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December 3, 2013
By Talbot Martin
The Aviation Safety Reporting System is a voluntary safety reporting program that allows airmen to make anonymous reports to the government about issues encountered in aviation, with anonymity allowing the airman to be candid—even when their actions may have been a violation of the regulations. This is commonly referred to as filing a “NASA report.” The reason for this short-handed title is simply because the report is filed with NASA. While most airmen have heard of NASA reports by now and know to file such a report when something out of the ordinary happens in the course of a flight, there continues to be some confusion over parts of the program. One of the common areas of confusion is when to file a NASA report. Our straightforward advice: If something happens, file a NASA report. Next question: When do you file it?
The timing of the filing could be critical. As you may recall, as a way of encouraging NASA reports from airmen, the FAA may not impose a sanction against an airman who has timely filed a NASA report. This policy and procedure is set out in Advisory Circular 00-46E. The “Echo” is what I want to focus on today, because it represents a change to the procedure that favors airman. The preceding version of the advisory circular, AC 00-46D, required that in order to qualify for a waiver of sanction, the airman must be able to prove that a NASA report was filed within 10 days of the flight event. In this updated version, AC 00-46E, the FAA recognizes real-life circumstances and relaxes that 10-day requirement a bit.
As mentioned, timely filing meant filing the report within 10 days from the date of the incident. This presented a problem for airman who had rather benign, unwitting violations, such as a slight clip of some airspace of which they were totally unaware. Often the situation was such that the airman would get a call from a flight standards inspector (the nice people who are there to help) and that call would often come several weeks after a flight. If that call was the first an airman knew of a situation, then it was too late to file a NASA report to be eligible to receive the benefit of waiver of sanction. To the FAA’s credit, many of their officials would give the benefit to an airman who timely filed a NASA report after learning of a problem, even if that came more than 10 days after the incident.
AC 00-46E formalizes that consideration. Under the new advisory circular, you have 10 days from when you knew or should have known of an issue to file a NASA report and meet the timely filed requirement of the program. What does that mean for an airman out there flying in the real world? Even if an event occurred more than 10 days prior to learning that there may have been a problem, go ahead and fill out a NASA report. One thing is certain—if you don’t file the NASA report at all, you lose the opportunity to get any benefit from the program should you need it.
Learn more information about the Aviation Safety Reporting System.
Talbot Martin, Associate and CFI at Yodice Associates regularly counsels members of AOPA’s Legal Services Plan on a variety of issues including FAA enforcement aircraft accidents.
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