THE REGULATORY BACKBONE
This guide provides information on how to find statutes, rules and related advisory and guidance materials issued by the United States government pertaining to aviation safety and related activities.
Statutes are created by the legislative branch of the federal government (i.e., Congress). After they are signed by the president, the laws are included in the United States Code. The law that created the FAA (the Federal Aviation Act of 1958) and that dictates its powers and limitations can be found in 49 United States Code (USC).
Other Public laws (P.L.) can be found on government websites, most notably, the National Archives. A simple internet search for the “P.L.” number will reveal several sources, including Cornell University (each section of the code includes notes a references, which describe relevant amendments and authorities).
(B) FEDERAL REGULATIONS
Title 49 of the CFR (49 CFR) covers many Department of Transportation (DOT) activities, including the transportation of hazardous materials under Subtitle B, Chapter I parts 105 to 199. Part 7 of this title covers the handling of FOIA requests. Subtitle B, Chapter VIII parts 800 through 845 govern the reporting and investigation of incidents and accidents to and by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). In Subtitle B, Chapter XII parts 1500 to 1584, you will find aviation rules from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), an agency under the auspices of the Department of Homeland Security.
Title 14 of the CFR (14 CFR) covers regulations for Aeronautics and Space—
- Chapter I parts 1 through 198 govern the certification, operation and maintenance of civil aircraft.
- Chapter II parts 200 through 399 cover aviation economic regulation under the jurisdiction of the DOT.
- Chapter III parts 400 through 460 govern commercial space.
- Chapter V parts 1201 to 1275 is reserved for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
- Chapter VI parts 1300 to 1310 control air transportation system stabilization.
The regulations described above can be obtained from the eCFR. They may also be obtained from the Government Publishing Office (GPO).
(C) FAA ADVISORY MATERIALS AND INTERNAL DOCUMENTS.
FAA guidance can be obtained from Advisory Circulars (ACs) or other internal government material such as orders, handbooks, bulletins and notices. Although the latter are directed to FAA employees, they are valuable sources of information on government expectations regarding regulatory compliance. Similarly, government reports and audits, legal interpretations and opinions and federal court decisions can all impact compliance issues and decisions.
ACs are issued as guidance to the public; they are one means, but not the only means, of showing compliance with a particular regulation. Following this guidance is typically “the path of least resistance” since individual FAA inspectors know that compliance with the AC reflects accepted national policy on a given issue.
These documents are available online via the FAA’s AC database as well as in the Dynamic Regulatory System.
(2) FAA Internal Documents—Orders, Notices, Bulletins and Policy Memoranda
FAA orders, notices, bulletins and policy memoranda are documents that provide information to FAA employees. However, these documents are also valuable sources of information on what the FAA expects of certificate holders…but their content cannot create a compliance requirement that does not exist in the rules.
The best sources of internal information are searching the internet, using the resources in this document or your aviation trade association. Many orders and notices can be found online in the Dynamic Regulatory System.
(D) FLIGHT STANDARDS INFORMATION
Order 8900.1 “Flight Standards Information Management System (FSIMS)” was established as the repository of all Flight Standards policy and guidance concerning aviation safety inspector (ASI) job tasks. The primary audience for this order is Flight Standards ASIs, their managers and supervisors, and other operational and administrative employees. The aviation industry references the order to see requirements placed by the agency on its employees – such knowledge helps understand nuances of compliance through the instruction given to government personnel. The contents of 8900.1 are available in the Dynamic Regulatory System.
(E) AIRCRAFT CERTIFICATION SERVICE POLICY
Informational documents are issued by the Aircraft Certification Service (AIR) and its Divisions. They reflect FAA policy related to the design, manufacturing and certification of civil aviation products, articles and parts. These publications may be obtained online in the Dynamic Regulatory System.
(F) LEGAL INTERPRETATIONS AND CASES
(1) OFFICE OF THE CHIEF COUNSEL LEGAL INTERPRETATIONS
Legal interpretations of the aviation statutes and 14 CFR are issued by the Office of the Chief Counsel in FAA headquarters and by the various Regional Counsel’s offices in the nine FAA regions.
The interpretations are typically issued in response to inquiries from the aviation community or from one of the FAA’s own field offices. The agency posts interpretations online through its Office of the Chief Counsel’s Regulations Division—Legal Interpretations & Chief Counsel’s Opinions page and they may be obtained under the FOIA.
(2) CIVIL PENALTY CASES
Under Federal regulation 14 CFR § 13.202, the Administrator of the FAA serves as the “decision-maker” on appeals from the decisions of the DOT administrative law judges in civil penalty cases. You can search cases by Subject, Regulation or Statute, Name, or FAA Order Number, and see cases appealed to Federal Court.
(3) NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD (NTSB) CASES
The final case decisions of the NTSB with regard to an airman or mariner’s appeal of action on a certificate are found in National Transportation Safety Board Decisions, an online searchable index. Complete text for decisions issued since mid-1992 is also available in the Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF).
(G) GOVERNMENT REPORTS AND AUDITS
Government agencies undergo federal audits, the results of which are publicly reported to provide correction and instruct the public on performance.
(1) DOT OFFICE OF INSPECTOR GENERAL (OIG)
The DOT OIG is charged with auditing DOT agencies, including the FAA. It also has the power to investigate DOT agencies for fraud, waste, and abuse. When it exercises its auditing power, the report is provided to the FAA for comment and response. The agency’s responses can reflect its interpretation and application of the regulations and internal orders and policy.
Reports on aviation activities can be found on its website.
(2) GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY OFFICE (GAO)
The GAO is an arm of the legislative branch and can be directed by Congress to audit an agency’s activities. The FAA’s responses can reflect its interpretation of a congressional mandate, interpretation or application of the regulations and internal orders and policy.
Reports on FAA audits can be found on its website.