Tag Archives: charter operator

Compliance: A New Year’s Resolution

I know you are likely in the flurry of holiday festivities but let’s take a moment to look ahead to 2014. Over 40% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions – to lose weight, keep to a budget, spend more time with family, whatever it is. Do you make New Year’s resolutions for your company? You probably do, but you likely call them “goals”, “metrics”, or “performance indicators”.

I have a suggestion for one of your 2014 company goals: verify the regulatory compliance of your organization.

An individual seeking a Part 135 air carrier certificate must complete a letter or statement of compliance to prove their compliance to the FAA. The statement of compliance is essentially a table that lists each regulation applicable to the air carrier and also the manual or document location in which the operator demonstrates compliance. Many companies believe this statement of compliance is a one-time deal – once the air carrier obtains certification, the company never needs to look at the statement of compliance again. However, the FAA has indicated the letter of compliance should be a “living document” which should be updated when the operator makes changes to manuals and other documents. (And even if the FAA doesn’t require a new statement of compliance with every manual revision, wouldn’t it be great to say, “Here’s my new manual revision, Mr./Ms. POI. You’ll see the revisions are compliant with the regulations by referring to the handy dandy statement of compliance I’ve provided.” Then smile and offer the inspector a cookie. More on cookies in a future post.)

Many operators think their annual audit by XYZ Auditing Firm or their IS-BAO registration ensures their Part 135 regulatory compliance. That is a false and potentially costly assumption. The Air Charter Safety Foundation Industry Audit Standard is the most complete compliance audit currently available but for various reasons, only a handful of operators have completed that audit. Don’t assume you are compliant with Federal Aviation Regulations just because you have a fancy audit certificate in your lobby. Also don’t assume you are compliant just because your FAA-assigned inspectors have approved or accepted your manuals. (See the “My Inspector Said” post.)

I often see companies in business for many years that are on revision 30 or higher for operations and maintenance manuals but seldom have they updated their statement of compliance since certification. It’s not difficult for manuals to fall out of compliance. Occasionally companies that have experienced significant management or ownership changes or have had numerous manual revisions inadvertently drop manual language that is required by regulation. Federal Aviation Regulations change frequently and it can be difficult for operators to keep up. Many operators forget to make appropriate changes to Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations (hazardous materials, anyone?) and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) regulations. (Go look at your operations manual or whatever document outlines the NTSB accident reporting requirements. If the revision date of that section is older than June 22, 2010, your manual is out of date and you risk failing to submit a required report if you use your manual as a reference. Forgot about that one? You’re in good company. Most operators do. Don’t get me started on hazmat. The DOT seems to change 10 words every few years. Identifying those 10 words and revising your manual and training program is kind of like a riddle – but a riddle that could cost you big bucks if you mess up.)

Your New Year’s resolution for 2014 should be to assess your manuals and documents by completing a new statement of compliance. Then identify any omissions or inconsistencies and make appropriate corrections to ensure your company is in compliance. It is best for YOU to identify these gaps before another party (*cough cough* the FAA) does.

“But Lindsey, why do I need to be concerned about regulatory compliance if the FAA has approved or accepted my manuals?” I refer you once again to the “My Inspector Said” post, not to mention the fact inspectors are human too and mistakes happen. Plus there are some situations that prompt “special” FAA surveillance. The sale of a company that holds a Part 135 air carrier certificate, significant management or business model changes, financial hardship/bankruptcy of an air carrier, and a number of other scenarios can trigger in-depth FAA inspections, including detailed manual reviews. Certainly a significant accident can prompt an investigation of your compliance by the FAA, NTSB, and even plaintiffs’ attorneys. Aside from the desire to keep the FAA happily at bay, you should consider completing a new statement of compliance or revising your current statement of compliance if you’ve been in operation for a long period of time (say 10 or more years) or you are considering selling your company.

Are you sure your company is in compliance with all applicable FAA, DOT, and NTSB regulations? Pretty sure? Maybe? Have I mentioned OSHA compliance? Now there’s the holiday spirit!

Give me a call (703-445-2450) or send me an email if you have compliance questions or want to start off the new year with a clean statement of compliance. Then if you don’t lose weight, stick to your budget, or spend more time with the kids in 2014, at least one resolution was successful!

