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A site devoted to aviation law, safety and security.

November 28, 2005

Flight Review Under FAR 61.56

Most pilots are familiar with the 90 day currency requirements for carrying passengers and flying at night. However, it seems that the "flight review" (formerly "biennial flight review") currency requirement is often misunderstood and/or ignored. Depending upon the circumstances, not all pilots are required to accomplish a flight review or they may be able to satisfy the requirement in a different manner than set out in FAR 61.56. If you would like more information regarding when a flight review is needed and what is required, you can read my latest article on the subject here.

Posted by Greg

November 10, 2005

FAA Issues Supplemental Oxygen Direct Final Rule

The FAA today published a Direct Final Rule amending its regulation on the use of pilot supplemental oxygen. According to the rule, "[t]he amendment changes the flight level at which the remaining pilot at the controls of the airplane must put on and use his oxygen mask if the other pilot at any time leaves his control station of the airplane. This amendment revises that altitude to "above flight level 350" from "above flight level 250." This rule should help Part 121 air carriers save money by eliminating the excessive use of oxygen that is not otherwise required to provide for safety and also help reduce expenditures to replace oxygen equipment by reducing wear and tear.

The rule is ffective January 9, 2006, but comments will still be included in the Rules Docket if received on or before December 27, 2005. If you would like further information regarding the rule or the basis for the amendment, you can contact Michael J. Coffey, Air Transportation Division (AFS-220), Flight Standards Service, Federal Aviation Administration, 800 Independence Avenue SW., Washington, DC 20591; Telephone No. (202) 267-3750.

Posted by Greg

Random Drug And Alcohol Testing Percentage Rates of Covered Aviation Employees To Remain The Same For 2006

According to a Notice published by the FAA today, the "minimum random drug and alcohol testing percentage rates for the period January 1, 2006, through December 31, 2006, will remain at 25 percent of covered aviation employees for random drug testing and 10 percent of covered aviation employees for random alcohol testing." In 2004, the random drug test positive rate was 0.54%, less than the 1.00% threshold, and the the random alcohol test violation rate was 0.09%, less than the .50% threshold. As a result, both percentages will remain the same.

If you have questions about how the annual random testing percentage rates are determined 14 CFR 121, Appendix I, section V.C (for drug testing), and Appendix J, section III.C (for alcohol testing) or you can contact Dr. Mark Crispi, Office of Aerospace Medicine, Drug Abatement Division, Program Analysis Branch (AAM-810), Federal Aviation Administration, 800 Independence Avenue, SW., Washington, DC 20591; telephone (202) 267-8442.

Posted by Greg

November 04, 2005

Malaysia Is Eighth Country To Ratify Cape Town Treaty

Malaysia has acceded to the Cape Town Treaty and accompanying Protocol relating to aircraft. In addition to Malaysia, eight other countries have ratified or acceded to the Cape Town Treaty including Ethiopia, Ireland, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Panama and the United States. With Malaysia's accession, the treaty is set to go into effect March 1, 2006.

The treaty establishes an international legal framework for security and leasing interests in aircraft and would create an international registry to keep track of transactions involving planes, helicopters, and engines, as well as a set of regulations relating to payments, contracts, and bankruptcy. Although the U.S. currently uses the proposed asset-based financing rules, this legal framework will be expanded to other signatories to the treaty. This will provide greater consistency and security for asset-based lenders, including aircraft financers. This should eliminate some of the risks associated with aircraft financing and, hopefully, expand the availability of aircraft financing for international transactions.

Posted by Greg

November 03, 2005

Airline Pilot Pleads Guilty To Operating Aircraft While Intoxicated

According to the FAA's Office of Inspector General ("OIG"), a former commercial pilot who flew for Vacation Express/Sky King Airlines has pled guilty in U.S. District Court in Scranton, PA to a felony charge of operating a common carrier while under the influence of alcohol. The OIG's press release states that on May 12, 2004 the airman was scheduled to co-pilot a flight from Wilkes-Barre, PA to Myrtle Beach, SC and that particular flight was also scheduled for a Flight Standards Distric Office ("FSDO") inspection. However, while taxing from the commuter terminal to the passenger terminal, the inspector smelled alcohol on the co-pilot's breath. Subsequent tests indicated that the co-pilot's blood alcohol content was in excess of the .04 allowed by FAR 91.17(a)(4). The co-pilot is currently awaiting sentencing.

This is an interesting case. Not because the airman was prosecuted or because he didn't do anything wrong, he did. The FAA's delay in acting following the airman's arrest is what make the case interesting. The incident occurred on May 12, 2004 and the airman resigned his position with the airline that same day. However, the FAA did not issue an emergency revocation order until approximately two months after the incident. Given that the FSDO inspector was present at the time of the airman's violation, it is unclear to me why it would take the FAA so long to issue the emergency revocation order if, in fact, the FAA believed that the airman was a continuing threat to public safety.

