GAO Report: FAA Needs to Better Prevent, Detect, and Respond to Fraud and Abuse Risks in Aircraft RegistrationGAO Report: FAA Needs to Better Prevent, Detect, and Respond to Fraud and Abuse Risks in Aircraft Re see more
NAFA member, Scott McCreary, Vice President at McAfee & Taft, shares the GAO Report.
Today the U.S Government Accountability Office issued its long awaited report regarding the audit of the FAA Aircraft Registry. The report, titled "Aviation: FAA Needs to Better Prevent, Detect, and Respond to Fraud and Abuse Risks in Aircraft Registration" and can be found at www.gao.gov/products/GAO-20-164. The audit was extensive and ultimately provides the following recommendations:
- The Administrator of FAA should conduct and document a risk assessment that considers inherent and residual fraud and abuse risks that may enable criminal, national security, or safety risks. (Recommendation 1)
- The Administrator of FAA should determine impact, likelihood, and risk tolerance as part of a risk assessment. (Recommendation 2)
- The Administrator of FAA should develop a strategy that outlines specific actions to address analyzed risks, including periodic assessments to evaluate continuing effectiveness of the risk response. (Recommendation 3)
- The Administrator of FAA should collect and record information on individual registrants, initially including name, address, date of birth, and driver's license or pilot's license, or both, with subsequent PII elements informed by the risk assessment, once completed. (Recommendation 4)
- The Administrator of FAA should collect and record information on legal entities not traded publicly—on each individual and entity that owns more than 25 percent of the aircraft; for individuals: name, date of birth, physical address, and driver's license or pilot's license, or both; and for entities: name, physical address, state of residence, and taxpayer identification number. (Recommendation 5)
- The Administrator of FAA should verify aircraft registration applicants' and dealers' eligibility and information. (Recommendation 6)
- The Administrator of FAA should increase aircraft registration and dealer fees to ensure the fees are sufficient to cover the costs of FAA efforts to collect and verify applicant information while keeping pace with inflation. (Recommendation 7)
- The Administrator of FAA should ensure, as part of aircraft registry IT modernization, that information currently collected in ancillary files or in PDF format on (1) owners and related individuals and entities with potentially significant responsibilities for aircraft ownership (e.g., beneficial owners, trustors, trustees, beneficiaries, stockholders, directors, and managers) and (2) declarations of international operations is recorded in an electronic format that facilitates data analytics by FAA and its stakeholders. (Recommendation 8)
- The Administrator of FAA should link information on owners and related individuals and entities with significant responsibilities for aircraft ownership through a common identifier. (Recommendation 9)
- The Administrator of FAA should, as part of IT modernization, develop an approach to check OFAC sanctions data on owners and related individuals and entities with potentially significant responsibilities for aircraft ownership for coordination with OFAC and to flag sanctioned individuals and entities across aircraft registration and dealer systems. (Recommendation 10)
- The Administrator of FAA should use data collected as part of IT modernization as well as current data sources to identify and analyze patterns of activity indicative of fraud or abuse, based on information from declarations of international operations, postal addresses, sanctions listings, and other sources, and information on dealers, noncitizen corporations, and individuals and entities with significant responsibilities for aircraft ownership. (Recommendation 11)
- The Administrator of FAA should develop and implement risk-based mitigation actions to address potential fraud and abuse identified through data analyses. (Recommendation 12)
- The Administrator of FAA should develop mechanisms, including regulations if necessary, for dealer suspension and revocation. (Recommendation 13)
- The Administrator of FAA, in coordination with relevant law-enforcement agencies, should enhance coordination within the Aircraft Registry Task Force through collaborative mechanisms such as written agreements and use of liaison positions. (Recommendation 14)
- The Administrator of FAA, in coordination with relevant law-enforcement agencies, should develop a mechanism to provide declarations of international operations for law-enforcement purposes. (Recommendation 15)
If implemented, these changes will clearly affect many individuals and companies that own and operate aircraft. The lawyers in the McAfee & Taft Aviation Group will continue to provide updates as the industry digests this information.
This article was originally published by McAfee & Taft on March 25, 2020.
NAFA Webinar: Bringing Title and Registration Into the 21st Century see more
The FAA is updating and modernizing its title and registration system in accordance with the GAO report, but how much do you know about what changes are actually being made and how those changes might affect your business operations, costs, and registration systems.
