At NBAA’s Convention, FAA Officials Answer Range of Operator Questions

ORLANDO, FL, October 8, 2008 – Nicholas A. Sabatini, the Federal Aviation Administration’s Associate Administrator for Aviation Safety, along with three other agency officials, fielded a variety of questions from business aircraft operators during a Wednesday morning "Meet the Regulators" session at NBAA’s 61st Annual Meeting & Convention (NBAA2008).

Topics covered included Federal Aviation Regulation Part 125 and 135 operations, safety management systems (SMSs), criminalization of aircraft accidents, English proficiency of aviation users, harmonization of FAA and European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) regulations and problems operators have with principal operations inspectors (POIs).

In opening remarks, Sabatini applauded the International Business Aviation Council and NBAA for developing the International Standard for Business Aircraft Operations (IS-BAO). He said the FAA is working with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to ensure that operators will not need to get approval of their SMS from each country and promised that the FAA’s standards for SMSs will be compatible with those of ICAO. "We are not on divergent paths," he said, adding that the FAA’s regulations regarding SMSs "will not be proscriptive, but performance-based."

Sabatini also assured operators that despite criticism of voluntary compliance programs leveled during recent congressional hearings on the FAA’s dealings with Southwest Airlines, "We will not waiver one iota from voluntary programs because they ultimately benefit public safety."

On international issues, Sabatini noted that Brazil’s attempt to prosecute U.S. pilots involved in an accident was "of great concern." He said the agency is working through ICAO to get away from the "blame and punish" mentality, but he admitted we have "a long way to go." Commenting on the FAA’s efforts to harmonize regulations with EASA, Sabatini said, "They are of a mind to align, and so are we."

The FAA’s Dennis Pratt denied a rumor that the agency was considering an extension of the deadline for Part 135 operator to meet Extended-range Twin-engine Operational Performance Standards. ETOPS requirements have been in place since August.

Separately, Sabatini warned that Part 135 operators who want to put an aircraft on another operator’s certificate but still essentially exercise operational control would be dealt with "swiftly and summarily."

Some operators are disappointed with the pace with which the FAA is processing the backlog of applications for Part 135 certificates. Agency officials said they are developing a certification consultant rule that would enable designees to take on some of the tasks associated with gaining Part 135 approval.

Several operators complained about how Part 125 regulations are being applied, which led to a broader discussion of disagreements between aircraft operators with POIs. Sabatini and the other FAA officials explained how efforts to change the culture of the FAA to make the agency more user-friendly are taking some time to reach all levels of the organization. Sabatini reiterated, however, that the FAA remains committed to collaborative, not adversarial relations and wants to enable aviation without compromising safety.

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