AIN Blog: Just Say No

 - May 23, 2012, 9:33 PM

Flying is going to become more costly and constrained, if the U.S. government persists in efforts to tax business aircraft operators and limit their freedom to operate in the name of security, not to mention FAA actions that are causing more work for everyone.

Writing in the Inside Washington column in the National Air Transportation Association’s second-quarter 2012 Aviation Business Journal, Eric Byer, NATA v-p of industry and government affairs, pointed out that government agencies are circumventing the rulemaking process by issuing guidance material that becomes “considered mandatory even though technically it is not.”

For a long time, we have worried about the Transportation Security Administration’s plans to impose regulations on business aircraft operations. While the TSA claims to have evaluated the security risks posed by general aviation, it has refused to share the tiniest scrap of information with the stakeholders, those who operate aircraft. Without any real information, we are left to assume that the TSA is simply seeking ways to justify growing its bloated bureaucracy by regulating GA security. The TSA keeps promising to issue new proposed regulations on GA security, covering large aircraft operations, so watch out.

The FAA seems to generate its own procedures to over-regulate GA regularly. This appears not only with the guidance material that Byer aptly describes, but also with arbitrary requirements that have no safety benefit. For example, an avionics manufacturer told me of vibration requirements to meet helicopter certification standards. This particular unit has to be able to withstand a vibration so severe that any human occupants in the helicopter would be torn apart. Ummm, OK, so the avionics survived but the pilots were killed? Right.

Another example: the growing proliferation of Letters of Authorization required for operations that any skilled pilot can easily handle. Did you need an LOA to shoot your first ILS approach? Or to fly your jet at extremely high altitudes? Or to land at John F. Kennedy Airport at rush hour? All these LOAs do is increase your costs, add to the FAA’s burden (more bureaucracy, please) and do nothing to improve safety.

Now we have the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), which is ignoring decades of rulings and legislation in a reinterpretation of what type of operators pay the so-called “ticket tax.”

It is abundantly clear in reading the legislation that created the ticket tax that it applies to commercial flight operations, which means airlines and charter flights. And previous IRS rulings support that claim. Yet in March, the IRS Office of the Chief Counsel issued an internal memo, a Chief Counsel Advice (CCA) document, that justifies applying the ticket tax (Federal Excise Tax or FET) to Part 91 operations, specifically aircraft managed by management companies. As Byer noted, “Although the CCA is not technically able to be used or cited as precedent, it has already widely circulated within the agency and will certainly influence how ongoing and future audits are approached. The general aviation industry has enough to worry about nowadays, let alone an IRS fishing expedition that has legally been repeatedly shot down and is simply a free-time activity for a bunch of pencil pushers.”

So what should you do about government over-reaching, not only into your and your owner’s wallets but also the abuse of your rights and basic freedoms?

Just say no.

When the IRS says that it wants FET for a private flight by an aircraft owner in his or her airplane on his or her own business, say no. The rules clearly do not require a tax on Part 91 flights.

And when the FAA tries to tell you that guidance in an advisory circular or inspector policy document must be followed, just say no. Rules are rules and must be complied with, but FAA inspectors are not allowed to make up their own rules. Period.

And when the TSA issues the next version of the Large Aircraft Security Program, read the proposed regulations carefully and submit your comments. If the rules don’t make sense, that is, they do not specifically improve the security risk posed by GA operations, then say so, loud and clear.

And, added Byer, “I strongly encourage you to take action! Write your members of the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate.” Both NATA and NBAA have handy online tools for contacting your legislators.

We have let our government consolidate too much power and we are allowing agencies to chip away at our freedoms. “I wonder,” wrote NATA president James Coyne in a recent President’s Letter, “if our founding fathers could even imagine how much regulatory power their limited federal government would one day command.”


The regulation game has, under this administration, only one purpose, to regulate all non-commercial aircraft operations out of existence. The easiest method to accomplish this end is to raise cost to the point where the advantage of air travel does not over come the debilitating cost. Aircraft sold, government wins.

If the government has its way, I guess I have to stop flying Angle
Flights too!

