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FAA Panel Delivers Sweeping Recommendations on Deregulation

FAA Panel Delivers Sweeping Recommendations on DeregulationAs part of President Donald Trump’s government-wide drive targeting what he and aides call outdated or unnecessary restrictions, a federal advisory committee comprised of industry and labor representatives has delivered a report urging the FAA Administration to eliminate or roll back more than 50 longstanding air-safety rules, according to Marketwatch.  

Recently completed but not yet publicly released, the document recommends loosening controls over everything from pilot training to structural testing of new models. Several of the specifics are prompting opposition from some union groups, outside safety advocates and families of crash victims.

The panel, called the Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee, in a prior report, identified hundreds of other regulations it said were ripe for repeal or modification, according to one person familiar with the details. The agency’s initial response was noncommittal, stressing that the recommendations “do not mean any action will be taken to modify or eliminate existing rules.” A statement from a spokeswoman also said the agency intends to carefully review each item and determine next steps by applying “the FAA’s prevailing criteria to maintain today’s historic level of aviation safety.”

The FAA’s Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee said the recommendations are a response to an effort by the agency to comply with President Donald Trump's directives to cut government regulations. The committee approved a report containing the recommendations by a vote of 14 to 4 with one abstention.

Pilots unions and safety groups oppose the recommendation on pilot qualifications, saying it would undermine safety. Regional airlines have been trying to roll back the pilot qualifications rule since it was adopted by the FAA in response to a sweeping aviation safety law passed by Congress after the last fatal crash of a U.S. passenger airliner.

Lawmakers said at the time that they were concerned about reports in the wake of the crash of Colgan Flight 3407 in February 2009 near Buffalo, New York, that some rapidly growing regional airlines were hiring first officers with far less experience than pilots at major airlines. All 49 people on board and a man on the ground were killed after the captain responded incorrectly to safety systems, causing the plane to stall.

After the crash, lawmakers increased the minimum number of flight hours first officers must have in order to obtain a license to fly commercial passenger airliners to 1,500 hours, the same as captains, leading to more experienced first officers.

Before that, airlines were allowed to hire first officers with as few as 250 hours of flying experience. Some airlines would move first officers into a captain’s seat as soon as they had the minimum 1,500 hours of flying experience.

The report recommends permitting pilots with less than 1,500 hours to qualify for an "air transport" license if they receive academic training from their airline.

If the FAA thinks that the suggested changes are reasonable, a smart next step would be to issue, very soon, an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, by which it signals its potential interest in repealing specific regulations, and asks members of the public for comments.

If the agency does that, it is sure to get a ton of responses. Some of them will be from interest-groups — predictable and essentially useless. But some of them will be filled with facts, offering evidence that (for example) 1,500 hours of flying time is really no better than 750 hours, or that ground tests provide valuable information that computer simulations and visual inspections just can’t provide. Along with its independent analysis, such comments will give the FAA a pretty good sense of whether to go forward with some or all of the committee’s proposals.

Source: MarketWatch

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