Gregory J. Reigel
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January 31, 2004

Don't Throw Away Your Aircraft Insurance Premiums

Aircraft insurance premiums have seen unprecedented increases in the last several years. Many aircraft owners and operators have seen 100-150% increases in their premiums. They begrudgingly pay the premiums because they have to. Yet many of these owners and operators are throwing their money away. Why? Because they are doing something, or failing to do something, that could ultimately be the basis for the insurance company to deny a claim. Their actions or inactions are not intentional. Rather, they simply don't know better. Why? Because they haven't read their insurance policy and therefore don't know what it does and does not require.

With aircraft insurance premiums still on the rise, make sure you will have coverage when you need it. Read your insurance policy. If you don't understand it, ask your aviation insurance broker to explain it or consult with an aviation attorney familiar with aircraft insurance policies.

For more information on aircraft insurance policies, read my article here.

Posted by Greg

January 28, 2004

DRVSM Is On Its Way

According to an FAA Advance Notice the Domestic Reduced Vertical Separation Minimums (DRVSM) will go into effect at 0901 UTC on January 20, 2005. In order to operate between Flight Levels 290 and 410 and take advantage of the 1,000 foot vertical separation, as opposed to the current 2,000 foot separation, operators will need to install equipment that meets the higher tolerance requirements of the DRVSM rule (e.g. altimeters, autopilots, altitude alerters etc.) The higher tolerance equipment is necessary to ensure aircraft safety when operating at the reduced separation.

The rule affects the airspace of the continental U.S., Alaska, Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico High Offshore Airspace and the San Juan ICAO Flight Information Region. Operators who wish to fly through this airspace will need an appropriate letter of authorization from the FAA and an aircraft that complies with FAR Part 91 Appendix G Section 2. Without the authorization, the RVSM airspace will only be available upon request for lifeguard, certification development, military or foreign state aircraft operations, or when the pilot intends to climb or descend through RVSM airspace or for an emergency.

Given the FAA's current refusal to grant exemptions to the transponder rule that went into effect earlier this year, it is likely that this same approach will be taken with respect to operators seeking exemptions for operations beyond January 20, 2005. As a result, operators whose aircraft do not currently meet the rule's equipment requirements should schedule their maintenance upgrades early to ensure that their aircraft will be RVSM compliant well in advance of the effective date.

Posted by Greg

January 26, 2004

2004 Appropriations Bill Leaves GA 9/11 Relief in Funding Hold

The Aviation Reauthorization Act authorized approximately $100 million for general aviation relief to compensate aviation businesses for the losses they sustained due to the government's actions post 9/11. Unfortunately, the 2004 Omnibus Appropriations Bill passed last week did not include funding for the promised relief. General aviation will have to wait until Fiscal Year 2005 for Congressional funding. Hopefully at that time general aviation will be given the attention it deserves and the commitments previously made to general aviation businesses will be fulfilled.

Posted by Greg

January 23, 2004

Third-Party Review Of Security Risk Assessments Allowed?

Several sections of the Aviation Reauthorization Act required that procedures be created to allow an airman facing revocation of his or her certificate a meaningful review of the "security risk" assessment made by the TSA. According to an AvWeb Report, if an Administrative Law Judge affirms an FAA order revoking an airman's certificate based upon a "security risk" assessment by the TSA, an airman can appeal that decision to the Transportation Security Oversight Board. The Board consists of the Secretary of Transportation, Attorney General, Secretary of Treasury, Secretary of Defense and a representative of either the National Security Council or the Office of Homeland Security.

However, after thoroughly reviewing the FAA, NTSB, TSA and DOT websites, as well as discussing with other aviation attorneys handling enforcement matters, I have been unable to locate rules or regulations governing these procedures. Although the Aviation Reauthorization Act dictates that we should be able to expect these procedures, it remains to be seen when they will actually be in place and how meaningful and effective they will actually be.

Posted by Greg

January 20, 2004

New ELT Requirement Grounds Corporate Jets

Effective January 1, 2004, FAR 91.207 requires that an aircraft operating under FAR Parts 121, 125 and 135 have an automatic emergency locator transmitter (ELT) installed. In addition to a number of very specific exceptions to the rule exist (e.g. training flights; operations incident to design, testing, manufacture or delivery), one exception allows an operator to continue to operate their aircraft for a period up to 90 days following removal of a transmitter for inspection, repair, modification or replacement.

Some operators (the one's aircraft that do not have an ELT installed) are complaining that this provides a loophole within which an operator may continue to operate an aircraft with a non-compliant ELT installed for an additional 90 days, while an aircraft that never had an ELT installed is grounded until a compliant ELT is installed. This wouldn't be a problem, except that the ELT manufacturers are behind in supplying compliant ELT's and avionics shops are booked.

Several operators have applied for an exemption from the ELT requirement arguing that they have exercised good faith in ordering a compliant ELT well before the January 1, 2004 effective date. Unfortunately, the FAA is refusing to grant any exemptions to the ELT requirement. Thus, until the supply is able to catch up with the demand, you will see a number of aircraft grounded with a resulting loss of revenue for the owners/operators of the grounded aircraft.

