More Information‎ > ‎Newsletters‎ > ‎

From the Safety Office


Michael May, Standards Officer WVFC


The FAA and West Valley


In the past several months, the FAA has contacted WVFC a few times requesting information about minor incidents that our aircraft have been involved in. The purpose of this article is not to focus on these incidents, but rather to inform you, the membership, what to do should you be involved in anything that could draw the FAA’s attention. Our Safety Office has noticed that the FAA is now following up on certain types of incidents that historically they have not been interested in, and we want to make sure you are informed properly of what these incidents consist of and how to properly respond.

 First, here are some examples of what might put you on the FAA’s radar, so to speak. Some of these should be fairly obvious. A declaration of an emergency, entering the SFO Class B airspace without a clearance, or runway incursions that result in loss of separation will certainly draw the FAA’s attention. Additionally, there are some other reasons the FAA may request more information. As you know, PAO and SQL are both towered airports. The respective control towers are required to report many different types of events to the FAA. These include runway excursions (including using a runway overrun area to stop), aborting a takeoff, a runway incursion of any kind, or landing without contacting the tower (if your electrical system fails, for instance). In some of these instances, the tower may not inform you that they are reporting anything to the FAA. It’s also worth noting that these types of events are not necessarily the fault of the pilot. A brake failure can lead to a runway overrun, for example.

 So what should you do if something happens? Here’s a fictitious example. You are at SQL holding short of the runway and you mistakenly enter the runway and take off without a clearance. The tower informs you that he cleared you to line up and wait only, but he doesn’t sound too upset and he doesn’t ask you to call him after landing. There is no further mention of it after this. No harm, no foul, right? WRONG! Even though the tower didn’t tell you, he has reported this as a runway incursion to the FAA, as he is required to do. In this case, you should notify the WVFC Safety Office as soon as practical, and file a NASA ASRS form as well. Notifying the Safety Office allows us to be prepared and informed when the FAA inevitably asks us about the incident, and will allow us to proactively address the situation with you, the member.

 Once you’ve notified the Safety Office, we will ask you to document the incident for us, and depending on the nature of what happened, we may ask you to receive some remedial ground or flight instruction. I’d like to emphasize that you should not be afraid to let WVFC know when something like this happens. As long as there hasn’t been a willful disregard for safety or a blatant violation of FAR’s any action taken by the club will be non-punitive, and your disclosure will remain completely confidential. Any instruction we may ask you to receive serves a dual purpose. We want to ensure that whatever deficiency causing the incident is addressed of course. In addition, any corrective action that you take proactively will be looked upon favorably by the FAA. Additionally, in general the best thing you can do to minimize any FAA action taken is to be proactive, honest, and cooperative.

Overall, these requests for information from the FAA are rare, and they are usually the result of a mandatory report from some sort of ATC facility. It’s important to remember that when some kind of minor mishap occurs, whether its due to pilot error, controller error, or mechanical failure, it should be disclosed. Doing so will speed up the FAA’s process for handling these reports and increase your chances for a favorable outcome if enforcement action is a possibility.