FAA Adopting New Safety ‘Philosophy’

Are we witnessing the dawn of a kinder, gentler Federal Aviation Administration? Saying it is seeking to challenge the safety status quo, the FAA is adopting a new "compliance philosophy" designed to cut pilots and aircraft operators a break for honest mistakes as part of what is being described as an agency-wide push to identify and correct safety issues before they lead to aircraft incidents or accidents.

"The FAA wants safe operators, not operators who inadvertently make a mistake and then hide it because they're afraid they will be punished," the agency said in a press release after FAA Administrator Michael Huerta discussed the new philosophy at a Flight Safety Foundation breakfast in Washington, D.C., yesterday.

"The FAA's compliance philosophy helps the FAA and industry to use critical thinking to work smarter and more efficiently to get to the bottom of potential safety problems," Huerta said. "It's about finding a problem, fixing a problem, and making sure it stays fixed."

Huerta stressed that the FAA will continue to have zero tolerance for intentional reckless behavior, inappropriate risk-taking, repeat offenders, falsification of records or deviation from regulatory standards. However, in cases where it is found that the pilot made an honest error remedial training, in accordance with a guidance released a few weeks ago, will be used as an alternative to certificate action.

The FAA in June adopted a national policy notice instructing agency personnel to correct simple mistakes arising from a lack of understanding or diminished piloting skills through training and education rather than enforcement action. It is unclear if those changes are being broadly implemented in the field.

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