NATA Compliance Services Blog

It’s 2015, Do You Know Where You’re Drone Is?

Posted by Rocco Cipriano on Mon, Mar 16, 2015

The FAA estimates there will be as many as 7500 drones (aka Unmanned Aerial Vehicles or UAVs) crisscrossing U.S. airspace within the next five years. While some see opportunity, others see mayhem.

In recent months, drones have become a hot topic in both aviation and non-aviation circles. News reports of drone sightings and drone misuse have surfaced in local and national media. Recent announcements by Amazon and Google to use drones as delivery systems have sparked imaginative speculation, and fueled the debate on the appropriate use of drones.

Certainly, the FAA, which is mandated to regulate and maintain airspace safety, has been keeping a wary eye on drone usage for some time. In case you’re thinking the FAA is eager to promote expanded drone use, they’re not. To the contrary, the agency has been curtailing it for years, mainly for safety reasons.

The push for more drone-filled skies is coming from the Executive and Legislative branches of the U.S. government (with a little prodding from private industry).

Recent Congressional History Concerning Drones.

Three years ago, Congress passed and President Obama signed The Federal Aviation Administration Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (“FMRA”). The legislation is not only about improving our national airspace and air traffic control (NextGen). Inside this Act is a mandate for the FAA to step up the use of UAVs in the U.S. airspace. FMRA contains real deadlines for developing regulations for airspace use in order to make way for many more unmanned aircraft in our skies by 2015.

The Lawsuit That Led To Defining What A Drone Really Is.

While the FAA sanctioned 6 test sights last year to study the use of drones in National Airspace (mostly large UAVs remotely flown by Air Transport Rated Pilots), what they were not at all prepared for, was the dramatic increase in small quad-copters being flown in densely populated urban areas and in congested airspace. (Note: More than a million of these small, unmanned aircraft have been sold to date worldwide.)

Last year, the FAA issued fines to a number of small drone operators across the United States. Some of operators challenged the fines in local courts. Some courts upheld the FAA fines, while others did not – stating there was no clear law or FAA regulation specific to UAVs in the U.S.

The most noteworthy of these cases involved a Ritewing Zephyr drone conducting a series of maneuvers in and around the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville, Virginia. The operator was hired to take photographs of the campus, as well as its nearby Medical Center.

The FAA fined the operator for reckless operation, which included flying as low as 10 ft AGL, to as high as 1500 feet AGL. The FAA stated the drone was flown “directly towards an individual standing on a sidewalk causing the individual to take immediate evasive maneuvers.” The FAA also cited that the drone was piloted "through a tunnel containing moving vehicles,” “under a crane,” “below tree-top level over a tree-lined walkway,” “under an elevated pedestrian walkway,” and “within 100 feet of an active heliport.”

The FAA believed it has the jurisdiction to fine the operator. The operator, however, challenged the case in front of a NTSB administrative law judge, who upon reviewing the case, ruled in favor of the operator because he agreed with the operator that the Zephyr was a “model aircraft” to which the FAA regulations (specifically, FAR 91.13(a)) did not apply; and as such, the judged claimed the “FAA has distinguished model aircraft as a class excluded from the definitions of the term ‘aircraft.’”

Not So Fast. Not So Simple.

If the ruling for the Charlottesville drone operator was not challenged, the FAA knew it would be fighting a losing battle in future court cases against small drone operators, leaving it incapable of regulating their use. In the fall of last year, the FAA appealed to the full board of the NTSB. What resulted from their decision paved the way for the current drone operation restrictions issued recently by the FAA.

What The NTSB Decided. How It Reinforced FAA Authority.

The full board of the NTSB reversed and remanded the previous court ruling. In their opinion, the drone used at the University of Virginia was not a model aircraft but an aircraft that met the definition of the FAA’s regulation of FAR 91.13(a). According to the NTSB, the drone was “an aircraft,” which under FAR 91 states: “is any device used for flight in the air.” By defining it as such, the NTSB backed up the FAA’s assertion that the drone was indeed being operated in a careless and reckless manner, and confirmed the FAA’s authority to regulated small drones in U.S. airspace.

