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On June 26, 2015, the FAA issued Order 8000.373. This order announced a change in FAA enforcement policy by creating something new, called “compliance philosophy.” FAA Administrator Huerta proclaimed in the order, “The FAA recognizes that some deviations arise from factors such as flawed procedures, simple mistakes, lack of understanding, or diminished skills. Deviations of this nature can most effectively be corrected through root cause analysis and training, education or other appropriate improvements to procedures or training programs . . . .” On September 3, 2015, the FAA implemented its compliance philosophy by issuing guidance to the FSDO inspectors investigating violations of regulations: “When FAA personnel determine a person is both willing and able to comply with regulatory standards, they may use compliance action . . . through such means as airman training, counseling, or education . . . .” How can this be? The FAA actually recognizes that sometimes stuff just happens, and that every violation of regulations doesn’t necessarily deserve a certificate suspension? As an aviation attorney who has done battle with the FAA for many years, I was skeptical. Was this just another move in the FAA chess match with pilots? After all, the Pilot’s Bill of Rights, signed into law on August 3, 2012, gives pilots the right not to respond to a letter or other inquiry from an investigating FAA inspector, and further provides that no action or adverse inference can be taken against anyone exercising that right. Was compliance action going to be the FAA’s carrot-on-a-stick to encourage pilots to talk to an investigator without a guaranty of a benign compliance action instead of a harsh enforcement action/certificate suspension? I am happy to report that so far in my experience, I am seeing many cases resolved with compliance action that would have otherwise resulted in certificate suspensions or administrative action.

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