Posted by Greg

January 15, 2004

FAA Extends Comment Period For Charity/Sightseeing NPRM

As discussed in my December 23, 2004 post, the FAA is proposing a rule that will require all Part 91 sightseeing operations to become certificated under the more stringent requirements of Part 135. The original deadline within which to provide comments to the FAA was January 20, 2004. However, apparently the FAA has already received more than 1,160 comments to the proposed rule. As a result, the FAA has agreed to extend the comment period to April 19, 2004.

Although a public meeting would seem like the prudent thing to do with a NPRM that will have such far reaching effects, the FAA has declined to hold such a meeting. The FAA believes that all interested parties wouldn't be able to assemble for such a meeting. The alternative is a "virtual public meeting" held on the internet. A notice for the meeting will be published in the near future. If you would like more information regarding this NPRM, you can call (202) 267-8166 and speak with Alberta Brown at the FAA's air-transport division.

Posted by Greg

January 09, 2004

Filing Aircraft Mechanic Liens with the FAA.

What is required to file a mechanic's lien against an aircraft? The FAA will accept and record a filing for all but a few states. Some states, such as Wisconsin, Colorado, Alabama, Hawaii, Delaware, do not have laws that provide for filing with the FAA. Each state has its own timing requirements for when the lien must be filed with the FAA. Although the FAA does not have a required form for the filing, it does have specific requirements for the information that must be contained in the filing. Typically, the form is titled Notice of Mechanic Lien or Verified Statement of Mechanic Lien. It must contain the N-number, make and model of the aircraft, the dollar amount of the claim and the date of last work. The form must be signed in ink and filed with the FAA along with a $5.00 filing fee. The laws governing aircraft mechanic's liens for each state vary, so you should contact an aviation attorney to determine the requirements for your particular state.

For more information on aircraft mechanic's liens in Minnesota, read my article here

Posted by Greg

January 07, 2004

Independent Review of FAA Conduct in Investigations/Enforcement Actions?

If you have ever been the subject of an FAA investigation and/or FAA enforcement action, you may have felt that the conduct of the inspector(s) and other FAA personnel went beyond proper and professional behavior. Well, you are not alone. However, targets of FAA investigations and enforcement actions may soon have some recourse for improper conduct by FAA personnel.

The FAA has recently been called onto the carpet thanks to an investigation instigated by U.S Representative Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) following a December 9, 1999 crash. A Cessna Citation operated by the College of the Ozarks and carrying the pilot, Joe Brinell, and five passengers crashed near Branson, Mo. Following its investigation into the crash, the NTSB report indicated that factors contributing to the cause of the crash included pilot stress, pilot fatigue, poor visibility and rainy weather. Apparently two of the local FAA FSDO employees overstepped their bounds in pursuing review of maintenance records from the College of the Ozarks where Brinell was aviation director and also Brinell's pilot records. Brinell's wife indicated that Brinell felt the FAA was harassing him, as well as the College and its mechanic.

Rep. Blunt helped launch the investigation into the FAA's conduct. The DOT Inspector General's report stated that the FAA had abused its authority and induced stress upon Brinell. In response to the Inspector General's report, the FAA has supposedly established new policies including the right to a third-party review for complaints about FAA investigations and additional "professionalism" training for FAA inspectors.

Unfortunately, the FAA has not established any timeline for when these new policies will be implemented. Also, it is unclear who will provide the "third-party" review and how independent the reviewing party will be. If this is similar to the current handholding relationship between the FAA and the TSA relating to "security threat" determinations, the proclaimed new policies may simply be lip-service to appease an inquiring U.S. Representative. Time will tell.

Posted by Greg

January 06, 2004

Obtaining an FAR Exemption

Did you know that you can apply for an exemption to a Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR)? The rulemaking process is governed by Part 11 of Title 14, Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). If you are affected by a regulation in 14 CFR, you may petition for an exemption from any rule issued by the FAA under its statutory authority. The petition for exemption can be submittd via mail or the internet. The FAA requests operators to petition at least 120 days in advance of needing the exemption. A petition for exemption must include the specific sections of 14 CFR from which you seek an exemption, the extent of/scope of the exemption, as well as a brief description of the reason you seek the relief. Further information can be found on the FAA's website.

Posted by Greg

January 05, 2004

Comment Period for ETOPS NPRM Extended

The FAA has extended the deadline for comments relating to its ETOPS (Extended Twin-Engine Operations) Notice of Proposed Rulemaking: Docket Number 6717 an additional 60 days. The new deadline is March 15 and should be published in the January 6 Federal Register. Under the FAA's proposed rule aircraft operated under FAR Part 135 would be required to remain within 180 minutes of an airport unless approved for extended operations. Aircraft operated under FAR Part 121 would have a 207 minute limitation. Although most comments are in favor of the proposed limitations, a minority argue that loss of one engine could compromise other critical aircraft systems that would jeopardize the aircraft's ability to divert to a suitable alternate airport on only one engine.

Posted by Greg

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