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Checking Your Check Airman

I hope I’m not about to ruin your post-holiday weekend euphoria and the short work week ahead, but September provides one last opportunity for Part 135 operators to avoid a major FAA compliance pitfall. Back in February the FAA published a policy notice that impacts any Part 135 operator that uses contract instructors and/or check airman.

As you might recall, a contract instructor or contract check airman providing services for a Part 135 operator must have completed at least one Part 135 air carrier’s initial training and qualification curriculum as a flight crew member. In February, the FAA required all Part 135 operators that use contract check instructors or check airman to conduct a records review of each individual used in these capacities.

Let’s be clear about the requirement: If you are a Part 135 air carrier and you use contract instructors and/or contract check airman, YOU must review each contract instructor and check airman’s training records to ensure they have received initial training from at least one Part 135 air carrier. The deadline was extended to September 30, 2013, to give air carriers a fair shot at complying with the requirement, but depending on how many contract instructors and contract check airman you use, this is still a heavy lift.

The FAA doesn’t seem to be fooling around on this one. There are a few nuances in the policy notice that sound rather ominous:

1. Notarized affidavit: If you are unable to obtain records for any reason, both the contract instructor/check airman and the requesting air carrier (you) must sign and have notarized an affidavit attesting to your attempt to obtain records. There’s no “Scout’s honor” clause – the FAA wants a notarized affidavit.

2. Return LOAs: If you are unable to confirm an instructor or check airman’s training before September 30, 2013, that instructor or check airman will be considered unqualified to provide your training or checking. You will be required to return that individual’s Letter of Authorization (LOA) to the FAA.

3. “Appropriate action”: “If, after [September 30, 2013], the POI finds that the air carrier or program manager has utilized unqualified contract instructors or contract check airman, the POI must take appropriate action.” Here the policy notice is referring to the POI rescinding the individual’s LOA, but there could be more significant “appropriate action”. Any training received from an instructor or check airman who is not technically qualified could be deemed noncompliant. Every Part 135 flight conducted by a pilot who was trained or checked by an unqualified instructor or check airman could be considered a regulatory violation. (I know this is a worst-case scenario, but I just can’t shake the feeling that some people in the FAA are looking to set an example to prove the agency is serious about these training issues.)

4. False statements: The FAA also used this policy notice as an opportunity to remind contract instructors and contract check airmen that providing fraudulent or false statements to the FAA could result in a fine, imprisonment, and/or certificate action. (Does the agency anticipate the industry will lie about this? To my knowledge, this isn’t standard policy notice and I twitched a bit when I got to this section. It’s not often the agency so deliberately calls out a “reminder” like this.)

Have you reviewed your contract instructor and contract check airman records?

Please don’t believe that the Part 142 training centers have everything wrapped up with a pretty bow for you and all you need to do is log on to their web portal on September 29 to check it out. The training centers might be right on the ball on this issue but it’s not their responsibility – it’s yours, the Part 135 certificate holder’s. And if there is an error or oversight with a contract instructor or contract check airman your organization uses, the liability is yours.

If you haven’t started reviewing your contract instructor and check airman records, DON’T DELAY. September 30 will be here before you know it.

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“My Inspector Said…”

If there is one phrase I would ban from the Part 135 lexicon, it would be “My inspector said it was okay.” I have (hypothetically) seen Part 135 operators conducting all sorts of activities ranging from “in the grey area” to “clearly non-compliant” and if I had a quarter for every time an operator says, “My inspector said it was okay”, I’d be rich.

First, a quick caveat: This post is not meant to be a slam against the FAA or the individuals who represent the agency. There are some really intelligent, well-meaning people working at the FAA. This post is meant to serve as a wake-up call to operators about the ramifications an operator could face because of misunderstandings and inconsistencies within the agency and the ignorance (no offense – requirements change so frequently it can be hard to keep up) of the operator. Unfortunately the agency seems to be allowed misunderstandings and inconsistencies while the operator is not permitted to be ignorant.

Second caveat: There are big legal words and concepts ahead; however, I am still not an attorney.

Here’s how the conversation goes with the operator who says, “My inspector said it was okay.”

“Just because your inspector says you can do it [whatever ‘it’ is – log duty time a certain way, skip certain training requirements, use creative solutions for augmented crews, whatever] doesn’t mean it’s okay. You can even have your inspector’s signature approving or accepting an activity or an entire manual and if a different department, FSDO, or even individual within the FAA thinks your activities aren’t compliant with regulations, you could find yourself in a bit of a pickle.”