What issues might arise from a newer, more modern electronic filing system and digital signatures? What is the difference between digital and electronic signatures, and what position is the FAA taking on this in the modernization process.
And what about GATS? What is it and how does it fit into the new modernization system?
Watch our webinar to learn more about everything that is happening to bring Title and Registration Procedures into the 21st Century.
Meet our Moderator and Panelists:
Ford von Weise, Director & Head - Global Aircraft Finance & Aircraft Advisory Services, Citi Private Bank (Moderator)
Scott McCreary, Shareholder, Director, McAfee & Taft
Debbie Mercer-Erwin, President of Wright Brothers Aircraft Title
Jeff Towers, VP & General Counsel for TVPX
Ed Kammerer, Shareholder for Greenberg Traurig, LLP
Webinar slides can be viewed here.This NAFA webinar originally aired on November 10, 2020.
FAA Aircraft Registry Reaffirms its Position on Digital v. Electronic Signatures. see more
NAFA member, Scott McCreary, Vice President at McAfee & Taft, discusses the FAA's Aircraft Registry's position on digital versus electronic signatures.
The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a Memorandum to the FAA Public Documents Room on September 9, 2019, reiterating the position that it would accept documents with digital signatures, but not accept documents executed with only the electronic signature methodology. The Memorandum provides that “An electronic signature is a method of signing a document whereas a digital signature is the encryption/decryption technology of which an electronic signature is built. The digital signature secures the data associated with an electronically signed document.”
The Memorandum confirms that in the past the FAA Aircraft Registry (Registry) may have unknowingly accepted documents with merely electronic signatures. The most common electronic signatures filed with the Registry were produced with DocuSign or Adobe, but the Memorandum confirms both programs have a digital signature option that could be utilized.
By way of background, in May of 2016 the FAA issued a Notice of Policy Clarification for Acceptance of Documents With Digital Signatures (81 FR 23384). The Policy Clarification confirms that the Registry will accept printed duplicates of electronic documents that display legible, digital signatures that are filed in compliance with Parts 47 and 49 of the FAA Regulations (14 CFR parts 47 & 49). The Policy Clarification is clear that only digital signatures, as compared to the broader classification of electronic signatures, are acceptable. The Registry expands on the distinction between digital signatures and electronic signatures in its AFS-750 Change Bulletin 16-03, which further references FAA Order 1370.104, Digital Signature Policy.
The Policy Clarification goes on to provide that "A legible and acceptable digital signature will have, at minimum, the following components: (1) Shows the name of the signer and is applied in a manner to execute or validate the document; (2) Includes the typed or printed name of the signer below or adjacent to the signature when the signature uses a digitized or scanned version of the signer’s hand scribed signature or the name is in a cursive font; (3) Shows the signer’s corporate, managerial, or partnership title as part of or adjacent to the digital signature when the signer is signing on behalf of an organization or legal entity; (4) Shows evidence of authentication of the signer’s identity such as the text ‘‘digitally signed by’’ along with the software provider’s seal/watermark, date and time of execution; or, have an authentication code or key identifying the software provider; and (5) Has a font, size and color density that is clearly legible and reproducible when reviewed, copied and scanned into a black on white format."
Prior to the Policy Clarification, the Registry would only accept originally, ink signed documents. The use of digital signatures has certainly been a great benefit to the industry and very helpful for closing aircraft transactions which require filings with the Registry.
It is often difficult to determine if a document has been digitally executed, and different programs (such as DocuSign and Adobe) identify digitally executed signatures differently. Parties should be careful to make certain any documents filed with the Registry are ink signed originals or digitally executed in compliance with the Registry requirements.
This article was originally published by McAfee & Taft on September 9, 2019.
The GAO Report Affects Dealers Too see more
NAFA member, Debbie Mercer-Erwin, President of Wright Brothers Aircraft Title, discusses the latest report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) regarding the FAA Registry practices.
The much-awaited report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) regarding Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Registry practices was released in March, and the title is telling: “FAA Needs to Better Prevent, Detect, and Respond to Fraud and Abuse Risks in Aircraft Registration”.
The FAA is responsible for issuing aircraft registration to individuals and entities meeting certain requirements: US citizenship, permanent/physical address, completed application, and bill of sale, among others.
They are also permitted to issue dealer certificates, or licenses, in support of aviation commerce – the same requirements apply, with the addition of substantial engagement in manufacturing or selling of aircraft.
