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August 31, 2015

DOT Releases Second Half 2015 SIFL Rates

The U.S. Department of Transportation has released the Standard Industry Fare Level (SIFL) rates for the six-month period from July 1, 2015 to December 31, 2015. These rates are needed in order to apply the IRS's aircraft valuation formula to compute the value of non-business transportation aboard employer-provided aircraft and impute the income of the employee as required by the Internal Revenue Service Rules Section 1.61-21(g). The SIFL rates for the six-month period from July 1, 2015 to December 31, 2015, are: 0500 miles $0.2341; 501-1,500 miles $0.1785; over 1,500 miles $0.1716; and Terminal Charge of $42.79.

If you are an employer and an employee or a non-employee guest or family member is flown on your aircraft, the flight is potentially taxable to the individual receiving the ride. The aircraft valuation formula applies on a per-flight, per-person basis and will be calculated using the distance in statute miles from where the individual boards the aircraft to where the individual deplanes.

Posted by Greg

August 27, 2015

100-Hour Inspections and Aircraft Used for Rental and Flight Instruction

If you run an FBO or flight school and you use the same aircraft for both rental to customers and providing flight instruction, then you know you have to perform 100-hour inspections on your aircraft. But the timing for performing the 100-hour inspection can sometimes be confusing. For a discussion of how this requirement is applied in several real-world examples, please read my latest article on the subject: When is the 100-Hour Inspection Due for Aircraft Used for Rental and Flight Instruction?.

Posted by Greg

August 04, 2015

FAA Updates Its Compliance Philosophy: A Move in the Right Direction?

The FAA has issued Order 8000.373 effective June 26, 2015 to explain its current compliance philosophy. That is, as the FAA explains it, its "strategic safety oversight approach to meet the challenges of today's rapidly changing aerospace system." What does that mean? Well, as the regulator of the aviation and aerospace communities, the FAA is charged with establishing regulatory standards to ensure that operations in the National Airspace System are conducted safely. And as we all know, compliance with those regulatory standards is mandatory.

However, not only does the FAA expect us to comply with the regulations, but it also believes that we have "a duty to develop and use processes and procedures that will prevent deviation from regulatory standards." Thus, we are required to conduct ourselves in a way that not only complies with the regulations, but that will also ensure that deviations are prevented. Sounds great, until something (e.g. a deviation) happens. Then what? In the past, the result was typically unpleasant. But that may have changing.

According to the FAA's new philosophy, "[W]hen deviations from regulatory standards do occur, the FAA's goal is to use the most effective means to return an individual or entity that holds an FAA certificate, approval, authorization, permit or license to full compliance and to prevent recurrence." This appears to be a shift from the FAA's past compliance philosophy. At least from my perspective, in the past the FAA's response to violations has leaned heavily toward enforcement and punitive action (e.g. certificate suspensions and revocations). And that approach never made sense to me.

If we truly want to encourage compliance and ensure that a certificate holder is safe, why would we want that certificate holder to be sitting on the ramp and out of the system for 30-180 days or longer with a suspended certificate? Wouldn't it make more sense to educate certificate holders and do what may be necessary to get them back into compliance and in a position where future compliance is more likely?

The FAA's current policy appears to be a step in this direction, at least on paper. The Order explains that
The FAA recognizes that some deviations arise from factors such as flawed procedures, simple mistakes, lack of understanding, or diminished skills. The Agency believes that 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 for regulated entities, which are documented and verified to ensure effectiveness.
Sounds to me like the FAA is talking about letters of correction with remedial training. I think that's a good thing. The Order also notes that "[M]atters involving competence or qualification of certificate, license or permit holders will be addressed with appropriate remedial measures, which might include retraining or enforcement." Here again, the concept of retraining rather than enforcement (which was typically revocation in cases involving alleged incompetence or lack of qualification) appears to more appropriately address the situation in a more positive and productive manner. Maybe not in all cases, but hopefully more cases than in the past.

Of course, this doesn't mean that certificate and civil penalty actions will go away. If a certificate holder fails or refuses to take steps to remediate deviations or is involved in repeated deviations then enforcement may result. That makes sense. Additionally, in those situations where a certificate holder's conduct was intentional or reckless, the FAA indicates that it will pursue "strong enforcement." Also not a surprise.