Read More

Tags: faa, aviation news, Aviation Compliance, air traffic control, Aviation Security, Air transportation System

The Biggest Threat To Your Business May Be Working For You!

Posted by Rocco Cipriano on Mon, Mar 16, 2015

In September 2013, a TSA screener at Los Angeles International Airport was arrested a few hours after resigning for making threats against the airport on the anniversary of 9/11. In December of that year, the FBI arrested an avionic technician at Wichita Airport for plotting a suicide attack using an improvised explosive device.

These are just a couple of examples of employees who became a significant threat in the workplace. However, workplace threats are not limited to “home-grown” terrorists, radicalized by Islamic militarism. It also includes the careless employee, who unintentionally downloads a virus that infects your company’s computer network, or the disgruntled employee who acts unprofessionally with a customer. You may remember the JetBlue Flight Attendant, who became a YouTube sensation, when he quit his job by yelling a few choice words to passengers, grabbing some beers for the road and using the plane's emergency chute to exit the aircraft.

While the flight attendant's dramatic departure ended comically and without injury – many episodes of an employee suffering a meltdown do not always end as peacefully. As the number of workplace violence episodes continue to rise, they pose a growing safety and legal concern for employers in the aviation and transportation industries.

​The best way to protect against workplace violence is to take proactive measures to ensure a safe workplace environment for your employees. This will also reduce your company’s legal liability should an employee’s actions cause injury to another person and/or result in significant damage.

Employers should consider implementing the following tips to be better prepared and protected:

Read More

Tags: Human Resources, Background Checks, Hiring, Aviation Security, Criminal History Record Checks

4 Things To Do To Prep For Your 2015 Hiring Needs

Posted by Brenda Stoltz on Thu, Jan 22, 2015

As economic conditions improve and gas prices plummet, the airline industry is poised to see more demand for flights and flight services starting in 2015. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) projects passenger demand, for example, will grow 3.4% in 2015 and continue steadily until 2019. With this growth will come increased capacity and the need for more human resources to serve passengers and to safely complete operations at all levels of the aviation industry. With that in mind, let’s look at four things you can do now to prepare you for your 2015 hiring needs.

Read More

Tags: HR, Hiring

Economic Forecasts Call for Bluer Skies

Posted by Rocco Cipriano on Tue, Jan 20, 2015

Without a doubt, business aviation took a big hit during the economic downturn. A great deal of the damage was caused by the perception that the “Haves” were flying around in their plush biz jets while the “Have-Nots” were experiencing an economic free fall.

The sight of automotive and banking industry executives flying to Congressional hearings in multi-million dollar private jets, asking for a handout, did not sit well with the Congressmen and the general public in 2008. Despite valid arguments that corporate jets save businesses time and money, the press skewered executives for this particular company perk, which in turn fueled the public outcry against their perceived conspicuous consumption.

Read More

Tags: Business Aviation

What the Air Transportation Industry Can Learn from the Galactic Crash

Posted by Brenda Stoltz on Thu, Jan 15, 2015

On Halloween, the Virgin Galactic SpaceShip Two broke apart over the Mojave Desert, killing co-pilot Michael Alsbury. Alsbury, along with pilot Peter Siebold, who survived the crash, were performing a test flight when something went wrong. While the exact cause of the crash is being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), early findings reveal some sobering lessons that the air translportation indusry can learn from.

Even Experienced Crew Make Mistakes

Humans are fallible, even those who have undergone the best training and have the most experience. Alsbury had 15 years of flight experience, and the Halloween flight was his ninth trip in SpaceShipTwo; Siebold got his pilot’s license when he was 12. Just a week after the crash, NTSB revealed that the 39 year old co-pilot changed the spacecraft’s aerodynamic controls prematurely, causing the tail to rise and create drag, essentially hitting the brakes early. NTSB Chairman, Christopher Hart, cautioned this “feathering” error should not have caused the crash on its own, and is only one of several possibilities the organization was exploring as the cause of the crash.

Read More

Tags: Air transportation industry

Does Your Drug and Alcohol Policy Change with Medical Marijuana Authorization?