The main purpose is to allow manufacturers and dealers to conduct test flights for prospective buyers. To this effect, dealers can obtain more than one certificate, as well as use a certificate for any aircraft they own. The license is also generally valid for a dealer’s agent, employee, or prospective buyer.
In 2018, approximately 71,000 registration applications and nearly 10,000 dealer certifications were processed at the FAA. Registering an aircraft for a 3-year period brings a $5 application fee, while a 1-year dealer license is $10 (plus $2 for additional certificates).
At such a low amount – that in fact hasn’t changed since 1964 – FAA operating costs associated with processing applications aren’t even covered. This has left US taxpayers funding the Registry for decades.
Likewise, there has been nothing left over, or even earmarked, to enable the FAA to increase vetting of registrants, which is a top priority in the GAO’s report. Specifically, the report was based on analysis of FAA Registry function and ability to handle fraud and abuse risks in aircraft registrations, including dealer certificates.
It’s well known that the FAA has generally relied on self-certification of registration applicants’ eligibility, requiring limited personally identifiable information (PII) that typically isn’t verified – the GAO’s report covers this factor in full, saying that the FAA’s focus on the completion of required documents limits their ability “to prevent fraud and abuse in aircraft registrations, which has enabled aircraft-related criminal, national security, or safety risks”.
The GAO also discovered that the FAA does not routinely consider data from the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) in the application process – which discounts individuals or entities who are currently under sanctions.
Similar happens with dealer certificates – the FAA does not verify identity, check for prior violations, or enforce requirements. In fact, FAA regulations do not contain any “enforcement mechanisms to ensure continued dealer eligibility once approved or at the time of renewal”.
Because of these issues, as the GAO analysis discovered, fraud can occur. In one case, discovered years after the scheme had been enacted, a broker used falsified registration applications and bills of sale (with forged signatures for over 20 aircraft) to acquire $3 million from a bank.
The broker wanted to save his failing aircraft sales company, and essentially pledged 22 aircraft he didn’t own as collateral to do so. This person was also a licensed dealer who even renewed his certificate while implementing the scheme. Unfortunately, the FAA’s application process didn’t catch the fraud, and resulted in some of the rightful aircraft owners being temporarily grounded.
What does all of this mean for dealers though? In the end, the GAO made fifteen recommendations to the FAA. While they are all pertinent to the issues GAO discovered, a handful will affect dealers directly.
To begin, collecting and recording information on individuals and legal entities not traded publicly (including each individual and entity that owns more than 25% of an aircraft), with subsequent PII elements possibly required (see Recommendations 4 & 5).
Further, Recommendation 6 says the FAA “should verify aircraft registration applicants’ and dealers’ eligibility and information”.
As stated above, PII elements are currently limited and not verified by the FAA, but with these recommendations, would be verified and possibly increased based on an initial risk assessment – requiring more documentation (and time) to obtain a license, but reducing the risks associated with limited review of ownership information.
Recommendation 7 is also a huge factor in future dealer certifications, calling for increased registration and dealer fees to cover the cost of collection and verification efforts.
The FAA readily agreed to the GAO recommendations, having already begun massive modernization efforts under the Civil Aviation Registry Electronic Services (CARES) Initiative to increase efficiency and security.
CARES is scheduled for completion by October of 2021 and is widely expected to streamline and automate the aircraft registration process, along with dealer certification, by making FAA records electronically, and publicly, available.
The goals: allow submission of electronic applications and forms, improve controls, automate registration processes, and improve online data availability – which will expand FAA’s ability to secure against fraud, and make it easier to perform cross-agency checks.
Stemming from the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 (check out our highlights), and followed by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) report on implementing the update, the Registry is well on its way.
It is always important, however, to hire a company that knows the ins and outs of the FAA system to avoid errors in closing that could take time and money to correct – and it is especially so now. There are plenty of questions surrounding the accomplishment of all these efforts and recommendations, including:
How much ownership information is going to be made public, or government-access only? How much will registration and dealer certification fees increase to appropriately cover operation costs? Will FAA be tasked with more oversight and enforcement, and if so, how much time will that add to the registration process, and closing times?
Ultimately, the changes ahead will modernize the FAA’s Registry, helping to bring the aviation industry up to date in technology, efficiency, and security. There is still work to do, but we remain confident that every entity involved in this endeavor will fulfill expectations.