Usually at this point in the discussion the operator is looking at me like I’m Chicken Little. “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!”

Here are a couple of precedents that should give you a clear understanding of how the FAA feels about inspector “misunderstandings” or errors by any other name.

Relevant Precedents

One operator was recently the subject of FAA enforcement action. (The operator’s wounds are probably still fresh so I’m not listing the name here. Enforcement actions are public information and Google is your friend if you’re that interested. Some of these things could happen to any one of us. And yes, if you are the subject of this type of action and I blog about it shortly after your enforcement, I’ll withhold your name too. You’re welcome.) An FAA certificate holder who is the subject of an order of suspension, revocation, or a civil penalty may appeal the FAA’s decision to an administrative law judge (ALJ) of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). This operator used this mechanism to appeal the FAA’s motion for civil penalty. The operator’s main defense was their POI was aware of the activity in question and even approved it. The ALJ took a dim view of the operator’s argument that their POI had approved their activities. The ALJ based his decision on a legal concept known as “estoppel”. “Estoppel” is defined as: “A bar preventing one from making an allegation or a denial that contradicts what one has previously stated as the truth.” For purposes of this discussion, estoppel would prevent the FAA from alleging a certificate holder violated regulations while conducting activities the certificate holder believed were acceptable based on statements made by an FAA representative. Estoppel can be thought of as a “good faith” concept – an operator can reasonably rely on an inspector’s word. Unfortunately it’s not that simple.

Essentially, existing precedents hold the only way an inspector’s approval of a certificate holder’s activities could alleviate the certificate holder of legal liability to comply with regulations is if the inspector deliberately lied. The ALJ upheld these precedents, dismissing the operator’s defense that the operator shouldn’t face enforcement because the POI had approved the activities in question. The NTSB has also consistently held this position on estoppel.

Darby Aviation

Darby Aviation was the subject of FAA enforcement action following the Challenger accident at Teterboro Airport in 2005. In this case, Darby Aviation was issued an emergency order of suspension of their air carrier certificate. The FAA claimed, “Darby Aviation has failed to produce an acceptable Operations Manual or an approvable training program despite repeated FAA efforts to inform the company of the required changes in those documents. As a result, the company has no accepted Operations Manual or approved training program.”

Darby’s main defense was its positive relationship with its POI and FSDO staff, as well as written acceptance or approval of company manuals, policies, and procedures. Darby published a written statement in rebuttal:

“This suspension action revolves around a manual that the FAA has claimed is insufficient, however it is the same manual that has been approved since 1992 and incorporates all changes required and approved by six (6) prior FAA inspectors. In fact, the present Front Line Manager of the Alabama, North Florida Flight Standards District Office (the ‘Birmingham FSDO’) and Darby Aviation’s present FAA Principal Operations Inspector (‘POI’) each approved this manual before wrongfully revoking the same document.”

Darby won an appeal to an ALJ but the FAA immediately appealed to the full Board of the NTSB. The Board upheld the FAA’s emergency order of suspension. Of particular interest to this discussion is the following:

“The Birmingham FSDO’s knowledge and approval of the charter management agreement does not preclude the Administrator from taking a different position. In a large organization such as the FAA there will inevitably be differing views. We disagree with Darby’s assertion that the Birmingham FSDO’s view should prevail in this case. The Administrator can, and indeed should, overrule a FSDO’s position if she believes it is incorrect or may be inconsistent with safety.”
Unfortunately for Darby, the Department of Transportation also issued violations against the air carrier, finding Darby in violation of a prohibition from engaging in unfair and deceptive practices. An excerpt from the DOT Consent Order makes that agency’s position very clear:

“In mitigation, Darby has assured the Enforcement Office that it has always enjoyed an excellent reputation for regulatory compliance, particularly in reference to the Birmingham FAA Flight Standards District Office (FSDO), which monitored Darby’s day-to-day activities. Darby asserts that it did not enter into its initial arrangement with Platinum with the intent of facilitating unlawful conduct on the part of Platinum and it states that the addition of the Platinum aircraft to its operations specifications was approved by its FSDO. Furthermore, Darby states that, based on contacts with its FSDO, it believed that it had taken the necessary and reasonable steps to ensure that Platinum would not be considered to be engaged in unauthorized operations.”
The DOT was not persuaded by this argument and found Darby had engaged in unfair and deceptive practices and an unfair method of competition. The company was ordered to cease and desist from further similar violations and to pay a compromise civil penalty of $60,000.

