Coping: Dear FAA – See Baltimore

I’m in a rotten mood this morning.

As you know, our old airplane has been laid up for annual inspection while we await an approval to use a slightly different specialized rivet replacement than one called for in an old airworthiness directive on our airplane.  A bigger rivet replacement than required.


So, I hire the designated engineering representative (a busy fellow) and he gets the application in last week.  And then Yesterday we hear that the FAA can’t accept the application by my designated engineer and that it has to be filed by me.


Now, I don’t know if the FAA has a big problem with people running around paying consulting engineers (in advance) to file minutia like this  oversize rivet replacement request (the difference in bolt sizes is measured in mere thousandths) but it has started to take on the feel/vibe of a government bureaucracy playing either “How important we are” or simply  “running the clock.”

In a genuinely customer-service oriented group, if an application came in that should have gone to a different person, it would have been forwarded to the “right” person and promptly addressed.  Same day.

It’d be like getting in the wrong line at McDonalds.  Instead of saying “She’ll help you in the next line over”  and you’d have your burger in 2-minutes, THIS is the administrative equivalent of saying “Your engineer got you in the wrong line.  You have to go home and don’t come back until next week.  In the meantime, we won’t do anything on your behalf because you have to eat here and we don’t care. If you come back next week we will deal with your hamburger request then….if we’re not on vacation, or away at a meeting.”

If McDonalds had that kind of attitude, they’d be out of business.  But government agencies aren’t like that.

No, instead, the FAA kicks it back to the engineer, who punts to mechanic, who emails to me, but since his email didn’t forward right, I have to bug the (busy) engineer…and so Mr. Ure is losing patience.

What SHOULD have happened would be the review and approval as filed.  Should have been done Thursday.  No, Wednesday.

IF there was A legal requirement for me to apply, then  a 2-minute email or phone call from the FAA should have fixed it.  “Mr. Ure, you really want to fix this change on your airplane?  Please confirm…love, your government.”

Nope.  That, you see, would make sense.

Instead, by kicking it all back and expecting a roll-over & resubmission the FAA can count one application approved and one denied.    “Oh my God, we are SO busy…why look at all this work we have to do!  We need more people and more people to manage the people and managers to manage the managers….”

Yep, make half as much work look far bigger.

This is not the first time I have run into this kind of thinking.  I’ve seen it before in both state and federal education bureacrazies, as well.

You may remember I have been a vocational college president.  What happened with the US Dept of Ed is during along-ago audit,  an overly zealous auditor came up with lots of “findings” of errors on the part of a school I was managing.  He was threatening, doing the bureaucrat’s special Gotcha Dance that they do.

However, when I got the report it was simply dealt by Ures truly by pointing out that the audit period was for three years previous when a whole different set of rules was involved –  and the bureaucrat had incorrectly applied current award year rules – which were substantially different.

End of Gotcha Dance but it became the subject of my letter to the Inspector General’s office once the audit “findings” were thrown out.

Disney owns the trademark on Mickey Mouse, I think.  It’s too bad.  I can think of lots of bureaucracies more deserving of the logo.

I see it in planning departments, building departments, police departments…come to think of it, I can’t think of many places I haven’t seen it.

This is not to say that I don’t respect the FAA.  I do. 

But this is the second big piece of evidence I’ve seen that they have no clue when comes to serving the people who pay the bills, in the first place.   Big bills they are:  Not only are most government workers making more than the peeps nowadays, but special retirement programs and medical, too…

The relationship is not an adversarial one, except as petty bureaucrats make it so.  But it drifts that-a-way.   The Dance doesn’t help.

Is it just the nickel and diming of George and running the clock so he can’t play with his hobby?


Example #2:  The FAA has also been sitting on its butt when comes to reform of the Third Class Medical requirements.  The proposal has been made that for private plane use (not for hire) that evidence you can drive a car (e.g. see well enough for a driver’s license) should suffice for driving a private airplane.

The idea has been promoted by the Experiment Aircraft Association, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, the Air Safety Foundation if I recall correctly, and anyone else with a nickel’s worth of understanding.

And YET TWO YEARS ON, the FAA can’t get this one right and the whole kit and caboodle will likely end up back in Congress where the FAA will have to be TOLD specifically to accept a driver’s license in lieu of the third class medical…something they could have done years ago.

But not when empire building is at play.

All of this said, the FAA is quick to take credit for air safety.  Reality check:  the FAA doesn’t fly or fix airplanes.  It’s the engineers, mechanics, and the pilots who get the job done.  And it would be nice to have a more collegial and less bureaucratic relationship toward that end.

And don’t look now, but it seems likely to me that when the Baltimorons are out trashing Mobtown, there’s an undercurrent of frustration with the bureaucracies that forget the role of service to the public.

There.  I feel better now.

I’ll be back next week for my hamburger.   (I’m expecting “extra pickle, now.)

In the meantime, I’ll just keep putting everything into a file so every member of every aviation committee or subcommittee, the GAO, and inspectors general all get some reading material if Mr. Ure doesn’t get a better “customer service experience” than he has, so far. 

The message of Baltimore is people will only “get back in line” so much.  And patriotic, hard working, tax-paying, small business owning private pilots ain’t all that much different when we begin to see The Dance.

At so many levels, we’ve slipped from government by and for the people to government against and on the people.

Write when you break-even,


16 thoughts on “Coping: Dear FAA – See Baltimore”

  1. Sorry you’re having a bad day George. Stop–

    It’s the weekend. Happy Friday, cranky pants!