The FAA has not officially responded to the GAO’s report, but they have updated their website regarding the CARES Initiative.
This article was originally published by Wright Brothers Aircraft Title on June 16, 2020.
Filing Aircraft Registration Documents With The FAA Registry During The COVID-19 Pandemic: What You Need To KnowFiling Aircraft Registration Documents With The FAA Registry During The COVID-19 Pandemic: What You see more
NAFA member, Greg Reigel, Partner with Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton, LLP, discusses filing documents with the FAA Registry during the COVID-19 Pandemic.
In another instance of a “new-normal” resulting from COVID-19, the window at the FAA Registry, where real-time filing of aircraft registration documents used to occur, has closed. Although the FAA Registry is still open (for now), it has implemented new procedures for filing of aircraft registration documents. Three options are now available for recording documents:
Document Drop Bins.
The FAA has placed two bins outside the Public Documents room. One bin will be marked “Priority” and one bin will be for “Normal” processing (i.e. not priority). The FAA will retrieve documents from the Priority Bin every hour. It will retrieve documents submitted for normal processing twice a day.
Documents are filed when they are placed in one of the bins. However, will not be possible to obtain an immediate filing time for the documents as was the case in the past. Actual filing times will only be available after the documents are indexed in, scanned and available for viewing online. It is presently unclear how long that process will take.
E-Mail Filing To An Electronic Portal.
The FAA has a new e-mail filing process available subject to a number of limitations. Submitted documents must be digitally signed (i.e. Docusign, Adobe Sign, etc.) and each document must be 20 pages or less. Only one aircraft may be submitted in each e-mail and filing fees must be pre-paid at Pay.gov.
After submission, FAA will send an e-mail acknowledging receipt. However, documents will be processed during normal business hours with filing times available the same as when documents are filed via the bins.
Filing Via Mail.
As has always been the case, documents can still be filed via U.S. Mail, FedEx and UPS. And similar to the bin and e-mail filing, actual filing times will only be available once the documents are processed and in the FAA Registry’s system.
These new processes will also impact timing for receiving a “fly-wire” and for receiving Form 135 needed to accomplish International Registry filings. But it is unclear how much longer it will take to receive these back from the FAA.
The good news: The FAA Registry is still open and processing aircraft registration documents (for now). The bad news: These updated procedures will result in some delays in closing transactions, and a little less certainty regarding when documents were actually “filed” by the FAA. For example, in a transaction transferring risk of loss at the time of filing, that could present a problem.
Parties to aircraft transactions should review their documents to determine whether they are consistent with the new procedures. If they aren’t, parties should amend as needed.
This article was originally published by Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton, LLP. on March 23, 2020.
Overview of the GAO Report on FAA see more
In March of 2020, at the request of Congressmen Stephen Lynch and Peter King with the Subcommittee on National Security and the Committee on Oversight and Reform, the GAO released its long-awaited report on the FAA Registry’s ability to handle fraud and abuse risks in aircraft registrations. As the title of the report clearly implies, the GAO found that the FAA Needs to Better Prevent, Detect, and Respond to Fraud and Abuse Risks in Aircraft Registration.
More specifically, however, the report found that the FAA needs to better review and vet the actual owners of aircraft. As we all know, the FAA currently takes filed documents at face value, and records them if they meet certain requirements as set by the FAA itself. While the rest of the industry has been subject to more and more demands to Know Your Customer, and to adhere to KYC and OFAC guidelines, the FAA has remained immune. This report suggests that it is time for the FAA itself to do more due diligence and better vet the entities registering aircraft on its registry.
There is also a clear need to allow law enforcement agencies more access to the data contained in the FAA registry. Currently, registration information is mostly provided in .pdf format which is not easily searchable or accessible. Many law enforcement agencies expressed frustration with an inability to have easy access to this information, and the report outlines opportunities for the FAA to be a center point to house data that could help law enforcement agencies to not only have better access to information, but to potentially allow for better cross-agency coordination to crack down on illegal activity involving the registration and use of general aviation aircraft.
The report seems to focus on increasing transparency in “Opaque Ownership Structures” for registering aircraft, which the GAO believes are at the highest risk for fraud and abuse. Opaque Ownership Structures are legitimate business structures that are widely used by corporations and individuals to facilitate commerce as well as for asset and tax management. However, they lack transparency related to aircraft registrations and can create challenges for safety and law-enforcement investigators seeking information about beneficial owners to support timely investigations.