Unrelated to Darby Aviation’s many legal concerns, the NTSB found four contributing factors to the accident. Two of the four involved the FAA, including: “the failure of the Birmingham, Alabama, FAA Flight Standards District Office to provide adequate surveillance and oversight of operations conducted under Darby’s Part 135 certificate; and … the FAA’s tacit approval of arrangements such as that between Darby and PJM [Platinum Jet Management].”

The NTSB’s findings regarding the accident had no mitigation value for Darby Aviation in its interactions with the FAA or the DOT. In fact, two Board Members who reversed the ALJ’s decision and affirmed the FAA Administrator’s emergency order of suspension, then Acting Chairman Rosenker and Member Hersman, were still on the Board when these contributing factors were adopted as part of the accident final report. In other words, two of the same individuals who agreed the FAA had reason to issue an emergency order of suspension later found the FAA’s activities to be a factor to the Teterboro accident. However, the concept of “estoppel” and the government’s consistent view that safety cannot be compromised because of an inspector or office’s misunderstanding or inconsistency with Federal Aviation Requirements, FAA guidance, and so on, mean the FAA can be a contributing factor to an accident but not accountable for the operator’s regulatory noncompliance.

The “my inspector approved it” argument does not seem to hold water with the FAA, DOT, NTSB ALJs, or the NTSB. It’s a conundrum for operators and inspectors alike. An inspector’s judgment can be questioned by the agency at any time and operators have no real reason to be 100% confident in their inspectors’ decisions. So as a Part 135 operator, what do you do?

First, make sure someone in your company who understands Federal Aviation Regulations is responsible for keeping up with possible regulatory changes. The FAA posts new guidance documents and regulations on its website. Check at them at least weekly. Watch other sources for DOT changes, like hazmat requirements or limitations.

Second, get or stay involved with a trade association like NATA or NBAA. Then your dues are paying those folks to watch for regulatory changes that could affect your company. (Keep in mind, you might be subject to a relatively obscure or uncommon requirement that the majority of a trade association’s membership are not subject to, so don’t simply rely on the trade association. It’s YOUR business. Be proactive.)

Third, if you have an auditor, consultant, or other objective third party point out a possible inconsistency with requirements, LISTEN UP! Don’t dismiss the concern with a quick, “My inspector said I could” and move on. Ask the individual for references that back up his/her position and give the references serious consideration. There’s no doubt some regulatory issues exist in a grey area. Maybe the FAA hasn’t issued clear guidance or there hasn’t been an interpretation on the issue yet. But if there is inspector guidance, a policy notice, a regulation, a legal interpretation, heck, even a quote from FAA senior management that indicates the activity in question is fishy, don’t hang your hat on your inspector’s (or FSDO’s) opinion. Do your own research.

The bottom line: The FAA can and has violated air carriers for activities approved by FAA inspectors. Trust but verify.

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“Safety Pilot” – a Dangerous Position

Today I’m going to talk about the legality of the concept of a “safety pilot”; specifically, the assignment of a second pilot in a multi-engine turbine aircraft certificated for single pilot operations. The short version of this story is, unless you fully understand the regulatory requirements and limitations: DON’T DO IT.

Let’s consider a charter operator that conducts Part 135 flights in a King Air 200, which is certificated for single pilot operations and is not typically equipped with a cockpit voice recorder (CVR). The charter operator’s customer requests or requires two pilots in the cockpit, so the operator puts a second pilot on board and calls him/her a “safety pilot”.

Is this legal? Let’s look at relevant regulations.

§135.101 says no person may operate an aircraft carrying passengers under Part 135 under IFR without a second-in-command (SIC). It provides an exception through §135.105 if the aircraft has an operating autopilot and the operator obtains authorization (typically through Operations Specification A015) to use an autopilot in lieu of a second-in-command with a properly trained pilot-in-command (PIC).

The next relevant regulation is §135.151, which prohibits a person from “operating a multiengine, turbine-powered airplane or rotorcraft having a passenger seating configuration of six or more and for which two pilots are required by certification or operating rules unless it is equipped with an approved cockpit voice recorder”. “By certification or operating rules” is a critical phrase because it means if the aircraft is not equipped with a CVR, the operator is limited by §135.151 to single pilot operations.

