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Regulators Focused on Pilot Training Issues
October 22, 2009, Orlando, FL – Virtually all of the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA's) ongoing activities have been overshadowed by the push to address the issues raised by several recent airline accidents, including the crash in Buffalo earlier this year. Consequently, the agency is focused on developing new or revised regulations regarding cockpit discipline, fatigue, flight and duty time, and pilot training.
Nevertheless, a half-dozen FAA headquarters officials, led by Deputy Director of Flight Standards John McGraw, took time during a "Meet the Regulators" session at NBAA2009 to provide an overview of other recent developments within the FAA, from changes in the agency's leadership, to efforts to integrate unmanned aerial systems and NextGen components into the National Airspace System (NAS).
As part of the agency's efforts to increase standardization, NextGen branches are being established in every FAA region. These units will include an aircraft certification liaison to ensure that expertise does not reside solely at headquarters. Other standardization efforts include revisions of inspector handbooks to ensure that guidance and enforcement actions are more consistent. Another recent initiative was to combine the functions of accident investigation and analysis in one office.
One of the issues of particular interest to the business aviation community is the status of the FAR Part 125/135 Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) recommendations. FAA officials reported that 55 percent of the recommendations have been completed or closed, while 45 percent remain open, although agency officials could not say when they would be addressed.
However, the work of a separate Takeoff and Landing Performance Assessment ARC is expected to result in a notice of proposed rulemaking in January. Likewise, new proposed rules regarding emergency medical helicopter operations are expected in early 2010.
An issue on the minds of many business aviation operators that fly overseas is the looming International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) requirement that operators have a safety management system (SMS) in place by November 2010. The U.S. has filed a "difference" with ICAO, and FAA officials say no SMS rulemaking initiative for FAR Part 91 is underway.
The agency, however, has been working with Part 121, 135 and 141 operators since 2007 to build the experience needed to formulate SMS regulations. Also, the FAA continues to keep NBAA apprised of its efforts and has developed several documents to help Part 91 operators get started on the task of creating and implementing an SMS. Those resources include Advisory Circular 120-92, an SMS assurance guide and an SMS implementation guide, the latter two of which are available through the FAA's SMS program office.
Recently, the FAA reported that runway incursions have declined substantially, thanks to a drop in pilot deviations. The agency hopes to achieve further safety gains by increasing awareness of this issue among general aviation pilots through seminars that are to be conducted at several general aviation airports, including North Las Vegas (VGT) and DeKalb-Peachtree Airport (PDK).
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