Last June, the FAA issued Order 8000.373, a “new” directive establishing a “compliance philosophy” that sets a preference for correction over FAA enforcement. In the order, the agency states that enforcement action may not be necessary when deviations from “regulatory standards” occur because of “flawed procedures, simple mistakes, [a] lack of understanding, or diminished skills.”
To ensure the directive is properly communicated to field offices, the Flight Standards Service (AFS) issued Notice 8900.323 (as recently amended by Notice 8900.343), which is being incorporated into the inspector handbook, a.k.a. Flight Standards Information Management Services (FSIMS). While the documents are directed at airline operations, they contain constructive methods for resolving issues between the agency and its certificate holders. For example--
In accordance with this guidance and with the FAA’s Compliance Philosophy, the AFS approach to oversight and compliance is evolving to stress an engaged, solution-oriented, outcomes-based approach. The goal is to identify deviations from standards and correct them as effectively, quickly, and efficiently as possible. If the deviation does not involve intentional, reckless, or criminal behavior and the airman/organization is cooperative, AFS should resolve the issue through use of the compliance tools, techniques, concepts, and programs discussed above and throughout this notice. This approach will more effectively address inadvertent deviations and conserve FAA enforcement resources for intentional, reckless, criminal, and uncooperative behavior.
Notable for the AMTS community, the Notice’s Appendix C uses an AMTS scenario to illustrate appropriate inspector actions under the new compliance philosophy--
During a 14 CFR part 147 maintenance technician school records check, an inspector finds that one student’s file does not contain the information on the last required test taken by that student (§ 147.33(a)). All other files are in compliance with the regulations. A school representative is able to determine the date and grade of the student’s test and annotates the student’s record accordingly. Further, it is clear that the school understands the regulation but has simply made an unintentional error. The inspector concludes that an on-the-spot correction, that includes a control mechanism to help mitigate future errors, is sufficient to address the apparent deviation.
While the council objects to the assumption that the certificate holder is always wrong in discussions involving compliance – and cautions that enforcement actions must be anchored in the regulations – not FAA “safety oversight guidance” as suggested in the order, AFS is commended for providing its workforce positive tools rather than an enforcement hammer.
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