U.S. Department
of Transportation

Federal Aviation

St. Louis
Flight Standards District Office

10801 Pear Tree Lane
Suite 200
St. Ann, Missouri 63074


March 2000 




Thought for the month......Good Airmen Follow The Rules

Above The Law....We've all heard stories about unnamed airmen operating in various areas, who are chronic violators of the regulations. Often these are vicious rumors, but sometimes they are true. When they are true, they usually involve airmen who have a long history of disregard for the rules. They may be mechanics who are doing shoddy maintenance or using bogus parts, or pilots who are flying without a medical, flying IFR without an instrument rating, or holding out services to the public without a certificate.

Anyone who has flown beyond their first hour realizes that operating by the rules is no guarantee of a safe flight. In aviation education seminars I have pointed out numerous occasions where an activity was legal - but not safe. Likewise, operating contrary to the rules doesn't guarantee a flight will not be safe. Individuals who flaunt the rules may operate "safely" for a long time - but not forever. The reason is that an attitude of non-compliance is a slippery surface. Once we begin ignoring the rules, it gets easier and easier.

Several years ago a pilot flew into a local airport and landed without contacting the tower. The controllers were able to track him down and he said he couldn't call because he didn't have a radio. They explained about light gun signals and requested that he phone the tower before departing so they could get him out safely. The next day they spotted him taxiing out for the wrong runway. He hadn't called and he didn't respond to the light gun. They cleared everyone out of the way as he departed opposite the direction of traffic. When we tracked the N number, it turned up a previous owner who had sold the aircraft some years before. He gave us the name of an individual who had purchased it but there was no record of anyone by that name holding a pilot certificate.

This person not only showed his disregard for the rules, he didn't much care if he endangered other pilots as well. I don't know for sure, but I will bet that the last annual was performed by the previous owner and that there was nothing close to AVGAS in the fuel tanks. What do you suppose the chances are that he would care if it was less than VFR? It's likely that this individual had some deep seeded personality and value issues that affected his entire life, not just his flying. I doubt that he was a very pleasant person to encounter in a grocery store, much less in a traffic pattern. In aviation we often find these problems to be "self correcting". Ignoring enough rules long enough, will usually turn out fatal.

We all find ourselves tempted to deviate from the rules at times. Sometimes these are deviations that we make knowingly, such as a low pass at a friends house. We knew we were going to do it when we took off. We chose to ignore the rules to satisfy another purpose. Often however, we deviate from the rules to react to a situation, and many times the situation has developed because we may not have done a very thorough job of planning. Faced with an unplanned change, we start making things up as we go along. We can rationalize our actions by thinking of ourselves as a victim of circumstances. "I know what the regulations say, but the situation required me to violate them."

Sometimes the temptation is financial. An aircraft owner comes across a "good deal" - someone who is looking for some air transportation services. Here's a chance to fly the airplane and maybe even make a few bucks on the side. Naturally, all this has to be done on the sly because the pilot isn't operating under Part 135, hasn't received the required training, and isn't maintaining the aircraft to the higher standards required when holding out services to the public. Even if the "customer" is aware of that fact, they might not question it because their getting relatively cheap transportation. Of course both the "customer" and the pilot are going to have to figure out a way to disguise the money. Obviously it can't be listed as "air transportation". Maybe write it off as services rendered, or better yet, just pay cash. The rationalization is that pilots have done this for decades, the business is overregulated, and I wouldn't be any safer just from taking a checkride with the FAA.

This agreement may work for quite awhile, even years. But sometime down the road something unexpected may occur. Maybe it's an accident and a passenger gets hurt. Inquiring minds are going to want to know - why was that person aboard the aircraft? The NTSB wants to know, the FAA wants to know and the insurance companies want to know. Maybe the IRS would like a piece of the action too. How many people know the truth? How well will they keep their mouths shut when the heat is on? How good does the deal look now? Getting into the habit of deviating from the rules is like a flu. We get it and spread it to others.

It may be accurate to say that we have a lot of regulations, but I contend that is a good sign, not a bad one. We have a lot of regulations because we allow a lot of different kinds of aviation activities in our nation. The airspace must accommodate everything from hot air balloons to supersonic military fighters. In general aviation we must rely on self-regulation because we operate in a less structured environment. That, coupled with a wide variation in airmen experience levels, demands a conservative approach. Capable airmen learn to identify situations that will potentially put them in a situation that might require deviating from the rules. They also remain current with the rules that govern their activities. Sadly, many violations occur when we deviate from rules we forgot about or didn't know existed.

The bottom line to all this is so basic that it almost looks foolish in print. Good airmen follow the rules. It's one of the responsibilities that comes with the certificate.

Upcoming Events

Mar. 18
Mid-America Airport
Mascoutah, IL
Aviation Safety Seminar.
1:00 to 5:00pm.

Apr. 1
Parks College Hangar
St. Louis Downtown Parks Airport
Fly-in Drive-in Pancake Breakfast and Maintenance Seminar.

Apr. 13
Creve Coeur Aviation
Creve Coeur Airport
Mid-Air Collision Avoidance
7pm to 9pm.


Safety Program Manager

1-800-322-8876 x 4835