Columnists

May 16, 2017

The FAA and President Trump’s Order on Regulations

President Donald Trump, upholding a campaign promise to eliminate two federal regulations for every new one enacted, has signed an Executive Order that requires U.S. agencies and departments to move in that direction. Though this may hasten the process of eliminating regulations, it must be noted that the federal government routinely reviews, repeals and removes obsolete laws and regulations, sometimes without fanfare or notice, and aviation regulations are no exception to this.

For example, the FAA quietly changed Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) 91.183  (14 CFR 91.183) in 2007, which until that point, had required pilots flying under instrument flight rules and in radar contact to report any significant change in cruise speed. Pilots also were required to report vacating the previously assigned altitude after having been given a clearance to change altitude at the “pilot’s discretion.” This was an important regulation half a century ago when there was poor radar coverage across the United States, but improved technology had rendered it obsolete.  You will often hear pilots still abiding by the old regulation and reporting these things to this day, unaware that the requirement has been eliminated.

The FAA is also in the midst of a complete rewrite of FAR Part 23 (14 CFR 23), the set of regulations applicable to the design and manufacturing of small single and multiengine general aviation airplanes, such as those produced by Cessna, Piper, Cirrus, and Beechcraft. The current regulations are a messy, sometimes disconnected set of rules originally published in 1964 and constantly amended as aircraft design and manufacturing has changed and evolved in the intervening years. The rewrite will remove regulations concerning obsolete methods, and provide for manufacturing using the most modern techniques and technologies. The hope is that the provisions and simplicity will help revive U.S. small airplane manufacturing.

FAA regulations are usually born from data indicating a systemic safety problem in the aviation field. Various subject experts, both from within the FAA and from industry and aviation organizations review and consider the available data. This process generates a rule proposal, drawn up in conjunction with the FAA’s lawyers, which is then evaluated for both an economic cost estimate to industry and the potential negative outcomes. After this, it is put forward to the public for comment, and barring no substantive criticism from the public or industry, entered into the Code of Federal Regulations, becoming an FAA regulation.
This bureaucratic process is a long and drawn out, often taking half a decade to complete. Because of this, it is often maligned, but the end product is the result of a thoughtful and incisive process resulting in a rational and effective regulation.

This normal regulatory process is often usurped by Congress which has, on several occasions, passed laws that required a compliance timeline that required a hastened or even bypassed bureaucratic process. The regulations and supporting publications resulting from this are often (and justifiably) met with derision and scorn from industry and pilots alike.

There are several regulations, that in my opinion, are worthy of being withdrawn. The majority of these regulations are from a previous era and their need can no longer can be justified.  Many of these regulations are being considered for removal, and are going through the FAA’s bureaucratic process. And while the process is slow, it is thorough and guards against any indiscriminate action without considering the scope of the potential outcomes from the regulation’s removal.  However, there is one FAA regulation which I would advocate immediately repealing, and that is Part 121.571(b)(3).

Delta 757-200 Safety Card noting final assembly in the USA

Delta 757-200 Safety Card noting final assembly in the USA (bottom center)

14 CFR 121.571(b)(3) requires passenger briefing cards to contain the phrase “Final assembly of this airplane was completed in [INSERT NAME OF COUNTRY].”  This provision in 121.571 was hastily added when Congress approved the FAA Reauthorization Act on December 11, 2003. The stipulation in the act became law in Title 49 U.S. Code 41723. This law compelled the FAA to write a regulation satisfying Congress’s desire, and thus the FAA added 121.571(b)(3) to their set of regulations for commercial air carriers in the United States. The FAA is tasked with promoting safe aviation in the United States, but this regulatory change, which was added by Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) in response to the anti-French sentiment in Congress that was prevalent during the invasion of Iraq in 2003, is political in nature and provides absolutely zero safety benefit, while being a logistical and economic detriment for U.S. air carriers.

However, before the FAA can remove this regulation, Congress will have go back and fix the mistake they made 13 years ago. The Aviation Subcommittees, chaired by Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-New Jersey) and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Missouri) will need to do their job – change the law that requires the FAA to mandate this provision. Once free from this constraint, the FAA can move forward removing this regulation, and continue their regulatory work addressing legitimate safety concerns.



About the Author

David J. Williams
David Williams is an aviation historian and former airline pilot living in New York City.




 
 

 

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