I am not implying or suggesting that the furloughed Aviation Safety Inspectors are not necessary or that what has happened to them has not been unfair – it has.
But, we should acknowledge as well that most people with an airplane or access to one do not need an ever-present enforcement team to comply with regulations. We are safe and we are complying with Federal Aviation Regulations.
Do You Stop at Stop Signs?
Think about it… there is not a police officer at every stop sign, yet most of us still stop.
Why? We do so because we consent to be governed… because we believe that our community, as a whole, is served best with some structure and procedures each of us agrees to follow.
Bad eggs will be bad eggs with or without a functioning enforcement team.
The problem right now is not that pilots and certificate holders will run amok.
The problem is that those who never consented to be governed in the first place currently have no oversight. They are just continuing to do what they were doing before – now without any risk of being caught.
The role of FAA, though, is larger than “enforcement” and as such, we should be careful so as not to create the idea that aviation operators are running amok. We are not.
We should be mindful of the politics of the shutdown and the divisiveness it has the potential to create. When we look beyond the politics of the shutdown, we see the bigger problem in aviation.
The bigger problem created by the government shutdown, one that encompasses more people in aviation than just the bad eggs and the furloughed employees – and one that has a greater bearing on safety than a few bad eggs in our ecosystem – is the current vacuum in the flow of information and money created by the furlough.
- Guidance is not being sought or issued.
- Questions are not being fielded or answered.
- Safety seminars are on hold.
- Requests for Pilot Records are not being filled.
- Aircraft are not being registered.
- New 135 operators are not being certificated.
- Competent and qualified pilots cannot be put to work at a new job.
- People who deserve to be paid are not being paid.
We all know how to fly without an FAA representative sitting next to us. And I think, I hope, each furloughed FAA employee expects this too.
But the working community that is aviation, the community comprised of pilots, aviation safety inspectors, operators, the Registry branch in Oklahoma, and more – the entire ecosystem – has ground to a halt because of this shutdown.
The industry itself, and the economy built around this industry, is stymied.
I have to wonder how we as a nation have determined that safety in aviation is critical, yet we allow that part of our government responsible for safety to be shut down at every level.