Crew Shortage

For our example in which the customer requests a two pilot crew, the legality of a second pilot depends on some technicalities. The most precarious scenario is one in which the operator is short on pilots qualified for the aircraft type and the second pilot is not even current or qualified in that aircraft. The customer often believes they are flying with two current and qualified pilots who are authorized to fly the aircraft. In reality, the second pilot is just a passenger. If the customer is not advised of this little detail, the operator could be accused of misleading the customer in an unfair and deceptive business practice. From the customer’s standpoint, they see a pilot in company uniform who sits in the cockpit. They often pay for two pilots. It’s not unreasonable for the customer to believe both individuals are assigned to the flight, not that one is simply a passenger going along for the ride and is prohibited from touching the controls or assisting in the flight (except, of course, in the case of an emergency where the PIC can request assistance from any passenger). It’s not all that unusual for an FAA inspector to approach customers on the ramp and make inquiries. If the FAA suspects an operator of illegally assigning a “safety pilot”, a simple, “How many pilots did you have?” could lead to some drama for the operator. Even if the operator has told the customers the second pilot is a passenger or safety pilot or whatever term, I’d bet dollars to doughnuts any passenger who sees two guys/gals in uniform sitting in the cockpit and regularly gets an invoice for two pilots will reply, “Two.” Even if the operator doesn’t violate Federal Aviation Regulations, it’s possible the Department of Transportation would want a bite at the apple for deceptive business practices.

(Note: If you are a pilot and are asked to perform this “safety pilot” function, be sure your name shows as a passenger on the manifest, do NOT log the flight time, and sit on your hands. Don’t talk on the radio, change a frequency, or touch the controls. You might even want to keep a separate log of “safety pilot” assignments – these flights count as duty time for you, after all – to refresh your memory in case an inspector ever asks about your responsibilities on these trips. Make sure your truthful answer includes nothing flight-related. Just sit there and look good.)

Autopilot Inop

If the autopilot is inoperable, an operator could be tempted to assign an SIC – qualified or otherwise – in order to avoid violating the OpSpec for autopilot in lieu of SIC. But if the aircraft is not equipped with a CVR, this ends up violating the CVR requirement in 135.151. As soon as the autopilot is inoperable, 135.101 kicks in again (two pilots for Part 135 flight under IFR) so two pilots are “required by operating rules” and a CVR is required.

Flying Time Limitations

Remember §135.267 limits the commercial flight time within a 24 hour period to 8 hours for single pilot crews. It’s possible an operator could come up with a couple of cute but illegal ways to get around this requirement. I won’t even get into some (hypothetical) scenarios I’ve been presented or speculate on other methods of working around this regulation so as to avoid more “creative thinking” from some of our colleagues. Just stick to 8 hours of commercial flight time within a 24 hour period for single pilot crews and you’ll be fine. Don’t “think outside the box” on this one.

Eligible On-Demand Operators

Eligible on-demand operators have even more limitations to consider. I won’t get into them here but if you’re an eligible on-demand operator, do your homework before messing with “safety pilots”.

Your best bet, if you operate under Part 135 in a single pilot multi-engine turbine aircraft that is not equipped with a CVR, is to avoid the “safety pilot” scenario. The bottom line is you are limited to flights with a functional autopilot and 8 hours of flight time, unless the aircraft is equipped with a CVR. Attempting to circumvent these requirements by adding a second pilot is a dangerous prospect for both the operator and the pilot. If you choose to use “safety pilots” or second pilots by any other name, be sure you completely understand the regulatory requirements and limitations. Contact me at Lindsey@mcfarrenaviation.com or by phone at 703-445-2450 if you have questions about specific “safety pilot” scenarios not addressed in this post.

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Wow – Four Years!

July 1 marks the fourth anniversary of McFarren Aviation Consulting! Time sure flies when you’re having fun. I left a perfectly (reasonably?) good full-time job in 2009 in the middle of one of the biggest economic downturns our country has ever experienced to start my own aviation consulting business. I know more than a few eyebrows were raised but it’s all worked out well and I am so grateful for the experiences I’ve had over the past four years.

I have been fortunate to work with some fantastic companies in our industry. I’ve consulted for Part 135 charter operators of all shapes and sizes; FBO’s big and small; Part 91 flight departments; and aviation trade associations. Although my specific tasks vary by client, the goal is almost always the same: leave my client a safer, more efficient and effective company.

