October 1, 2006
By Ian J. Twombly
Knowing you may have committed a regulatory violation is perhaps one of the worst feelings a pilot can have. Second only to the feeling of an accident, violations can range from the benign to the downright unsafe. Luckily for those of us who sometimes err in judgment, there is the NASA form to get us through the hard times.
The NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) was developed a number of years ago as a way for pilots to voluntary and anonymously report mistakes, unsafe practices, and inconsistencies within the aviation system that would allow the FAA to identify issues and hopefully make corrections. As an incentive to participate, by regulation the FAA is not allowed to use any information contained in a NASA report against a pilot in any regulatory or administrative action.
Anytime you think you may have violated a regulation or had an incident, the NASA form is a must. It is relatively easy to fill out, and the benefits are worth the time. Assuming the event was not criminal or results in an accident, the FAA will accept the form as a peace offering of sorts and relieve the offender of having to actually suffer a sanction.
It works like this: Obtain the form online. You can use either the standard form and fill it out by hand, or try the new interactive version. Either way, the form has to be postmarked to NASA within 10 days of the event. A few months later you'll receive the top portion of the form back with all the identifying information. Now if the FAA ever comes looking and decides to pursue an enforcement action, one of your options is to use your NASA form receipt. This will keep you from having to actually serve a suspension, even though the violation will remain on your record.
Luckily there is no limit to the number of NASA forms a pilot can file. So, there's no need to save the form for the big offense. Bust an altitude? Send the form. Taxi past the hold-short lines at a towered airport before being told to do so? Send the form. Have your landing gear fold during landing? Send the form. The one limit is that you can only use the form on your behalf in an enforcement action once every five years.
If you have any questions or need assistance, call AOPA's Pilot Information Center at 800/USA-AOPA (872-2672) during normal business hours. The aviation specialists have full knowledge of the system and can give advice on any incident or violation that may have occurred.
Answers to frequently asked questions about your AOPA membership
Q: I'm receiving more renewal notices than I need. Can I get just one renewal notice sent to me each year?
A: Contact Member Services at 800/USA-AOPA (872-2672), 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday, or send us an e-mail and we'll update your mail preferences on your membership record. You'll receive one notice just prior to your renewal month. Or better yet, join the more than 150,000 members who take advantage of our easy Automatic Annual Renewal Plan. We'll bill your credit card on the first day of your renewal month and you'll receive a $4 discount when you enroll. And if you use an AOPA Mastercard or Visa, we'll give you a $2 discount every year that you continue to participate in the program.
Q: I'm on Automatic Annual Renewal. Will I automatically receive AOPA's Airport Directory when they are mailed next year?
A: AOPA publishes a new airport directory every two years, and members who are on Automatic Annual Renewal will receive one during the month of February. But more than 100,000 members have asked us not to send them the book as they use the online version instead since it's updated daily. That helps us redirect the money saved in printing and mailing costs to enhance the online version, and to provide other valuable AOPA services for our members. If you're on Automatic Annual Renewal and don't need a hardcopy version of the directory, please send an e-mail to us or call us at 800/USA-AOPA (872-2672).
Q: When's the best time to call AOPA's toll-free number for service or information?
A: Our call center is open from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday. Our staff goes to lunch in shifts between 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. (ET) daily, so we aren't able to cover as many phone lines during that period. So if you call before or after that time period, you increase the chance that your call will go right through to a representative or at least minimize your hold time. If it's more convenient for you, send us an e-mail instead and we'll be glad to help.
Phone: 800/USA-AOPA (872-2672), 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET Monday through Friday After hours: Renew your membership, reset your Web password, or enroll in Automatic Annual Renewal using our self-service touch-tone phone option.
Web: Update your personal information, renew your membership, and much more by clicking on My AOPA Membership in the left column of our home page.
Flight Training Editor Ian J. Twombly joined AOPA in 2003 and is an instrument flight instructor.
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