They won't care. Anyone of their kids that need a ride will get one paid for by the lowly serfs. Serfs being us taxpayers.

We have let (or have ignored) the Government regulate us do death. I am a Civil Air Patrol Pilot and I fly all kinds of security flights for the USAF. Please do not the Government continue to pass laws that limit GA. The Public needs to know just how much GA does for them. We need to wake them up.

the FAA continues to chip away. You mention the internal guidelines the the worker bees in the FAA seem to generate with increasing speed. The Living History Flight program is under attack. The certification and operation of Warbirds is hit with additional requirments and delays based on "studies" in progress. Who is the driving force behind all this?

Stop the government from taking way the GA flying rights and restrict them from adding extra cost to GA.

This is a refreshing perspective compared to AOPA's "suck it up and bend over for that TFR" attitude.

Talk about chipping away at our freedoms!! How about the requirement to fill out the information required in the eAPIS program to leave our own country. I was told by an AOPA represenative that this was for my own safety. Is there a way to get rid of this requirement? I have had Customes and Border Protection check me at the airport before I leave for Mexico. I think they are looking for the guns and money--well so are the Mexicans. Just venting here a little. The Federal Government is just chipping at the margins of freedom. Thank, Marty Thomas

Protest to whom?

There isn't anyone in the government that gives a rats ____ what we (private pilots) think, want, or desire. If anything they would like us all to just "go away" so they would be "safer".

You think pilots, even "connected" pilots have any political pull? One would think that they would live in/around Washington, DC. See how effective they have been in getting rid of the ADIZ? Oh, and the Maryland federal pols, who's own state's aviation business was nearly destroyed ... man did they raise a stink .... NOT!

Vote for a US President candidate that can fly (at least minimum rating) GA One. Not alot of them so should be easy to locate!

Have a nice day :-D

The basic premise of the article is exactly on point. I agree that the FAA and the TSA, not to mention the IRS and other groups, are regulating GA out of existence and must be stopped. But the answer is not as simple as "just say no". These organizations must be required by those who control them to regulate in a manner which makes sense and which promotes safety without undue cost to the user. Just saying "no" does not force the agencies to adopt a more-effective set of regulations.

What it does is to give those agencies the opportunity to take punitive enforcement action against those who have failed to comply with the rules as published. Unfortunately, this is the typical "default" response at the "in the field" level. The local inspector from the FSDO, or the TSA agent at the field, does not have the authority to deviate from the language of the regulations. He or she is highly unlikely to engage in a discussion of the underlying wisdom of the rule with you. They will write up the violation and let you fight it out in the system. That may be great for me as an aviation attorney, but it is NOT good for GA in general.

What is needed is more intervention by the users of GA, individually and through the organizations which represent us, to draft proposed regulations which we feel will accomplish the reasonable objectives of safety and accountability while keeping expense to a minimum, and then we must gather together in force to insist that our elected representatives pass the revised regulations and that they require that the regulators (who are not elected) actually enforce the regulations in the way they were intended, rather than being undermined through lack of funding, or completely changed by agency "interpretations".

Unfortunately, the most influential spokespeople for GA are the large companies who use corporate aircraft. This is unfortunate because many of these companies do not want to publicly acknowledge that they use corporate aircraft, because they fear the stigma of the "fat cat" using the company jet as his "personal luxury perk." Lately, this has offended politicians, shareholders, and others.

The sad truth is, however, that unless these users come forward and make a clear case to the American people in general, and to the elected officials in particular, for the proper business use of aircraft to achieve legitimate objectives of speed, flexibility, safety, security, privacy, efficiency, etc. in their company operations; GA will die. We can't keep preaching to the choir. Our big companies need to get squarely behind the "No Plane, No Gain" program and tell it to the public, to their shareholders and to their elected representatives over and over and over. Loud and long, until they get the message.

A large part of one specific problem mentioned, field inspectors relying on guidance materials to regulate, can be directly related to people and organizations not just saying no. When confronted by an overzealous inspector quoting guidance material (or often simply their opinion masquerading as legal interpretation), many pilots, mechanics, and companies simply go along thinking that what is proposed must be legally correct and acceptable. By allowing field inspectors to dictate practices and policies through opinion and guidance we allow them a deference to which they are not entitled.

