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Regulatory Brief -- FAA repeals Pilot Deviation Processing Test Program in Anchorage, AlaskaRegulatory Brief -- FAA repeals Pilot Deviation Processing Test Program in Anchorage, Alaska

Regulatory Brief

FAA repeals Pilot Deviation Processing Test Program in Anchorage, Alaska

The issue:

The FAA Anchorage ATCT issued Letter to Airmen No. 98-01 on December 1, 1998 implementing a test program for informally processing certain pilot deviations. The stated goal of the program is to foster cooperation and communication between controllers and general aviation pilots, while improving aviation safety. The test program does not apply to deviations that occur under Part 121 or 135 commercial operations.

The importance to our members:

Cooperation and a free exchange of information between FAA air traffic personnel and general aviation pilots can only lead to improved understanding and safety. However, several provisions of the program raise concern over the potential for self-incrimination on the part of the pilot should the case be elevated from the informal process to a formal enforcement action. The Anchorage test program could serve as a model for a nationwide program in the future.

Significant provisions:

The following is a description of how the process is intended to operate under Letter to Airmen No. 98-01:
  • When a pilot deviation occurs, ATC personnel will ask the pilot to call the facility.
  • In order to participate in the test program, the pilot must call the facility within 6 hours of the occurrence unless other plans are coordinated with ATC.
  • A qualified facility Aviation Counselor will speak with the pilot about the situation in a counseling session and document the session.
  • The purpose of the counseling session is to ensure that the airman understands what happened to create the deviation, knows the correct procedure, and understands how to comply with the procedure in the future.
  • After the counseling session, the facility will forward the completed form to the FSDO for review.
  • FSDO has the authority to upgrade the informal deviation to a formal one.
  • Documentation of the incident and counseling would remain in the pilot�s file for two years and then be destroyed.

AOPA position:

Because the test program description is vague, AOPA is unable to fully endorse the program without more information about how the program will work, how it will be applied, and what effect it will have on airmen. However, AOPA supports the idea that informal counseling and education is preferable to enforcement action and tends to be more effective in promoting aviation safety and regulatory compliance.


  • On January 18, 1999, AOPA sent a six-page letter to the Anchorage Air Traffic Manager seeking clarification to a number of specific concerns with the test program. At this time the issue has been elevated to FAA headquarters in Washington, DC for complete review.
  • On June 1, 1999, the FAA issued Anchorage ATCT Letter to Airman No. 99-04 repealing the informal pilot deviation processing program.
  • Although a review by FAA Office of the Chief Council failed to resolve several key provisions of this program, AOPA remains hopeful that an informal pilot deviation processing program can be implemented in the future.

Related documents:

Anchorage ATCT Letter to Airmen No. 98-01, December 1, 1998

AOPA letter to Anchorage Air Traffic Manager, January 18, 1999

Anchorage ATCT Letter to Airman No. 99-04, June 1, 1999 (requires Adobe Reader)