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Changes To The Aviation Safety Reporting Program Increase Opportunities For Mechanics

By Gregory J. Reigel

February, 2013 All rights reserved.

As you may know, the FAA publishes Advisory Circular 00-46 to provide guidance for taking advantage of the Aviation Safety Reporting Program ("ASRP"). Under the ASRP, if an individual holding a mechanic or other airman certificate files an ASRP form or "report" (also somewhat inappropriately referred to as the "NASA form" since NASA is only the administrator of the ASRP) within the time required, any sanction that may be imposed by the FAA in a subsequent enforcement action arising from the conduct identified in the ASRP report can be waived.

However, ASRP is not a blanket "get out of jail free card." The ASRP sanction waiver will only be available provided that (1) the violation was inadvertent and not deliberate; (2) the violation did not involve a criminal offense, accident, or action found at 49 U.S.C. 44709; (3) the person has not been found in any prior FAA enforcement action to have committed a regulatory violation for the past 5 years; and (4) the conduct of the individual giving rise to the violation did not exhibit incompetence or lack of qualification.

It is also important to understand that the ASRP does not affect an actual finding of violation against the mechanic or airman. Rather, it simply provides a waiver of any sanction the FAA might seek to impose for the violation (e.g. suspension of a certificate). As a result, by waiving the sanction the ASRP can allow you to keep working or flying, but it won't prevent entry of a finding of violation in your FAA file.

The ASRP shouldn't be confused with the FAA's Voluntary Disclosure Reporting Program ("VDRP"). As explained in FAA Advisory Circular 00-58B, the VDRP provides a waiver of enforcement action to certificate holders (e.g. certificates issued under Parts 121, 135, 145 etc.) and, under appropriate circumstances, to individual mechanics and airmen acting on behalf of the certificate holders, when the certificate holder meets the requirements of the VDRP. (You can find a discussion of the VDRP here).

The ASRP, on the other hand, only applies to individual certificate holders, regardless of whether they are working on behalf of a certificate holder such as an air carrier or repair station, and only provides a waiver of sanction, rather than the waiver of enforcement action under the VDRP. However, nothing prevents an individual from filing reports under both the VDRP and the ASRP for the same possible violation.

Recently, the FAA updated the ASRP advisory circular to Advisory Circular 00-46 version "E". The revised advisory circular changes the language governing when an ASRP report must be filed. Under earlier guidance, the ASRP report had to be filed within 10 days of the incident or occurrence. However, under the revised advisory circular to take advantage of the program a person must prove "that, within 10 days after the violation, or the date when the person became aware or should have been aware of the violation, he or she completed and delivered or mailed a written report of the incident or occurrence to NASA."

This new language appears to be less restrictive and will hopefully extend the availability of the program to factual situations that, by their nature, were previously precluded from participation (e.g. discovery of an issue relating to a mechanic's work after the original 10 day period had ended). Under the revised language, a mechanic should be able to take advantage of the ASRP as long as he or she files the ASRP report within 10 days of discovering the potential violation, even if his or her discovery occurs months after completion of the work.

The ASRP has the potential to provide a great benefit to mechanics and airmen. However, it is unclear how strict the FAA or the NTSB will interpret the new language extending the time period in which a report may be filed. Although I am cautiously optimistic, we'll have to wait and see. I encourage mechanics and airmen to file an ASRP form any time they have been involved in circumstances in which they believe a potential FAR violation may have occurred or that may have affected aviation safety.

The program does not limit the number of ASRP reports an individual may file. However, keep in mind that the program will not apply in all situations. Mechanics and airmen are well advised to be familiar with and use the program, but to also understand the circumstances under which sanction waiver will not be available. The ASRP forms are available through your local FSDO or you can file the form online here.

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