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AOPA letter re FAA Ticket ProgramAOPA letter re FAA Ticket Program

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

Dear Mrs. Garvey:

As you and I have discussed, along with dialogue you have had with others on my AOPA management team, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), representing more than 340,000 members, is adamantly opposed to the “FAA’s Streamlined Administrative Enforcement Process” (a.k.a. “The Ticket Program”). In addition, I have sent you written correspondence on June 5, 1998, and on July 15, 1998. Following our attendance at the second user/industry meeting on July 21, 1998, which you attended, AOPA urges you to take immediate action to terminate the implementation of this proposed program.

At the outset of that meeting, you stated that the FAA wanted to hear from all elements of the aviation industry on this matter. You indicated you were truly interested in a program that worked and wanted to hear if there was a better way for the agency to use its resources. You went on to say this program may or may not be the way to get this done.

I am still attempting, based on our most recent conversation, to understand the management concept of holding a major meeting on a controversial subject for the entire industry, and allowing it to be facilitated by the author of the very initiative being challenged. What ensued was a point-counterpoint situation that in the eyes of many attendees only went to further exacerbate this volatile situation.

In our opinion, “The Ticket Program” is definitely not the way to do business. You and your staff heard, if implemented, the FAA will cause irreparable damage to the cooperative safety initiatives already being carried out with the private sector and industry. Today, numerous general and commercial aviation safety reporting programs are providing valuable, voluntary input to the agency. Launching this program will effectively dry up these information sources, leaving the task of identifying safety deficiencies entirely on the shoulders of the limited numbers of FSDO inspectors. It would seem the reports provided by the thousands of pilots and mechanics would outweigh any gain in efficiency this ticket program is attempting to achieve. This point should be carefully weighed by the FAA.

Throughout the meeting, the FAA heard the message that industry perceives this program as not safety-oriented but rather enforcement-oriented. Quoting from the GAO report summary, “Over three-quarters of the inspectors favored the use of tickets with fines for minor violations.” [emphasis added]. Ms. Peggy Gilligan responded that the industry just doesn’t understand what the FAA is trying to accomplish and that the industry has misinterpreted what the FAA is saying. AOPA wants the FAA to clearly understand what we are saying: “On behalf of our 340,000 members, immediately terminate this program and concentrate on the real issues raised in the GAO report—the need for better inspector training, more guidance to the inspector work force, better distribution and management of that guidance, and improved database tracking of alleged violations.”

I will not repeat the specific objections AOPA outlined in our previous letters. However, several issues were raised at the July 21 meeting by the FAA presentation team that appear to be their solutions to this controversy. Let me respond to those suggestions:

Specifically,

  • The FAA’s efforts to streamline the enforcement program are based on the results of the 90-day safety review following the ValueJet accident and the General Accounting Office’s Enforcement Report. In both documents, it was determined the FAA inspectors were only reporting one third of all the violations and thus, its aviation safety database was incomplete.

If data is what is missing, the FAA should direct its inspectors to log and document violations in the safety-data tracking system, regardless of whether administrative actions are processed or not.

  • The FAA again stated “there is NO finding of violation when an administrative action is taken.” In our July 15 letter, we carefully outlined our reasons for disagreeing with this statement. Our position following the July 21 meeting still stands as originally submitted.
  • When questioned on the issue of a certificate holder’s right to appeal, the FAA staff responded that anyone receiving an administrative action has the opportunity to submit additional information to the inspector or the FSDO office manager. As there is no formal method for processing this information by an unbiased third party, we do not agree this constitutes an appeal process for the ticket recipient. Any withdrawal of the ticket action is at the discretion of the inspector or his/her FSDO manager.
  • Much discussion was presented on the matter of “admission of guilt” associated with the signing of a ticket as well as the implications of not signing the ticket. The FAA states that signing the ticket merely denotes receipt of the ticket and is not an admission of guilt. AOPA and all the representatives present do not accept this. The perception will inevitably be that the certificate holder is admitting guilt.

Likewise, refusal to sign a ticket has been cited by flight standards’ instructors as failure of the certificate holder to exhibit a constructive attitude toward compliance. Field inspectors have received instructions in their training classes to bypass the administrative action alternative and go directly to a legal enforcement proceeding. Despite statements during the presentation to the contrary, inspectors will operate with this original philosophy in mind. This puts the certificate holder in a “Catch-22” position.

  • AOPA continues to be very concerned about the public availability of this information and the impact receipt of an administrative action ticket will have on an airman’s ability to exercise the privileges of his/her certificate. Under the Pilots Records Improvement Act, only those files where a final determination of legal actions has been issued are released. However, any prospective/present employer, insurance underwriter, or interested party can request all files, including administrative enforcement actions (tickets) under the Freedom of Information Act.

Effects on a pilot’s employment, insurance, future enforcement actions, and other items may be significantly impacted by such a mark, regardless of how minor the infraction. The FAA’s acting administrator for flight standards (AFS-1), who facilitated the meeting, noted this program will not hurt any certificate holder if implemented. AOPA strongly disagrees with his counter-argument on this point.

We again applaud the FAA’s efforts to enhance efficiencies but based on what continues to come forth on the “ticket program,” the FAA has severely missed the mark and should immediately terminate their efforts to implement such an ill-conceived effort.

As always, I would be most happy to discuss this issue with you or other members of the FAA management team in greater detail should you desire.

Sincerely,
Phil Boyer

cc: Guy Gardner, FAA Associate Administrator
J. Randolph Babbitt, Air Line Pilots Association
B. Bruce Bickhaus, Allied Pilots Association
Becky Howell, Southwest Pilots Association
Carol Hallett, Air Transport Association
Walt Coleman, Regional Airline Association
John Olcott, National Business Aviation Association
James Coyne, National Air Transport Association
Tom Poberezny, Experimental Aircraft Association

Mr. Guy Gardner
FAA Associate Administrator
Regulations and Certification
800 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20591

J. Randolph Babbitt
Air Line Pilots Association
535 Herndon Parkway
P.O. Box 1169
Herndon, VA 22170

B. Bruce Bickhaus
Allied Pilots Association
2214 Paddock Way
Suite 900
Grand Prarie, TX 75050

Ms. Becky Howell
8036 Aviation Place
Lock Box 7
Love Field Dallas
Dallas, TX 75235

Ms. Carol Hallett
Air Transport Association of America
1301 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Suite 1100
Washington, D.C. 20004-1707

Mr. Walt Coleman
Regional Airline Association
Suite 300
1200 19th St., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20036

Mr. John Olcott
National Business Aviation Association
1200 Eighteenth St., N.W.
Suite 400
Washington, D.C. 20036

Mr. James Coyne
National Air Transport Association
4226 King Street
Alexandria, VA 22302

Mr. Tom Poberezny
Experimental Aircraft Association
EAA Aviation Center
P.O. Box 3086
Oshkosh, WI 54903-3086

July 31, 1998

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