The FAA is your Friend!

The title of the article alone should be enough for you to read this article!  Isn’t that what government agencies are suppose to do; help the folks they are charged with serving?  Well, I’m sure most of you think otherwise but the reality may not be so black and white.

First of all, let’s set the record straight.  I would be willing to bet that the FAA Inspectors don’t really spend their free time wondering how they can find you and violate you.  For the most part, I think they are generally concerned with aviation safety, just like the rest of us.  They do have the unfortunate job of upholding the regulations though, no matter how you feel about those regulations.  But then again, maybe I’m just naive.  Let’s see how we can just avoid your interaction with the FAA altogether then.

When planning your flight, you are required by regulation to know basically everything there is to know about that flight (91.103).  The reality is very different.  There have been numerous occasions where I’ve been at an airport waiting to takeoff or land and I hear someone on the frequency requesting to land on a runway that is NOTAM’d closed.  A clear violation of the regulations, right?  Well, sure but the tower obviously didn’t let them land there, they taxied into their parking and went on to enjoy the day.  No harm, no foul.  The exception is typically when something happens and it becomes clear to the investigators that you did NOT have all available information.  

To ensure I am compliant with all of the regulations, here’s what I do.  Remember, just GO!

  • Get a good brief
    • Lockheed Martin Flight Service (800-WX-BRIEF):  This is actually a great system.  The website is great for all you tech-types that want to plug in all of the information yourself and get the printout.  The standard briefings include a LOT of useful information and can include NOTAM’s and TFR’s as well.  While I certainly like the tech aspect, I actually prefer to call them when I want a briefing.  Usually very nice, easy to talk to and understand and I’ve generally felt that they are there to help you.
    • ForeFlight:  I love my ForeFlight briefings, especially the new format.  I insert my airport pairs, then do a “File & Brief” in the app.  I get an excellently laid out briefing format that includes NOTAM’s and TFR’s.  If you use ForeFlight, this is an awesome tool.
  • On the ground, confess your mistakes
    • NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System:  If for some reason, you are told to call a number (Tower, Approach, Center, whatever), be polite, courteous and thank them for bringing the issue to your attention.  By the time you hang up the phone though, you should be on the ASRS site filling out a report.  This is your “get out of jail free” card.  Unless your violation was something that was something like gross negligence, you will likely end up with a hand slap and maybe some counseling from a FAASTeam Rep.  Even if you THINK you may have violated a regulation somehow, get on the site and fill out a report.  You’re helping compile data that may actually lead to a change in regulations, airspace, etc..

Here are some other links that are technically the “official” government sites, however, just like the Obama-Care website, they aren’t the most user friendly.

Official FAA Links:

  • Aviation Weather: http://aviationweather.gov/   
  • TFR’s: http://tfr.faa.gov/tfr2/list.html
  • NOTAM’s: https://pilotweb.nas.faa.gov/PilotWeb/

The bottom line is to get a good briefing.  Both methods of getting a briefing [mentioned above] give you all pertinent information for your flight referenced in item (A) of the 91.103 regulation.  Now it’s up to you to calculate the fuel, alternates and takeoff & landing distances.  But the hard part is out of the way!
Fly Safe!

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