FAA Weighs Penalties for Illegal Charter

 - November 7, 2018, 1:04 PM

The FAA is examining how it approaches enforcement and fines for violations involving illegal charter operations that are unwilling or unable to comply with the regulations, a senior agency official told the NATA 2018 Aviation Leadership Conference this week. “Of late there’s been a reexamination of how much regulation is appropriate,” said John Duncan, FAA deputy associate administrator for aviation safety.

FAA enforcement was one of a number of issues highlighted during the Aviation Leadership Conference, which also delved into tackling workforce issues, looking at new models of service, and elevating the safety of Part 135, among others. More than 100 registrants were attending the event that included the participation of NTSB chairman Robert Sumwalt and many other business leaders.

New NATA president Gary Dempsey kicked off the event Wednesday, joking that leading the event for the first time “feels like my instrument checkride when I was 20 years old” and adding he was excited to be there.

When asked about what FAA has been doing about illegal charter operators, Duncan said the agency’s approach is to make sure operators have the proper understanding and education on how they need to comply. The FAA can approach compliance issues through its non-punitive Compliance Philosophy that establishes compliance actions, rather than enforcement, to address the problems, he added.

However, if the operator is unwilling or unable, he said, then the agency will use enforcement to either rehabilitate or move those operators out of the system. A concern though, Duncan added, is “if the event is not scary then the dollar amount is driven down.” Over the past 10 years, the FAA has dealt with 288 such cases and the civil penalties combined for $10 million. Duncan pointed to a recent civil penalty involving a second case against an operator for $600,000. In his thinking, he said, that penalty should have been $6 million.

“We’re actively working…to talk about how we can press the building of what amounts to new [regulation] toward recognizing that unwilling or unable is the highest safety risk in the [national airspace system].” He added he had a meeting also on Wednesday to discuss the issue.