A reader recently took me to task for writing that the FAA is reinterpreting Part 135 regulations, in a story about the FAA’s belief that contract charter instructors and check airmen apparently are not complying with the rules. This reader believes that this particular rule is not subject to interpretation and that training school instructors and check airmen have simply not been complying with the rules and that it’s about time the FAA cracked down. Never mind that this could put charter operators out of business or force them to comply by avoiding training altogether—which is legal—and having check rides done by FAA inspectors, or simply conducting training in aircraft instead of simulators.
Now this just isn’t so. The FAA is going to crack down on compliance with the rule, supposedly to improve safety, and in order to comply with that rule, offer incentives for operators to operate less safely.
In other words, the FAA is going to disqualify dozens, maybe hundreds, of experienced instructors and check airmen from training and checking Part 135 pilots because they can’t prove that they meet the requirement to fly as a qualified pilot for a Part 135 operator. This is presumably in the interest of safety, yet no one can point to any breach of safety caused by the current system, where Part 142 instructors and check airmen have been doing their jobs perfectly well while allegedly not meeting the exact letter of the law.
The problem here is not a lack of compliance but a glaring inability of FAA regulations to adapt to the safety and operational needs of changes in the industry. Do we slavishly adhere to rules that don’t make any safety sense?
Some people, including the reader who commented, will answer yes. But let’s consider the consequences.
New FAA regulations attempt to assess the cost of compliance, but how about requiring any new FAA proposal to assess the consequences of the proposed regulations? For example, the consequences of imposing a no-fly zone and Special Flight Rules Area around Washington, DC have been…to catch terrorists? No! The consequences are that many pilots are getting caught and escorted to a landing (adding risk), subjected to questioning and losing their pilot certificates. And airports in the area have lost a ton of business, most notably Reagan Washington National Airport, where the only general aviation operations allowed are corporate jets carrying an armed security officer. If the consequences of this rule actually improved security, I would be all for such a rule. But there is no evidence that security is enhanced.
Does it make sense for independent charter instructors and check airmen to have to undergo all the training required to qualify as a charter pilot for a particular operator? Does this enhance safety? Does it minimize potential adverse consequences? Is there a safety benefit, and can the FAA prove it?