We always have the right to say that we do not agree with a field inspectors opinion. We are well within our rights to simply ask that a valid legal interpretation be sought from the FAA's Chief Counsel. That legal interpretation, along with relevant case history is the only binding legal opinion that matters. The opinion of a field inspector is simply that, an opinion. Guidance material is also just that, guidance. If you don't believe that, try asking an FAA inspector to stick to exactly what the 8900 says.

The controlling regulation and its interpretation through the Chief Counsel's office or case history is what we must live by and is absolutely the one standard we MUST force the FAA inspectors and field agents to live by.

if the govt. does like this, it is problem for us. I feel the it is not good.

The government over regulates the general aviation community because we make it easy for them to do it. We are like low hanging fruit for lawmakers and bureaucrats because the number of pilots is too small.

For example; thousands and thousands of people are killed on the nation's highways each year and there is no public outcry to require initial or recurrent training to hold a drivers license. There is no regulation that drivers must have physical examinations and be of "good moral character". Lawmakers are scared to death to mess with the pubic when it comes to their prized automobiles.

I am afraid that the general aviation community is just too small to fight back successfully. Furthermore, the public is grossly misinformed and removed from the world of aviation. And understandably so, because if you think about it, aviation offers the public nothing more than airline tickets, airshow tickets , overnight packages and flying lessons. The public does not enjoy or feel what we do about flying. When aviation offers the public a way to enjoy what we do, then we will get somewhere with this regulation problem.

Some of the points here are well made, and aircraft operators willing to wrestle with the FAA might indeed have success with polite, but firm resistance to the more obviously wacky LOA's and such. It would be prudent to do some additional research regarding your unique situation (aviation attorney?) before volunteering for that noble endeavor.

That stated, it is a bit disingenuous for Mr. Thurber to cite "our founding fathers" probable objections to this form of federal regulatory power. In 1787, the "founding fathers" were still perplexed as to why birds and insects could fly.

Modern aircraft range from single place ultralights buzzing around at 40mph, to 500+ passenger airliners tickling the underside of Mach 1. There HAS to be significant regulation, or the the entire realm of modern aviation would collapse.

Sounds good, but who is willing to raise their voice? Recent Aviation related petitions posted to “WE the People” at received less than 6,000 signatures, resulting in their archival with no answer from the govenment. Such lack of interest on our part speaks much louder than a few blog posts.

Been saying that for years.

I totally agree that government agencies are trying to stymie our freedoms. The FAA is no exception.

Case in point, I recently tried to re-register my single engine aircraft in accordance with the FAA registration mandate. My spouse, who was co-owner, vanished without a trace while hiking in the mountains almost five years ago. Fortunately, or so I thought, I have legal power of attorney. My registration application was returned without action because they said the power of attorney was not valid for aircraft registration purposes because it did no contain and expiration date.

Numerous phone calls and explanation to the FAA Registration Branch failed to resolve the problem. Their answer was that this was a congressional mandate. They were sorry to hear about my missing wife but they would not accept a certified true copy of the power of attorney document without the document containing an expiration date.

I am now awaiting until the case involving my missing wife is resolved through probate later in the year. In the meantime, my aircraft is collecting dust because it is not currently registered. Not only that, a party is genuinely interested in purchasing my plane but I am unable to sell because of the registration problem.

If this isn't a veiled attempt to curtail our freedoms under the guise of national security requirements, I don't know what is. For 20 years I served my country as an Air Force officer, including a year in Vietnam. Maybe the bureaucrats believe I suffer from PTSD and pose some sort of threat with my aircraft. Go figure.

The way to proceed is with elected officials, or appointed ones, that are motivated to PROVE the benefits of ANY regulation or rule, new or otherwise. If the benefits cannot be shown, then it goes into the scrap heap. I would support any candidate for office, including the president, who would promise and follow through that they would go down through all the agencies under their control that they have the power to eliminate and do just that...eliminate them. Period. Maybe enough could be eliminated that we could start over and make sure the money is being well spent and personal freedoms are not being trampled upon. The aviation industry is one of the most heavily regulated ones. New pilot starts are a good example of what regulation does, along with the cost of new airplanes. How many bonanzas were built last year? And Hawker is on the ropes.
I am pretty sure I am preaching to the choir here. The problem far exceeds the foibles of aviation.