Although this appears to be a positive shift in the FAA's philosophy/national policy, the rubber really hits the runway with the inspectors at the FSDO level. Will this policy shift actually trickle down? I hope so. But only time will tell.

Posted by Greg

July 07, 2015

What Not To Do When You Register an Aircraft Owned by an LLC

These days more and more people are using LLC's to own aircraft. Liability, organizational and tax benefits all make this entity an attractive option for aircraft ownership. However, when you register an aircraft owned by an LLC with the FAA, you need to make sure you give the FAA what it needs. For more information on some of these requirements, please read my latest article on the topic: Keeping the FAA Happy When Registering an Aircraft Owned by an LLC.

Posted by Greg

June 02, 2015

May A Pilot Continue to Act as Pilot in Command Despite a Lapse in § 61.58 Currency?

If you fly an aircraft that is type certificated for more than one required pilot flight crewmember or is turbojet-powered, you know that 14 C.F.R. § 61.58(a) requires that you have regular proficiency checks. Specifically, within the preceding 12 calendar months you need to have completed a proficiency check in an aircraft that is type certificated for more than one required pilot flight crewmember or is turbojet-powered, and within the preceding 24 calendar months you must have completed a proficiency check in the particular type of aircraft in which you will serve as PIC that is type certificated for more than one required pilot flight crewmember or is turbojet-powered.

So, when do you actually need to complete each proficiency check? Well, if you complete the proficiency check in the calendar month before or the calendar month after the month it is due, Section 61.58(i) states that "the pilot is considered to have taken it in the month in which it was due for the purpose of computing when the next pilot-in-command proficiency check is due." This means you have a "grace month" within which to complete the 12- and 24-month proficiency check requirements. But, are you permitted to continue to act as a PIC in an aircraft that is type certificated for more than one required pilot flight crewmember or is turbojet-powered during the grace month after the proficiency check has lapsed?

The answer is "Yes." According to the FAA in a recent Legal Interpretation, a pilot may continue to act as pilot in command of an aircraft that is type certificated for more than one required pilot flight crewmember or is turbojet-powered during the month after a Section 61.58 proficiency check is due. But keep in mind that when a pilot completes a Section 61.58 proficiency check during the grace month (either before or after the proficiency check is due) he or she is considered to have completed the proficiency check during the month it was due for the purpose of calculating the due date for the next Section 61.58 proficiency check.

Also, pilots and operators shouldn't use the grace month as a way to regularly extend a 12-month proficiency check to a 13-month proficiency check. However, this interpretation is certainly helpful to those pilots who are unable to complete their recurrent training/proficiency check requirements in the month in which they are due.



Posted by Greg

April 20, 2015

When Are Fees "Incurred" Under EAJA?

If the FAA pursues an enforcement or civil penalty action against you and then loses, the the Equal Access to Justice Act (“EAJA”) allows you to seek reimbursement from the FAA for your attorney’s fees and expenses if certain conditions are met. One of those conditions is that the fees must be "incurred." What does that mean? For the answer to this question and a discussion of EAJA in general, please read my latest article on the topic: Equal Access to Justice Act: When Are Fees "Incurred"?

Posted by Greg

March 06, 2015

DOT Revises First Half 2015 SIFL Rates

The U.S. Department of Transportation has revised the Standard Industry Fare Level (SIFL) rates for the six-month period from January 1, 2015 to June 30, 2015. These rates are needed in order to apply the IRS's aircraft valuation formula to compute the value of non-business transportation aboard employer-provided aircraft and impute the income of the employee as required by the Internal Revenue Service Rules Section 1.61-21(g). The SIFL rates for the six-month period from January 1, 2015 through June 30, 2015, are: 0500 miles $0.2490; 501-1,500 miles $0.1898; over 1,500 miles $0.1825; and Terminal Charge of $45.52.

If you are an employer and an employee or a non-employee guest or family member is flown on your aircraft, the flight is potentially taxable to the individual receiving the ride. The aircraft valuation formula applies on a per-flight, per-person basis and will be calculated using the distance in statute miles from where the individual boards the aircraft to where the individual deplanes.

Posted by Greg

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