The FAA, the good the bad and the really ugly

The FAA, who they are, and what they mean to you as a student

The Federal Aviation Administration (The FAA) is the governing body created to oversee all of Aviation in the United States. If you understand that the FAA is an enforcing agency above all else, not a helping agency, you will have a better understanding of their mentality. The FAA has unbelievable power often unchecked as they answer basically to no one. All the FAA has to do is slow down air traffic which they can conivingly do in a heartbeat, and even the President of the United States will give in to whatever they ask in a second. Yes, this has happened, and it will happen again.

If you want the ultimate example of the ineptness of the FAA; the first recorded hijacking occurred in 1932; the first recorded US hijacking occurred in 1962; yet it took 39 more years with many more hijackings, and the attack on the World Trade Centers killing more than 5,000 people before it occurred to the FAA that maybe aircraft should have locking cockpit doors. How many times would someone have to break into your house or car before you decided that perhaps you should lock your doors?

The best the FAA ever had to offer was it's Air Traffic Controllers and Flight Service Specialists. The latter of which they farmed out to Lockheed Martin because they couldn't manage their own resources, and it hasn't been worth a crap since.

There are a lot of really good inspectors in the FAA, but what you need to know more than anything is that they are not there for you. No, they are there to find problems and to justify their existence more than anything. They will help you if they have time, and if they agree that you indeed need help. But I can assure you that it will not be the most pleasant experience you have had, no, it will be just like every other dealing you have with government, slow and laborious.

Dealing with the FAA is like getting pulled over by your friendly Police Officer, he didn't do it to chat with you about how nice your life is, did he? Nor does the FAA inspector; he is highly on alert just as the Police Officer is; looking for something to cite you for. Oh yes, they will make converstation, but don't let your guard down, and don't volunteer information. Just like with the Police Officer, be respectful, answer all questions directly and pleasantly and he will be on his way if he don't find anything to give you are hard time about.

It is very common for FAA inspectors to pick at petty issues; chipped paint, faded signatures etc., they will even, on occasion, give pilots a hard time over issues which they do not fully understand themselves such as the FARs. Don't ever expect them to answer a question to the FARs in writing as they will not answer something in writing that they are not sure of themselves, and they are not sure of the FARs though that is exactly what they have been employed to enforce.

Several years ago, at a flight school I had in Florida, I had landed at the fuel pumps with a student after a training session. There is a two minute cool-down on most helicopters during which time it is common for Flight Instructors to leave the student to complete the cool-down and fuel the helicopter, which is exactly what I was doing. I got out and went inside to work on the paperwork for the flight we had just completed. As luck would have it, an FAA inspector pulled up while the student was doing this cool down, but after I had went inside. Whent the student compeleted the shut-down, the FAA inspector walked up and asked for his pilot's license; of course the student couldn't produce one, and he explained to the inspector that I was inside. The inspector came inside and immediately began to give me some crap about the student he had had just witnessed flying the helicopter illegally. I explained that he didn't witness him flying the helicopter, he only witnessed him shutting it down. He quickly backed down and explained that he was a new inspector out making rounds to the airports assigned to him.

The moral of the story is, do your best to comply with the FARs, keep your paperwork correct and up-to-date. What ever you do, do not intentionally violate any regulations. Chances are you will not have any problems with the FAA. END.