To change a FAR (Federal Aviation Regulations) is a monumental and time consuming task. A methodology was used (first time in FAR 60 Simulators and FTDs) that allowed guidance material to be included in the FAR but not have to go through the full NPRM and review process. The thought was "we could change things quickly and thus keep up with evolving technology". That was its purpose and as stated; it is guidance not regulation. I guess no good deed goes unpunished if I read what has happened correctly.

Mike, what you have done with FTD's and Sims was truly a good deed!

In the context of the quickly evolving technology in FTDs, which you are a big part of, the intent and the actual practice seem to be at least somewhat aligned. Unfortunately, in the rest of the real world of aviation that practice has seeped over to the point where we live more and more under the rule of guidance (or opinion) rather than actual regulation.

Absolutely there is too much government regulation in all walks of our life. General Aviation already has challenges brought on by the 2008 Recession and current fuel prices. Additional regulation will only exacerbate the problems the industry faces.
" Just say No to more government regs" Also " No Plane No Gain" !!!

Too much regulation, too prone to raise fees / taxes.
Too much paperwork required, such as renewal N numbers, etc.

Not enough done to keep fuel costs down and available.

Too much EPA regulation and power.

Too much influence by the left-wing zealots.

This is not just a “left-wing” issue. Instead, this is on BOTH sides of the aisle. After all, the TSA was created by a Republican-controlled Congress and signed into law by a Republican President. The right-wing is certainly not blameless here.

Sadly the confusion continues. Left wing liberals can be republicans too. Liberals think with their emotions and conservatives uses facts and truth. Liberals need to feel good controlling you for your own good. You can't expect them to go away when they get what they want because they always want more.

IBM is credited with creating FUD, Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. This is the premise on which our government is operating. TAS, HSA, FAA, FCC, were all created to answer the public's fear of something terrible happening if we didn't have all these agencies. The emergency locator transmitter was created after one Senator was lost in a plane crash.

Somehow we must reign in Federal Government. They have far overstepped the boundaries set by the Constitution. One way is to fire all the members of Congress. Do not vote for the incumbent. "Not no how, not now way."

A recall might be in order about this time. There are some videos on the internet that claim the process has already started. It most likely won't get further than the resolution.

Congress is not out of control. Congress is controlled by corporate America. Corporate America has bought Congress, lock, stock and barrel. Congress does what big money wants and will not listen to an individual's complaint or problem.

Vote them out!

As a member of the Detroit area automotive engineering community, I have been trying to raise peoples' awareness of the automobile slowly being regulated to death for over 30 years. So I can understand what the aviation industry is going through.

America is a population living in fear, especially since 911. GA is a convenient means for Congress to alleviate the American citizen's fear and allow the TSA and FAA to expand their regulatory sphere. They believe they are doing the right thing. 6000 signatures for any national cause are worthless. Until Americans get comfortable with their place in the world, the TSA will grow and GA will shrink or become completely underfunded.

We have way to much government in our life. Time to tell them to hit the road, less government is better.

The FAA and government have over regulated the industry to a point that it has killed market segments. Why is it that most of the light sport aircraft sold in the US are built overseas, and same with the engines in them? We can't afford to design, build, certify or even fly GA aircraft in the US anymore.

Plus we're selling our American businesses to China because they have plently of our money to buy up these aviation companies that are struggling under the government and FAA regulation.

Something seems wrong somewhere.

Private Pilots don't have deep pockets. If this administration really wants to aid the middle economic sector of this country, then forget trying to bleed private pilots to death.

If the present guy stays in, GA is screwed, since we're all in the rich
1 percenters. The pilot unable to register his aircraft since his late
wife obviously can't sign should sign for her. The FAA person in charge
Of paperwork could give a crap as long as she has "signed " it. Feel
Your pain, spent 20 years chasing Commies ... Now I'm almost one!!!