My projects have spanned from minor manual revisions to full Part 135 certification. Among other initiatives, I have developed and implemented Safety Management Systems and Internal Evaluation Programs and have trained charter company employees to manage their own SMS and act as internal auditors. I have represented the industry in an Aviation Rulemaking Committee and on an FAA/industry safety working group. I have written numerous articles for print in aviation trade publications. This means I’ve stayed in so many hotels (including over 15 hotels while on crutches with a hard cast – I’m a pro at carrying breakfast – with coffee – to the table in a Ziploc) that I often try to use the previous week’s key in the current week’s hotel. And through it all, I’ve met many of you!

With each of these projects, I learn something that enhances my job performance. In some cases I learn a new and creative way of accomplishing a task. On other projects I learn how to better work with different personality types. I believe if I leave a project with the knowledge flow only going one direction, I’ve missed an opportunity to learn from some really talented people.

We work in such a cool industry with bright and interesting people. I am forever appreciative of that. And I am grateful to my clients, colleagues, friends, and family who have encouraged and supported me over the past four years. Thank you for four amazing years! I am so excited about the new faces, places, and challenges Year 5 might bring!

(See you next week with a more “normal” post about the legality of safety pilots!)

Crewmember Records: Low Hanging Fruit

This post is the third in a series about common errors or concerns I see while conducting safety and operational audits. The first and second posts are linked here: “Internal Evaluation Programs: Headache or Helpful Tool?” and “Managing Flying Managers”. (Incidentally, will you be at the NATA Air Charter Summit in DC next week? I’ll be there presenting “Regulatory Adventures from the Field”. If you don’t attend, you’re not only missing my witty banter but also a really great conference. It’s not too late to register and join us for networking, education, and FUN!)

Let’s have a frank discussion (the only kind I know how to have) about crewmember records. Training records should really be a no-brainer, yet many audit findings are based on training record deficiencies. Are your records in order or are pages falling out of the folder or binder haphazardly? Are the files all organized in the same fashion or does someone just stick a page in the folder on occasion? Do you have duty assignment records in each pilot folder or does an auditor or inspector get to guess the pilot’s aircraft and position assignment?

Duty Assignment Records

One of the very first pages of your pilot crew files should be a duty assignment record. Duty assignment records are not just a “Lindsey thinks it’s a good idea” item. I believe they’re a regulatory requirement. See 135.63(a)(4)(iv), which states you must keep an “individual record” of “the pilot’s current duties and the date of the pilot’s assignment to those duties”. The duty assignment record should list the pilot’s current duties, including aircraft type / position assignment, and the date of assignment. (I recommend keeping historical assignment data as well if the pilot has flown more than one aircraft type and/or position for your company.) I’m often given a FOS or other scheduling software print out report of duty assignments. Aside from the fact these print outs are usually out of date or otherwise inaccurate, I don’t believe this is really the intent of the regulation. I believe the regulation means for EACH pilot file to have a duty assignment sheet.

Further, the duty assignment information is an absolutely critical piece of information and DESERVES to be front and center in each pilot’s file. It shows an auditor (or FAA inspector) how far back to look that this pilot was qualified in this aircraft. It helps the auditor determine if Pilot Records Improvement Act (PRIA) requirements and drug testing were completed at the appropriate time. It also tells an auditor not to bust your chops if the pilot doesn’t have a 135.299 check because they know from the sheet that he’s an SIC and isn’t required to have one, or to know that a pilot once flew the Hawker 800 but has since been assigned to a different aircraft so not to bother looking for Hawker currency. Help me, help you. Have clear, concise duty assignment records.

Archived Records

“Archived” records are another issue. You must be able to show current compliance (so keep the most the recent training records and 8710s), one round of preceding training records and 8710, and initial compliance (first training in the aircraft for your company). So if a pilot did a recurrent in 2013, keep 2013, 2012, and initial in the main pilot file. If he’s been with you in the same aircraft since 1980, feel free to put the interim files in an archive somewhere. If you’ve hired a pilot who flew the same aircraft with another company, ideally you’ll have his/her initial type rating and other training records from the previous employer. However, we all know PRIA isn’t perfect. (Holy Toledo – it’s not?) Operators fail to respond. The previous employer could be a Part 91 operator and therefore not required to keep extremely detailed training records. The previous employer could be out of business. The previous employer could just be a loser who didn’t respond appropriately. In any case, you should have the pilot’s initial type rating and other training records to verify the pilot’s previous experience, but at the very least, make sure you have the pilot’s records of initial training with YOUR company.

