Printed headline: Compliant Enforcement
The FAA’s Flight Standards Service is undergoing a cultural change intended to make the organization more agile, efficient and consistent in its work with the aviation community, and it is working, says the division’s executive director, John Duncan.
The engagement came days after CBS’ “60 Minutes” aired a story questioning FAA oversight and its emphasis on compliance rather than enforcement as a one-size-fits-all tool to gain compliance. After the story aired, several members of Congress sent letters to Transportation Department leadership requesting internal audits, briefings from FAA personnel and specific information about airline and repair station programs and enforcement actions.
In his comments at a recent World Aviation Training Summit, Duncan refuted the notion that the new compliance philosophy creates a “kinder and gentler” agency, saying enforcement is a tool reserved for those unwilling or unable to comply. “Those who are willing and able to comply can work within the system. Those that cannot be rehabilitated are removed,” he said.
While Duncan reported a substantial decrease in enforcement actions since the new philosophy was adopted, internal agency statistics show an increase in voluntary reporting. This correlation supports the FAA’s contention that an open and transparent relationship combined with a nonpunitive environment encourages the critically important flow of safety information.
Duncan also addressed increased efforts to improve consistency. In response to an Aviation Rulemaking Committee recommendation that identified the FAA culture as the primary cause of regulatory inconsistencies, Flight Standards is working to transform its organizational culture.
The August 2017 structural transition, which erased legacy geographic barriers and aligned agency divisions by function, enables and supports the ongoing cultural transition. “The future of Flight Standards will create a more agile, efficient and consistent product,” said Duncan, something he says is needed to serve and oversee the highly dynamic aviation industry.
To support the new structure, a March 5 final ruling mandates removing specific references to “certificate-holding district office” throughout the code of federal regulations. This obsolete verbiage was replaced with phrases such as “responsible Flight Standards office.” The change is intended to reorganize the code to align with functional organization design concepts.