The FAA is working to provide predictability without degrading safety as it shapes the special rules that are helping keep general and business aviation operating during the coronavirus pandemic, FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said in an industry webinar on August 4.
Dickson took up the topic of the FAA’s work to issue and update the special federal aviation regulation (SFAR) that has given many pilots a workaround for medical, training, and currency requirements they could not meet because of pandemic-related shutdowns in comments to the National Business Aviation Association’s first virtual Business Aviation Town Hall.
“The deadlines and the rules are there for a reason, right? And so we can only push things so far,” he said, adding that “in most cases we have introduced some sort of mitigating factor that would enable an extension and make it defensible and not a degradation of safety.”
Dickson, who has been head of the FAA for about a year, offered the example of “requiring the pilot to review certain material that may be applicable to their role” as a mitigating factor that would allow an expired compliance deadline to be extended.
The agency continues to look at the SFAR process carefully, Dickson said, “and it’s not a complete blank check, certainly, but as it makes sense we’ll continue to do these extensions and do them with enough predictability so that our stakeholders can plan their operations knowing whether they [can] have the extension or not.”
His comments elicited an appreciative response from NBAA CEO Ed Bolen, who suggested that the FAA may have to deal with relief in such areas as nighttime landings in future SFAR extensions.
"AOPA appreciates the FAA’s recognition of the challenges presented by the pandemic for thousands in the GA community to maintain their currency and duration requirements in times of social distancing," said Christopher Cooper, AOPA director of regulatory affairs. "Since April, the original SFAR and its first amendment have provided GA the relief needed to safely operate to support the fight against the pandemic, and avoid unnecessary costs caused by expiring certificates and privileges. As the pandemic persists, AOPA will advocate for continued SFAR relief beyond September."