FAA Snaring More Pilots
New culture putting certificates at risk
THIS TRENDS ALOFT COLUMN is about change and new technologies.
So it’s ironic that due to a change, this is my last column in Sport
Aviation for the time being. I’ve loved writing the column and EAA and
I are discussing other ways I can continue to contribute to EAA’s publications regularly. In the meantime, please visit
and enter your email address, to receive future articles electronically.
Before signing off, I want to write about a disturbing trend in FAA
enforcement that all pilots should know about. If you’ve flown for more
than 20 years, you probably recall prior to the early 1990s that pilots
lived in fear of the FAA. Then, even a small deviation by a pilot could
result in an enforcement action, and pilots were justifiably afraid of
interactions with the agency.
But a breath of fresh air blew into the agency in the early 1990s.
Many of us began referring to it as a “kinder and gentler” FAA. That’s
when the agency changed its policy to focus more on education of
pilots and less on enforcement action. As a result, when you heard a
controller say, “Advise when ready to copy a phone number,” a contrite
demeanor during the phone call would often end the encounter right
there. But beware: The winds have shifted again.
I interact with hundreds of pilots
each year as an active flight instructor,
author of aviation books, and public
speaker. To some pilots, such as those
getting a private certificate or
instrument rating, I give a lot of training.
But I also fly with many pilots only once
or twice, and all of the pilots I’m about to
mention are in that category.
In the past five months, I’ve had four
clients and friends tell me that they’ve
received pilot deviations (PDs) from the
FAA. By comparison, in the prior 10 years I
can’t remember any friend or client who had
a pilot deviation. Coincidence? Perhaps.
Alan Armstrong, an East Coast aviation
attorney, says the current “enforcement
climate for pilots is poor” as the FAA culture
has moved “from a ‘win/win’ paradigm to a