Pilot groups such as AOPA & EAA are the voice of General Aviation. Much greater effort needs to be placed on educating the media and the public at large at what exactly General Aviation means. The vast majority of our population and so-called Government Officials have little or no clue that General Aviation means more than Recreational, Light Sport Aircraft & Private pilots. The Civil Air Patrol, Law Enforcement Air Wings, Medevac operations, volunteer groups such as Angel Flight, etc are all active members of General Aviation - to name just a few. The missions involve far more than "punching holes in the sky or the $100 ($200) hamburgers ! We need to educate the public & Congress ... and now before losing all of our hard-earned privileges !

The way to say NO is to become proactive. Instead of complaining, support your conservative candidates. Give $$ to the SCF and or Tea Party. VOTE against any politician that has been for big government. Democrat or Republican.
Get the bureaucrats off our backs..

Regulation is totally out of hand. Who knows better than the pilot in command as to what his mental and physical state is with regard to his planned flight in his own aircraft? Stop the bureaucrats before there is nothing left to obstruct. Give us a venue to voice our objections and we will!

The FAA may seem to have a sharp blade slashing away at GA, well, beause that is in fact what is happening. The alphabet organizations that exist to protect GA have fallen in line with FAA schemes way too often, generally when they think it benefits their "segment" of GA. So sad when they're wrong. The key is incrementalism. Few of us are left that remember what it was like 25 years ago, and fewer still are ready to admit (including those alphabet organizations) that saftety hasn't improved in a (legitimately) measurable way. Matt's advice is solid - use your brain, read the regulations, and comply with what is actually required, and with what makes sense. Don't simply assume because "everyone knows" that it is true. The FAA has more than once issued "guidance" that directly contradicts the rules. Don't blame the examiner, inspector, or ground school instructor that repeats the FAA "guidance", just use your own head and eyes, if you've still got them.
And read proposed rules before they're done, and make suggestions. The law requires the FAA to follow a process which is intended to provide an open process, with public oversight. When they issue ACs, interpretations and policy leters that contradict the rules, they're circumventing the legal process, which is technically a crime. When the aviation users don't participate in the oversight process when it is followed, that's sad, and absolutely a shame.
But the FAA sword can cut back. Look at the FAA budget, at the number of people employed by the agency. Then loook at how may US Flag air carriers there are, and how many airplanes, pilots and mechanics they employ. There is no way to justify the FAA budget if GA is gone. Air carrier volume alone doesn't justify it. In the past, FAA leadership recognized this, and often reversed course and became GA promoters (at least in public). It might happen again...but only if we make ourselves known, loud and clear.
Good article Matt, keep up the good work!

One of the regulations that is, in my opinion, useless is the Biannual Flight Review. How did we ever let this requirement get approved?
If I fly my own aircraft, I don't need this review. If I rent one, the owners require a check ride. Again, no need for another review.
Let's get rid of this inappropriate rule, and save money and time.

As a co-founder of Freedom To Travel USA (, I have been tracking the abusive and illegal TSA tactics where the government asserts the right to strip search innocent Americans and touch our genitals - all over non-existent risks and very improbable events.

I would challenge Mr. Thurber and others in GA to figure out how to join us - whether through official contacts in your organizations or those who have influence with pilots organizations.

We just did a Congressional briefing this week on how the TSA wastes our money - using reasoned, mathematical arguments - and I know that GA is being squeezed more and more for "security" reasons and the TSA is trying to force changes at the smaller airports where much of GA occurs.

I would suggest those who really want to help protect their rights join with us at and there is contact information at the site. We are looking to build a coalition of those who want to travel freely in order to make the Presidential Candidates accountable for their views. The TSA does influence FAA actions, and I can share with you the TSA uses rules, intended for the FAA, to avoid basic lawsuits over TSA intrusions on passengers.

The common theme is that our country is being scared into submission over nearly non-existent threats.

We would look forward to innovative and concrete connections with the pilot and airport communities. I wish I could say the major airlines care, but their extreme silence and lucky benefit of having no legal responsibility for security makes them unlikely partners. And, major airports don't seem to care either as they get federal funding which they don't mind....

