulletin be revised to describe the new program? If so, when will this revision be available? Will there be an opportunity for the public to review and comment on the new revisions?
  2. How will the new program be implemented; e.g., through advisory circular, Inspector Handbook changes, etc.? Will the public be given the opportunity to comment on these implementation procedures?
  3. What types of actions will qualify for this process? Will the criteria differ from those used in administrative actions—FAA Order 2150.3A—or from those described in the Compliance/Enforcement Bulletin No. 98-1, the original “ticket program”?
  4. If an FAA inspector completes a Job Aid, returns to the office and determines that “no action” is appropriate, will the Job Aid information still be reflected on the airman’s record, i.e., in the Enforcement Information System (EIS) and/or the Performance Tracking Reporting System (PTRS)? Noting the GAO report was critical of the FAA’s lack of recording safety-related data, if a “no action” alternative is deemed appropriate, will the FAA record the information in the EIS/PTRS without the airman’s name?
  5. In the event administrative action is appropriate and a letter is sent to the airman, when does the window for the seven-day response period begin—date of the letter or date of receipt? Is the letter sent special mail; e.g., certified—return receipt requested? To whom will the airman respond—issuing inspector, supervisor, FSDO manager? If the airman responds to the letter, what criterion will be used to determine if the case is reopened? If reopened, what process will the FAA use in considering any modifications to the original determination?
  6. Will the current administrative action process, as it is known today, still exist? Will the warning letter issued under the Streamlined Administrative Action Process differ from the letter that is currently issued in administrative action cases? That is, will the language differ and/or will an opportunity for the airman to respond only exist on those cases subject to the new Streamlined Administrative Action Process?

As noted at the beginning, AOPA remains optimistic about coming to a favorable position on this latest proposal. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t indicate previous and ongoing concerns that have always been inherent in the FAA administrative action process. The overall process will still result in what is essentially a finding of violation that remains on an airman’s record for two years, an action that has a potentially serious effect on the airman’s opportunities for aviation employment, insurance, and even consideration in future FAA incidents. This aspect of the process is unfair.

Please understand AOPA commends your efforts to streamline the handling of minor FAR infractions and is in favor of informal counseling, which could have a beneficial effect on aviation safety. We contend, however, this can be accomplished without causing a black mark on an airman’s record brought about by the administrative action process.

A procedure whereby nothing that is said in the counseling session can be used against the airman in a FAA enforcement case could facilitate and enrich any such counseling session. All this could be accomplished with the FAA still being able to streamline the process and capturing the safety data at the same time. All that is necessary is to remove the identity of the airman in those cases where no administrative or legal enforcement action is deemed necessary. We urge you to consider this idea.

Again, thank you for your willingness to listen and act on our concerns. I would be most happy to discuss this issue with you or FAA management in greater detail and look forward to continuing our work toward improving aviation safety.

Sincerely,

Phil Boyer

January 8, 1999