It’s not surprising that operators often struggle with these records. Most operators don’t have a very structured process for ensuring compliance with these requirements. Training records are received or downloaded from training centers weeks after the training was completed. Records for in-house training lack detail, aren’t signed, or are missing completion dates and times. Schedulers or flight followers rely on data from scheduling software to verify compliance with training requirements but don’t know how that information was entered into the software, where it came from, or who is responsible for upkeep. If you don’t have a defined, structured process for managing training records, you should. There’s really no excuse for not maintaining these records properly and it’s a very easy area for an FAA inspector to pile on findings during an inspection – or worse – investigation. Pilot records violations can cost your company thousands of dollars in civil penalties or be used to support certificate enforcement action against your operation. In other words, don’t leave low hanging fruit.

What do your training records look like? Do you have accurate duty assignment records in each file? If an auditor or inspector wants to verify a pilot’s compliance with training requirements, is the trail easy to follow or are your records a mess with most information archived in a basement? Do you have a documented process for maintaining and auditing your training records?

I have worked with many air charter operators to improve their training records and develop processes for maintaining and auditing those records. This is one of those tasks that appears to be a paperwork shuffle but could really save your tail in the event of a critical FAA inspection. The process of cleaning up records and establishing a process to keep these records isn’t exactly a weekend at the beach but it’s not impossible with some objective assistance. Do you need advice on how to manage these important compliance documents? No need to reinvent the wheel. Contact me at Lindsey@mcfarrenaviation.com or by phone at 703-445-2450 and we can talk about your operation’s challenges.

Greetings from McFarren Aviation Consulting!

Welcome to my new blog, McFarren Aviation Safety News. I am excited to get this blog rolling and share some experiences with you. McFarren Aviation Consulting (MAC) provides safety, security, and compliance consulting services to the GA industry. I work with Part 135 charter operators, Part 91 flight departments, FBOs, and flight schools to find practical, real life solutions to operational and safety concerns. I see companies of all different shapes and sizes in the course of my consulting work. I know one-size-fits-all, canned solutions don’t work in every company. I also know customized solutions don’t have to be cumbersome or exceedingly expensive. You can learn more about my company at www.mcfarrenaviation.com.

I believe the GA industry can be safer and more successful if we share our experiences. That’s the purpose of this blog – to share what I see in the field in the hopes you are able to take something helpful away from my experience. Some posts will be deadly serious – I’ll often be talking about safety, after all – but I am not the most formal or serious person you’ve (maybe never) met, so hopefully you find this blog entertaining as well as educational.

I know there are tons of aviation safety blogs and newsletters out there but this blog will not be focused on the academic. Instead, I’ll talk about issues you actually deal with on a day to day basis: preparing for a third-party audit or FAA inspection; increasing employee participation to make your SMS more relevant; dealing with the ever-changing world of Part 135 training requirements; and so on. If there’s a topic you’d like me to cover, mention it in the comments or send me an email (Lindsey@mcfarrenaviation.com) and if I’m qualified to discuss it, I will; if I’m not, I’ll send you to someone who is.

Now for some fine print before I really get started:

I am not an attorney. I don’t even play one on TV or in the movies. Any advice or suggestions are provided for educational purposes only. I can’t guarantee a method that was successful for another company will work for yours. Nothing I say on this blog (or ever- in any forum) should be construed as legal advice.

Confidentiality is absolutely critical in my position. Clients have to be comfortable sharing with me the good, the bad, and the ugly if I am to help them be the best they can be. I will occasionally use actual examples in this blog but no identifying information will EVER be used. Some stories will be purely hypothetical. (In other words, don’t give yourself away in a comment if you happen to see yourself in one of these posts. Be cool.)

I look forward to sharing more with you. Visit again next week to learn about some common operational and safety audit pitfalls. Or better yet, click “Follow” on the top or bottom of your screen so updates conveniently arrive in your inbox. (If you’ve never used WordPress before, you might need to enter and confirm your email address.) I promise not to flood you. I will typically post twice a month and you can “Unfollow” at any time.

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