The problem as I see it, is that there is very little oversight on the actions of the FAA and other agencies. Sure, they have 60 day comment periods before making a decision but that is to make us feel we have some input. What ever happened to common sense entering the equation? Their thinking is that given enough regulation, they can eliminate accidents. These useless government regulations are killing the human spirit and creativeness that this country was built on. We certainly don't want to go the way of Europe where flying is almost regulated out of existance.

Solution..... vote them aLL OUT... if that fails ... I will not comply.. enough freedom bashing. Aviation is America... Not run by dictators...

We are still required to find the obscure sources for the batteries when half their shelf life is up, but the other party (FAA) has not held up their part of the bargain: Nobody is listening anymore if they do go off! No satellites any more,just an appeal to pilots with time on their hands to monitor.

Other options exist that are better: now we have cell phones and their are subscriptions one can get with a special transmitter that sends a signal to a satellite and anyone with access can track the aircraft. It's called a SPOT.

Remember this, if your battery is past the date, your aircraft is in violation of an FAR and therefore unairworthy. It doesn't matter wheither it works or not!

The area of regulation is one in which I feel that our major flying organizations (namely AOPA and EAA) do not adequatly confront the powers that be on behalf of its members. Other organizations such as NRA should serve as an example of an organization that actively fight for its members rights. TFR's are an example of rules that have gotten out of hand. The govt usurps our airspace at its whim. This should only happen in a national emergency and not as a matter of routine as seems to be the norm. Our organizations need to step up to the plate

I am in health care and have had a love for general aviation care is in the process of strangulation by over regulation in the interest of "safety" as is aviation, my other favorite interest. The governing entities must eventually face the reality..................once you kill all of the dogs, you no longer need the dog catcher.

If pilots would be allowed to rely on common sense and not regulations aviation would be much safer. The problem is that as pilots we have learned to depend on the government to tell us what is safe and what is not via regulations. We don't need a bunch of legislators telling us how to fly our airplanes! There is absolutely no reason the FARs need to be four inches thick just to keep us safe.

What are the respective States doing to repudiate unconstitutional federal encroachment of our freedom to fly?

We are exiting a housing bubble and moving into a government bubble. This will be the final stand by the criminal elite to take away put freedoms before the mathimatically inevitable collapse of the Dollar. The only thing we need to do is refuse to participate and walk away from this paradigm if it doesn't resonate with you. It will implode on its own. Buy silver, guns, and dry goods because it's going to be a tough road, hopefully we can steer clear of tyranny.

"First they ignore you, then they mock you, then they fight you, then you win." Mahatma Ghandi

Maybe in protest we could contact American Air Campers and organize a camping trip to a major airport! That worked so well for the liberals on Wall Street, of course most pilots dream of having a place on a residential airpark! Some might never leave! Ha!

You know why it's hard to keep up don't you? It's because regulation is the FAA's Day Job. It's what they do. Only a dramatic reduction in their size can make a real dent in the fundamental issue.

When I started to fly over 40 years ago there was too much regulation. The FARs were a small book. Now it is a book larger than the New York City yellow pages. The government workers have nothing else to do but make rules and regs. I understand there is now one FAA employee for every three GA airplanes!! Time to fire over half of all government employees. Let the unemployment rate go way up and cut the government in half and let us have our freedom and money to spend as we see fit.
9/11 was a serious attack but in perspective we lost 3000 of 300 million. We lost two buildings of more millions. Hardly reason to imprison the 300 million. Close the TSA, fire half of all state, city and federal employees and put them to work building America, not destroying it.

For once AOPA is advocating resistance to this government over reach. Its is way past time the bobble heads recognized how regulation is destroying our very way of life. AOPA is a wonderful organization but it is heavily influenced by misguided politically correct notions that erode individual freedom. For me and other pilots, freedom is the reason we fly. To go where and when I choose unfettered by government intrusion is the ultimate statement of freedom. But like many of our freedoms, it is being incrementally destroyed by self appointed do gooders and bureaucrats.


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