  2. Hi George,
    Sorry about the troubles with the FAA on the rivet. But on the medical, if you lived in Florida you’d likely have a different opinion. Two years ago a relative then 97 was given an 8 year renewal on his driver’s license. I think he bribed an optometrist to get by the vision requirement. A month ago I experienced a brain bleed. I should be legal to drive again in another 5 months, but flying in unpressurized airplanes is something that I’ll probably never do again. Yes, the medical is a PITA but it is at least potentially more useful than days of your life and mucho dollars spent on a rivet.

    • The 3 class med does not address pressurization or any of those kinds of issues that come with aging.
      And those of us who are gracefully aging pilots really go out of our way to be damn good (and safe) pilots. With this comes something called “personal minimums” training. Part of it may be found in the AOPA course on aging and flying (that gets into some of the physiology of it) and part comes in mental acuity testing.
      Some of us more fanatical pilot types even participate in the FAA WING’s program (I have both regular and advanced WINGS in progress, one phase of each complete) and I even do recurrent (not required) instrument approach and my biennial flight review is an annual. Can’t be too safe.
      I believe seriously that pilots are very good at making command decisions (comes with the complexities of flying) and that the third class is more a bureaucratic decision than a solid medical one. If the government were really serious ab out traffic accidents, it seems to me, you’d have to get drug test to get a driver’s license and any encounter with LEOs over substances would be reason to jerk a driver’s license. How’d you like them apples?

  3. You forgot about the idea that truth is exposed in the movies. Do you not recall that in Beetlejuice, Hell was portrayed as a bureaucracy? Happy May Day. Go enjoy the beautiful spring weather and don’t let the bastards grind you down.

  4. Look at it this way George – you are in good company. I have a clown I need to have served so I can ask a federal Judge to lock him up ’till he turns over a login/password he’s been ordered to turn over. Said clown is ‘process service resistant’ – the Fedeal Judge sent out the US Marshalls to have him brought in and they could not find him. I decide “Hey, lets have the Sheriff serve him, because he’ll be in the same building as them where they will be acting as bailiffs on 2 different days in a known room and at a known time.” They could not take the paperwork without the address of the courtroom, and it was not their job to provide me with the address. It is all the same building, serviced by the sheriff and yet somehow getting them to take $60 took from 2:30 to 5:10.

  5. Imagine , take a deep relaxing breath , you are on an island with 30-300 other people , its hard work surviving on this island, you have to go out once a week to fish for your community and while you are out fishing the ladies and kids and grandparents are all doing something,between their laughter and jokes on each other ,they find time to gather wood for cooking,yes others are mending and others are watching over the ones who are dying ,and others are helping the soon to be mothers ,their shelters only require once or twice a year repairs,they havent had a death from a wild animal in decades since they eradicated them from the higher food chain,,there is a spring that runs through the middle of their community, they have learned to live with mother nature,between the storms and summer heat they appreciate the cooling of their community by the trees ,food grows naturally and they the people have learned how to make more of what they want most grow abundantly ,they worship the sun each day and their elderly and the new born that go and come ,,,,,that was until a wicked old queen from the west demanded they all pay and work 12 hours a day

  6. This might be “universe’s” way of politely telling you to sell the plane and concentrate on the real stuff. How about streaming and on demand audio… sort of an air for air exchange?

  7. Just a reminder, George, at the FAA their motto is “We’re not happy ’til URE not happy.”. :-0

    For further proof that we’re living in a turd world country: try getting any kind of decent delivery service from UPS or FedEx lately. We are going bald tearing our hair out over drivers who want us to “meet” them somewhere (at their convenience, of course) or drop packages off at the local C-store (25 miles away). Good luck with calling corporate unless you like living in voicemail jail. Customer service is soooooo last century. Other evil companies: Amazon, Google, Apple, MS, Verizon, ComCast . . . the list goes on and on. USA! USA!! USA!!!

  8. George – almost you make me laugh – and I really don’t ‘feel’ like laughing this year: ANYONE that believes any government or even quasi-government agency or entity is or was created as or to serve the people is living on some other planet – not just another country. They are created to serve themselves and collect money. And anyone that pays taxes that believes the myth that they work on your behalf because you “pay their salary” needs to be examined by a real psychiatrist. They pay themselves with money they have extorted or coerced from working folk – and they dole it out to folks that will keep them in their position. It’s like “and honest politician” – a true oxymoron.

  9. George , you SHOULD feel better today. As as long passed friend used to exclaim: Hoorah Hooray, it’s the first of May! Outdoor f..(lovemaking) begins today! Something we can all be happy about…

  10. Amen, George. I believe the bulk of your readers here feel the same way about certain “agencies” (certain?, try almost all). Hope the rest of your weekend goes well and you get some fun time in. As for me, working the job and then working on getting the garden whipped into shape. ‘Tis the season.

  11. Could it be that the authorities in Baltimore were looking for some “plausible deniabilty” in Mr. Gray’s case? The scenario goes that the paddy wagon made four stops on the way to the station to pick up someone else and to try to calm down Mr. Gray.From my own personal experience it is quite likely the officers used some physical “persuasion” to quiet him down. So they came up with the other passenger who didn’t really see anything and gave him the offer ala Bob Dylan’s “Hurricane”, “think you’d like to play ball with the law”, “we got you for the motel job,etc”. You have to consider the histrory of Baltimore PD. I witness such things by the SPD 40 ye3ars ago.

Comments are closed.