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Did I do something wrong?

How to deal with unexpected mandatory occurrence reports

By Dan Hassing

From time to time in the AOPA Legal Services Plan (LSP), we get a call that goes something like this: I was cleared for takeoff at a towered field.

As I was accelerating down the runway, I noticed an issue that required me to abort takeoff. I advised tower, pulled off the runway, cleared the issue, and received a new takeoff clearance. I took off and completed my flight without issue. A few weeks later, the FAA is calling me about the aborted takeoff. Did I do something wrong? What regulation did I violate?

Aborted takeoffs, in and of themselves, are not violations of any regulation. But they are events that the FAA has asked air traffic controllers to report, and they may lead to follow-up from the FAA. In FAA Order JO 7210.632A, the FAA instructs ATC employees of their obligation to report various “occurrences.” The order’s purpose is to “ensure that safety data that may benefit the [National Airspace System] are collected.”

Aborted takeoffs are just one of several types of occurrences that ATC is required to report. Others include loss of separation, loss of expected communication, emergencies, and more. Some occurrences may not be associated with regulatory violations. These may include a medical emergency or an equipment malfunction. Other occurrences, however, may involve potential regulatory violations, such as entering a runway without clearance. Controllers should alert you with a Brasher warning (“November-One-Two-Three-Four-Five, possible pilot deviation, advise you contact [ATC facility] at [phone number]”) if the occurrence includes a possible deviation. Any unexpected contact from the FAA can be unnerving, regardless of whether it involves a deviation. To ensure that your response does not prejudice your rights, it is a good idea to speak with us before you discuss any event with the FAA. Dan Hassing is an attorney for AOPA Legal Services.

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