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FAA launches much-needed customer service initiativeFAA launches much-needed customer service initiative

The FAA Office of Regulation and Certification has kicked off a new initiative to treat the pilots it deals with more like customers. It affects everything from medical issues to pilot deviations to field approvals and supplemental type certificates (STCs)—every single aspect of aviation that a flight standards district office (FSDO) would deal with. And if it works, it couldn't come at a better time.

"Until now, the pilot has often been viewed as little more than an attachment to a submitted government form," said AOPA Director of Regulatory and Certification Affairs Luis Gutierrez. "AOPA is hopeful that the new initiative will lead to more consistency and fairness in applying FAA regulations."

The Office of Regulation and Certification initiative is intended to provide earlier resolution of disagreements, better documentation of decisions, and more accountability by FAA employees for the decisions they make.

What that means to pilots and aircraft owners is that they now have the right to ask for a review of any inspector's decision made in the regulatory or certification process, without fear of retribution. When a GA pilot or aircraft owner questions or disputes an action, FAA managers are expected to thoroughly review the matter and be accountable for the answers they provide. The FAA intends to prominently display information on requesting a review in all FAA regional and field offices.

What the FAA promises customers:

  • Service that promotes a safe, secure, and efficient aviation system
  • Considerate, respectful, and professional service
  • Clear explanation of the requirements, alternatives, and possible outcomes associated with their inquiry or request
  • Timely and complete responses to inquiries and requests
  • Clear explanation of FAA decisions
  • An environment where FAA decisions can be questioned or challenged without fear of retribution
  • Fair and careful consideration of their issue
  • Clear guidance on elevating concerns to the next higher level of FAA authority

What the FAA asks in return:

  • Understand that the FAA's first priority is safety
  • Display the same level of professionalism they expect from the FAA
  • Provide all pertinent information in a timely manner
  • Use the FAA's established "chain of command" to elevate concerns

"While this sounds good in principle, changing culture requires more than a new program. Fear of retribution remains very real in the minds of many pilots, mechanics, and avionics installers," said Gutierrez. "Changing that perception will require a determined effort by the FAA. The attitude and the organization's culture must recognize that the FAA exists because of the pilot, not the other way around."

The FAA will judge the success of the initiative by the American Customer Satisfaction Index Survey, an independent survey conducted at the University of Michigan. AOPA will judge its success by the association's experiences as the owner of three aircraft and workday home of scores of GA pilots, and by what members say about their experiences in dealing with FSDOs.

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