If you are an active flight instructor, regulations are among the many subjects the FAA expects you to teach to candidates for a certificate or rating, and to review with pilots who hire you for a flight review or an instrument proficiency check. Of course it’s important to cover the applicable regulations in 14 CFR parts 61 and 91. Ideally, you teach this material by engaging the pilot with realistic scenarios rather than requiring a chapter-and-verse recital of the regulations themselves. Either way, though, you can’t check the box and call it done until you have also covered the topic of compliance.
This magazine has provided extensive coverage of the FAA’s Compliance Philosophy. Regular readers have also seen us discuss it frequently in terms of how Compliance Philosophy is now incorporated into everything the FAA does (e.g., BasicMed). For a quick refresher, though, here’s a summary of the key compliance concepts.
Bottom Line Up Front
Compliance is expected and required of everyone who operates in the National Airspace System (NAS). Compliance means following the rules, but it also requires taking proactive measures to find problems before they cause an accident or incident, use the most effective means to fix them, and monitor to ensure they stay fixed.
The FAA believes that most people want to operate in compliance with the rules. Pilots don’t approach the airplane trying to think of ways to break the rules; they intend to comply and they make efforts to do so.
Best intentions notwithstanding, human beings make mistakes. The FAA therefore recognizes that failure to comply most often arises from things like lack of training, lack of knowledge, diminished skills, or procedures not working well.
Some errors can have serious consequences, but the greatest safety risk in the NAS does not arise from a specific event or its outcome. Instead, the greatest risk comes from an operator who is unwilling or unable to comply with rules and best practices for safety.
That means that the FAA evaluates risk based on the pilot’s willingness and ability to comply with safety standards. When a pilot is both willing and able to comply, which includes open communication and cooperating in taking the steps necessary to get back to compliance, the best way to meet our safety goal is to use tools like training, education, or better procedures.
The FAA reserves the enforcement tool for cases involving someone who is unwilling or unable to comply. A pilot who is unwilling is someone who knowingly violates regulations, one who takes inappropriate risk, and/or one who does not cooperate or collaborate in the effort to find the problem and fix it in a sustainable way. A pilot who is unable is one who fundamentally lacks the skills or qualifications needed to comply with the rules.
Enforcement is a means to rehabilitate and bring those individuals or operators back into compliance — back into the category of those who are both willing and able to meet standards. If a pilot continues to be unwilling or unable, though, we use stronger enforcement to move that person out of the NAS.
The Compliance Philosophy approach includes the expectation and appreciation for self-disclosure of errors, and a recognition that compliance means operating according to both the letter and the spirit of the law. (FAA Safety Briefing SepOct 2017)
Here are links to resources you can use and share in your instructional activities: