by H. Dean Chamberlain

FAA has improved its methods of dealing with incidents of non-compliance that do not meet the test for legal enforcement action. It is called the Streamlined Administrative Action Process. FAA Administrator Jane F. Garvey announced on July 15 the results of an agency effort to reduce the delay in processing of administrative actions (AA) for airmen involved in alleged violations that do not warrant legal enforcement action or extensive investigation.

Although administrative action has always been an available tool for promoting aviation safety through compliance, the time to complete a typical AA case with all of its paperwork could typically take an average of about 75 days. 

Although the traditional AA process is still available, the new Streamlined Administrative Action Process provides an option for FAA aviation safety inspectors to use that not only improves the efficiency of processing and issuing an AA, but the new process will also increase the amount of safety data available to the FAA once that action is completed. 

At the heart of the new procedure is a standardized job aid to help the FAA inspector collect the data needed for initiating an AA and the computerized processing of that data once the inspector returns to his or her office. Once the data is entered into the Flight Standards District Office's (FSDO) computer, the data is sent to the FAA's Oklahoma City Aeronautical Center for processing and where a computer-generated letter is then sent to the individual. The letter details the alleged regulatory non-compliance and what recourse the individual airman or company has in the matter.

An example where the Streamlined Administrative Action Process might be used is where an FAA aviation safety inspector personally observes an airman violating an FAA regulation or where an alleged violation has been reported to the FAA and the evidence in the case is readily available. Before the new streamlined process was approved, it might take up to 75 days for the resulting paperwork for a typical administrative action to get to the airman. Although such a delay still might occur when the current, more detailed administrative process is used in those cases where the alleged violation requires it or if the inspector handling the case chooses to use the older, more formal process, the new streamlined process based upon the new job aid and using computer generated notification letters can cut that processing delay time down to a matter of a few days, depending upon the mail. From the time an inspector submits his or her completed job aid for processing at his or her FSDO until the computer-generated letter is in the mail is from one to three days. No paper work is given directly to the airman at the time of the non-compliance.

Although the streamlined process is new, it is important to note that the basic procedure for dealing with such violations remains the same, and the rules and guidelines for the inspectors remain the same. For those who have never heard about an administrative action, it is used in those minor situations where a Warning Notice or Letter of Correction is an appropriate means to ensure future compliance with the regulations and therefore promoting safety for all. The new procedure will not be used for remedial training, voluntary disclosures, or cases where further corrective action must be taken. These type of cases will be processed the current manual way with the accompanying possibility of a long interval.

Under the new streamlined process guidelines issued to the FAA inspector work force, in the case where an FAA Aviation Safety Inspector (ASI) personally observes a violation, the inspector will discuss the alleged violation with the person involved. The inspector may also gather additional information as required to document the incident. So far the case and paper trail proceed pretty much as they have for years, although the new streamlined process job aid makes it easier for the inspector to collect the data needed to initiate the case back in the office. What makes this new process different from the more formal, manual process is what happens once the inspector returns to his/her office.

As is currently done, the inspector must determine that an AA is appropriate for the situation based both upon the alleged violation and airman's past history. Once that determination has been made, under the new procedure, the information contained in the job aid will be entered into a computer that forwards the data to the designated FAA Flight Standards division in Oklahoma City for processing. Then using the new computerized program developed for processing these new AA's, that division will produce a computer-generated letter and mail it to the airman within one to three work days. In the past it may have taken weeks for an airman to receive the appropriate administrative action paperwork from his or her local FSDO.

Not only is the optional streamlined AA being produced more efficiently within FAA, but that efficiency is also a benefit to the airman or company involved. With the streamlined AA procedure, an airman or company does not have to wait for weeks wondering what is happening with the case. In addition to reducing the amount of time needed to process the paperwork and get it to the airman, as part of the new process engineering, the airman or company also has more time to respond to the FAA about any allegations contained in these new computer-generated AA letters. Under the Streamlined Administrative Action Process, an airman or company now has up to 30 calendar days from the date of the administrative action letter to respond to the aviation safety inspector who issued the letter or to his or her district office manager. Under the current, more formal process, that response time is 10 days.

As outlined in a streamlined AA letter, the airman or company may submit additional pertinent information in explanation or mitigation. Based upon the information submitted, the FAA may withdraw the administrative action letter if the facts so warrant. If based upon FAA review, an administrative action letter is withdrawn, the airman involved will be notified in writing by the investigating office in a timely manner.

It is important to note that this new Streamlined Administrative Action Process is only one of the important safety tools an FAA inspector has available to ensure compliance with the regulations. As stated, it is an optional process that an inspector may use at his or her discretion. This optional computer-based procedure is designed for simple, straight-forwarded cases. If the alleged violation is more complex or requires more information, the inspector may choose to follow the more formal procedures outlined in FAA Order 2150.3A, Compliance and Enforcement Program. In either case, the inspector will follow the same FAA policies and procedures for determining what action is required to complete the case. Simply stated, although the new processing procedure will speed up the mailing of the appropriate AA letter to an airman, the new process uses the same policy guidelines and FAA order as the current more formal method of issuing AA letters.

Another benefit of the new additional process for issuing AA's is that the airman or company involved will not have to wait in some cases weeks for the appropriate AA letter to arrive to complete the case. Under the new process, an FAA letter of investigation will not be sent to the airman or company as is done under the more formal AA process. This process results in a faster response to the airman and reduced paperwork for the inspector. This also allows the inspector to have more time to work with his or her operators and others within aviation promoting safety than spending limited inspector time drafting paperwork.

In addition, aviation safety is enhanced overall by the faster response time to conclude an AA action and the personal interaction between the airman or company and the FAA inspector that will take place as part of the new process. As noted on the computer-generated AA letters, although the alleged violation and resulting AA letter do not warrant legal enforcement action, the alleged violation will be made a matter of record. That information is subject to the Privacy Act and Freedom of Information Act procedures. Records complied under this new complementary AA process for individual airmen will be expunged two years after the date of issuance. As in all AA's, the airman's future compliance with the regulations is expected. In the case of companies receiving an AA, their records are retained indefinitely.

As stated previously, FAA expects the airman who receives an AA letter to comply with the regulations in the future to ensure the safety of those in the air as well as those on the ground. Safety is everyone's business and FAA is working hard to ensure that everyone does his or her part in promoting aviation safety. FAA is now going hi-tech to do its part in promoting aviation safety through effective and timely corrective action in those cases that require such action. Then through the compilation of the data collected through the processing of the streamlined AA's, the FAA will be better able to track any developing trends that could jeopardize aviation safety.
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