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Tuesday, 22 February, 2011

Rules Of Practice In Air Safety Proceedings And Implementing The Equal Access to Justice Act Of 1980

February 22, 2011

Mr. Gary L. Halbert, Esq.
General Counsel
National Transportation Safety Board
490 L’Enfant Plaza East, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20594-2000

Re:    Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) re Rules of Practice in Air Safety Proceedings and Implementing the Equal Access to Justice Act of 1980

The National Air Transportation Association (NATA), the voice of aviation business, is the public policy group representing the interests of aviation businesses before the Congress, federal agencies and state governments.  NATA's over 2,000 member companies own, operate and service aircraft and provide for the needs of the traveling public by offering services and products to aircraft operators and others such as fuel sales, aircraft maintenance, parts sales, storage, rental, airline servicing, flight training, Part 135 on-demand air charter, fractional aircraft program management and scheduled commuter operations in smaller aircraft.  NATA members are a vital link in the aviation industry providing services to the general public, airlines, general aviation and the military. 

NATA represents aviation businesses that hold certificates to operate under various Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations, including flight training facilities (14 CFR 141 and 142), air carriers (14 CFR 135), and maintenance services (14 CFR 145).  Furthermore, our business members employ thousands of individuals who possess FAA certificates.

Over the decades, the relationship between regulated parties and the FAA has evolved, and the role of the NTSB in adjudicating FAA enforcement actions against certificated entities has likewise evolved.  NATA believes that now, more so than in the past, it is essential that the NTSB review and revise its regulations related to FAA emergency enforcement proceedings to ensure that affected certificate holders receive a fair, reasonable and meaningful review of the FAA’s allegations while continuing to provide appropriate protections for the public with regard to the safety of aviation operations.

In the view of NATA’s members, the balance struck when a certificate holder appeals an emergency order of the FAA has tilted too far in favor of the FAA.  It is our position that the recommended regulatory changes suggested herein will result in a fair and appropriate standard of review for all parties.

  1.  History with Safety Enforcement Proceedings

NATA has in the past participated in many rulemaking efforts involving aviation safety enforcement proceedings.  NATA and its members seek to ensure that air safety is preserved and enhanced through rigorous safety enforcement efforts that are meaningful, fair, reasonable and evenly applied to both the FAA, representing the public interest, and those accused of wrongdoing.  Given the complex and highly technical nature of the aviation industry, disputes are also often highly complex and technical.  NATA welcomes and appreciates the NTSB’s current review of its own regulations with a view towards ensuring that they are as relevant and meaningful today as they were when originally promulgated.   

  1.  Four issues raised by the ANPRM

The ANPRM raises four issues on which the Board seeks specific comments.  These issues are:

  1. The standard for the NTSB’s review of the FAA’s “emergency” determinations;
  2. Discovery and exchange of documents in air safety proceedings;
  3. Suggestions concerning electronic filing of documents in such cases; and
  4. Updates to the procedural rules governing Equal Access to Justice Act of 1980 claims.

The ANPRM further asks that comments include a reference to a specific section of the rules, explain the reason for any recommended change, and include supporting data or rationale.  NATA’s comments are set forth in that order and format below, with the portion of the relevant rule edited in redline format to show NATA’s proposed modifications.  For greater detail on and citations to the legislative and regulatory history of the so called “Emergency Rules,” please see Appendix A.

Click here to read complete statement in PDF format.

For general press inquiries, contact Shannon Chambers at 703-298-1347 or schambers@nata.aero

The National Air Transportation Association (NATA) has been the voice of aviation business for over 75 years. Representing nearly 2,300 aviation businesses, NATA’s member companies provide a broad range of services to general aviation, the airlines and the military and NATA serves as the public policy group representing the interests of aviation businesses before Congress and the federal agencies.