Posted by Brenda Stoltz on Thu, Jan 08, 2015

It seems that with every election of late, more and more states vote to decriminalize medical or recreational marijuana. Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have voted to legalize some use of marijuana for medical purposes or, in the case of four states, recreationally. These recent changes in state laws are throwing employers, including aircraft operators, into uncharted territory, given the fact that the federal government still classifies the drug as a Schedule I controlled substance that is illegal touse.

Despite this classification, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a memo in 2008, and again in 2013, that federal government resources would not be focused on those individuals complying with state marijuana laws. To help shed some light on the issue, let’s review how these recently passed state laws affect your drug and alcohol policy.

Read More

Tags: Drug and Alcohol Testing, Background Checks

Reviewing the Security Needs At Washington's DC's Airport (DCA)

Posted by Brenda Stoltz on Thu, Jan 01, 2015

Since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, some airports serving sensitive markets have been subject to special, enhanced security measures. One of these airports is Washington DC’s Reagan National Airport (DCA). While the enhanced security measures have eased over the years, there are still special precautions in place designed to keep our nation’s capital safe. Let’s review some of these special requirements and how to begin operating flights in and out of DCA.

Measures Required by the DASSP

The Department of Homeland Security and Department of Defense collaborated after 9/11 to create the DCA Access Standard Security Program (DASSP) to regulate aircraft operations in and out of DCA. The program requires extra security for all crew members and passengers. For crew members, DASSP requires both a TSA inspection and fingerprint based criminal history records check of all flight crew. Since 2011, operators were allowed to, once again, change their flight crew at the last minute providing they have gone through the proper security screenings required by DASSP.

Read More

Tags: Aviation Security, DCA

FAA Launches Video Series: Promotes Winter Airport Operations Safety

Posted by Brenda Stoltz on Wed, Dec 24, 2014

In October, the Federal Aviation Administration announced a new series of short videos to help support continued airport safety and efficiency. In the web-based video series, the FAA promises to “share new information, safety reminders, best practices, and lessons learned that can benefit airport operators.” 

The FAA’s first video in the series launches a national campaign to promote winter operations safety. In the eight minute video, Airport Certification Safety Specialist, Keri Lyons, reviews the FAA’s Snow and Ice Control Plans and offers some best practices for snow and ice control.

After more than 64,419 flights were cancelled last winter due to poor weather, preparing your staff, partners and managers appropriately will help ease the stress of what promises to be another busy season. The video can be found on the FAA’s website and we review the main recommendations for starting your preparations for winter operations.

Read More

Tags: Advisory circular, Holiday

The Key to Fixing the Pilot Shortage in the Aviation Industry

Posted by Brenda Stoltz on Thu, Dec 18, 2014

Last year, the FAA changed the requirements for pilots looking to become First Officers, mandating they must complete 1,500 hours of flight time instead of the previous 250 hours. This significant jump came after the 2009 crash of Colgan Air flight 3407 was found to be caused by pilot error resulting in the death of 50 people in upstate New York. 

While the new rules are meant to improve safety, they also have had the unintentional consequence of adding to an already precarious situation in meeting pilot supply. Retiring boomers, a lost decade of hiring combined with high training costs, and a low initial salary has left the industry with a shortage of qualified pilots needed to fulfill the 4,500 yearly demand for pilots. Without new strategies to fill the gap, the public could be faced with cancelled flights and the industry with reduced revenues. Let’s take a closer look at the problem and underlying cause.

Read More

Tags: Aviation Compliance, Flight Training

Does the TSA Need to Update Security Procedures?

Posted by Brenda Stoltz on Thu, Dec 11, 2014

In September of this year, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report criticizing theeffectiveness of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and specifically its Secure Flight program. The report found that while procedures for screening were in place, some screeners did not follow these procedures, causing screening errors, and that the TSA had no system to evaluate the causes of these errors. 

Without a review process in place, the risk of the same errors being made repeatedly is real and could cause security gaps and discriminatory practices, making some question the economic benefit of the TSA altogether. The GAO’s report may have shone a light on the TSA’s need to update its security procedures.
Read More

Tags: TSA, Aviation Security

Four Reasons To Outsource Training

Subscribe via Email

Meet Our Bloggers

Judy Boyle

Shirley Negri

Follow Me