TC @ JGG: I have a Special Issuance medical issued by the FAA and the documentation with it states that I must renew it every year. When the medical was issued there was an additional document that states that I must carry a copy of this letter and the special issuance with me at all times. The letter is a bit confusing. Exactly what documentation is necessary?
Sal’s Law: Currently, every pilot must carry your valid FAA medical form with you any time you are exercising your flying privileges. Pilots operating pursuant to a Special Issuance Authorization must also carry their special issuance letter which the FAA provides to you with each extension, which more specifically spells out the medical condition and authority granted. However, that is all about to change. Yes, believe it or not the government is actually going to make life a little easier for aviators. Starting on July 20, 2012, pilots who have a medical certificate with a special issuance authorization will no longer be required to carry their separate authorization letter and documentation with them. Just think about how that will affect your weight and balance calculations.
Actually, the FAA had floated this proposal a few years ago and undertook a study on what the effect would be on air safety should they discontinue the past practice of requiring these letters be produced to FAA inspectors. Interestingly, they could not find one example of any pilot ever being asked to produce the document.
With that in mind, the FAA issued an order and has discontinued the requirement and will cease printing the “Conditions of Use” notations on the back of the medical certificate. There is no need to turn in your old medical for a new issue until your next physical. Sounds like someone in Oklahoma City used good common sense in making this change. I know I’m always pleased when there is one less piece of paper to put in my wallet. (Unless the paper has a picture of a President on it).
CL by Email: Sal, I had an incident about three years ago at a small airport in the western part of the country, when I accidentally may have violated an airport NOTAM. The airport manager met me at the tie down and was angry and very adamant about reporting it to the FAA. It’s now been three years and after all this time I never heard anything more about it from the airport or the FAA. I did file a NASA form as you always suggest. Is it possible that the filing of a NASA form stopped any further official action from the FAA? Could the issue still be pursued?
Sal’s Law: CL, It would appear that this is a dead issue on all fronts. It is very possible that the FAA Inspector could have looked at the incident and found that there was no violation at all, or that the violation did not rise to the order of requiring any further action. There is nothing prohibiting an FAA inspector from using good judgment and not pursuing a minor infraction as long as serious air safety was not an issue.
As for the ASRS or NASA form; the filing of the form does not have any effect on the decision by the FAA inspector to go forward. In fact, the reason NASA is the processing center for the forms is to assure that they remain in neutral hands unless an act was found to be an exception to the NASA form immunity such as criminal or intentional behavior. Under normal circumstances the FAA would not even see the form and it would be “de-identified” prior to any of the factual information being released. That is the beauty of the program, which allows a pilot, mechanic or Air Traffic Controller, to report potentially hazardous issues to an agency, without fear of retribution.
Remember that the ASRS form only offers a pilot immunity from sanctions following an FAA determination of a violation. The form does not stop the agency from a finding that a violation occurred, and a finding against a pilot is still recorded as such; even with the sanctions waived.
So rest easy, with the knowledge that the issue is probably closed. By the sound of your description of the incident, you learned a valuable safety lesson. That is what FAA Enforcement is supposed to always be about.
Blue Skies all!
Sal Lagonia Esq., is an Aviation Attorney and Consultant, Professor of Aviation Law and frequent speaker on aviation safety. Questions may be sent to Sal@LagoniaLaw.com or to his main office at 914-245-7500.