I don't think Judge Fowler, the NTSB law judge charged with initially ruling on whether an emergency basis exists, would find that the two months delay was contrary to the case-law upholding the emergency nature of the order as alleged by the FAA. However, if the delay had been a little bit longer, perhaps a three month delay, the airman may have at least had a marginally better chance of contesting the emergency basis of the revocation. It think this would especially be true where the FSDO inspector personally witnessed the violation and the airman was not able to dispute the violation. Although it wasn't an issue in this case, it isn't too hard to imagine a case where this could become an issue and the FAA and the public could be on the losing end of a Judge Fowler decision.

Just to be clear, I don't disagree that the airman's conduct was a violation and that such a violation is a threat to public safety. I would expect emergency revocation in such a situation. However, I would also expect that, absent a good excuse or unusual circumstances, the FAA would take action much sooner.

Posted by Greg

November 02, 2005

FAA To Hold Public Meeting To Obtain Input On Its Plans For Implementing New Convective Weather Products

According to a Notice published today in the Federal Register, the FAA has scheduled an informal public meeting to obtain aviation weather user input regarding its plans for implementing new convective weather products. According to the Notice, the meeting will generally proceed as follows:

1. The meeting will be informal in nature and will be conducted by representatives of the FAA Headquarters.

2. The meeting will be open to all persons on a space-available basis and will be at no charge.

3. FAA personnel will conduct overview briefings on aviation weather products, aviation weather roadmaps and the status of on-going research.

4. FAA personnel will lead a session intended to elicit user views on the convective weather products and any issues surrounding those products. Any person present may offer comment or feedback in the session. Comments and feedback will be captured through discussion between FAA personnel and those persons attending the meeting.

5. FAA will not take any action items from this meeting nor make any commitments to accept specific user suggestions.

6. Every reasonable effort will be made to hear each person's feedback consistent with a reasonable closing time for the meeting.

7. Written feedback can also be submitted to FAA following the meeting for the period November 11-December 10, 2005.

The meeting will be held at the Orlando Orange County Convention Center, 9800 International Drive, Room N210A, Orlando, Florida 32819 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on November 10, 2005. This meeting coincides with the NBAA annual meeting at the same location. If you would like further information regarding the meeting, you can contact Debi Bacon, Air Traffic Administration, 800 Independence Ave., SW., Washington, DC 20591; telephone number (202) 385-7705; Fax: (202) 385-7701; e-mail: debi.bacon@faa.gov.

Posted by Greg

Special Federal Aviation Regulation No. 105 Expiration Date Extended Through March 31, 2006

The FAA today published an Extension of the expiration date for Special Federal Aviation Regulation ("SFAR") No. 105 Reservation System for Unscheduled Arrivals at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. According to the FAA, the extension "is necessary to maintain the reservation system established for unscheduled arrivals at O'Hare International Airport while the FAA completes rulemaking associated with scheduled arrivals at the airport." The extension corresponds with the FAA's extension of the previously published NPRM proposing a reservation system for unscheduled arrivals into O'Hare until April 1, 2006.

Unfortunately, if you would like to comment on the extension, you can't. Because the 5 month extension is "but for a limited duration and provides an interim measure pending adoption of a comprehensive regulation that addresses scheduled operations at the airport, No. 105, the FAA is not seeking public comment. However, if you would like further information regarding SFAR 105 or the extension, you can contact Gerry Shakley, System Operations Services, Air Traffic Organization; Telephone: (202) 267-9424; E-mail: gerry.shakley@faa.gov.

Posted by Greg

November 01, 2005

2006 Commercial Air Transportation Taxes Announced

The Internal Revenue Service will soon publish Revenue Procedure 2005-70, providing inflation-adjusted tax items for 2006. According to Section 3.30 of the procedure, "[f]or calendar year 2006, the tax under 4261(b) on the amount paid for each domestic segment of taxable transportation by air is $3.30. For calendar year 2006, the tax under 4261(c) on any amount paid (whether within or without the United States) for any transportation of any person by air, if such transportation begins or ends in the United States, generally is $14.50. However, for a domestic segment beginning or ending in Alaska or Hawaii as described in 4261(c)(3), the tax only applies to departures and is at the rate of $7.30." The 7.5-percent percentage tax that applies to the amount paid for domestic commercial transportation remains unmodified.

If you would like further information on Revenue Procedure 2005-70 you can contact Marnette M. Myers of the Office of Associate Chief Counsel (Income Tax & Accounting at(202) 622-4920.

Posted by Greg

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