These ownership structures can include the following:
- shell companies, especially in cases where there is foreign ownership that is spread across jurisdictions;
- complex ownership and control structures involving many layers of shares registered in the name of other legal entities;
- formal nominee shareholders and directors where the identity of the beneficial owner is undisclosed;
- trusts and other legal arrangements that enable a separation of legal ownership and beneficial ownership of assets;
- use of intermediaries in forming legal entities, including professional intermediaries.
It is worth noting that the report specifically excludes publicly traded companies, shifting the focus of these security measures away from commercial airlines and towards the general aviation industry.
On pages 58-59 of the report, the GAO outlined 15 recommendations for Executive Action by the FAA. Many of the recommended improvements to the FAA system are expected to be implemented in the FAA’s modernization project, slated to be completed by October 2021. Generally speaking, the modernization project is expected to help streamline and automate the aircraft registration process, and make the FAA records available to the public at all times. The GAO report includes recommendations for using this new system to improve the FAA’s vetting process of owners registering aircraft on the FAA’s system, and using that technology to allow law enforcement officials more access to registry data. Initial conversations with the FAA indicate they are on track to complete this project by the stated October 2021 deadline.
While the GAO has many recommendations to the FAA, there are still many questions to be answered. These are the Top Issues we have identified:
- The biggest unanswered question causing the most consternation in the industry, is the one involving transparency of ownership information. How much transparency will there really be? Will all aircraft ownership information be made available to the public, or only some? Will there be sections of registry data that remain “private” and only made available to authorized government agencies? That remains to be seen.
- Possibly the second largest question includes cost. The report is clear that the $5 filing fee set in 1964 is not enough to cover even today’s operating expenses, much less the costs to modernize the system. FAA has been talking about increasing registration costs for years, so an increase can likely be expected, but the question of how much remains to be answered. How much will it cost to register an aircraft in the future?
- Time is money, so questions about increases in registration time also remain. If FAA will be doing more vetting of its registrants, how much time will that take? How much longer will it take to register an aircraft with the FAA? What will this do to aircraft closing timelines?
- Lastly, there is the issue of international operations. The report expresses clear concern for FAA’s ability to issue Declarations of International Operations without knowledge or consent of specific law enforcement agencies. FAA currently expedites requests for international flights on a daily basis for the general aviation community, but will they be able to do that in the future? Or will there be a more stringent system of checks and balances required to issue Declarations of International Operations? And how long will it take to finally have one issued?
The FAA has yet to officially respond to the GAO’s report, but they have updated their website on the CARES Initiative to enhance and modernize the FAA registration services. To learn more about it, you can go to their website here: https://www.faa.gov/about/initiatives/cares/
Furthermore, on March 30, 2020, they issued their Third Request For Information, requesting information from the industry. To participate, click here: https://beta.sam.gov/opp/8b7d6e20940d4d5b8b4e8e9e76a991b3/view
As NAFA members, it is important that we participate in any proposed changes to the FAA registration process as much as possible. To the extent that you have time to fill out the FAA’s RFI, we encourage our members to do so.
NAFA will continue to monitor the proposed changes and the FAA’s eventual response and will report those to the membership.
The full report can be found here: https://www.gao.gov/assets/710/705505.pdf
Patience Is Key for Successful Aircraft Transactions During COVID-19 see more
NAFA member, NBAA, shares a review of their recent webinar about processing aircraft transaction documents during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The FAA Aircraft Registration Branch continues to process aircraft transaction documents during the COVID-19 pandemic; however, the process has been slowed. In a recent NBAA News Hour webinar, experts discussed how to successfully complete aircraft transactions during these challenging times.
Peter Korns, NBAA’s senior manager of tax, operations and workforce engagement, moderated the webinar. Scott McCreary – shareholder and aviation group leader of McAfee & Taft – and Chris Younger – principal at GKG Law, P.C., – provided expert guidance.
The FAA aircraft registry maintains information on more than 300,000 civil aircraft to facilitate aviation safety, security and commerce. The registry accepts and processes documents to register and operate aircraft in the United States, as well as to “perfect” or validate interests in an aircraft, explained Younger. The registry typically accepts filings by mail or commercial delivery services, via email or in person at the FAA Public Documents Room in Oklahoma City, OK.
Several new, temporary policies are in place to mitigate concerns about COVID-19 exposure and ensure appropriate social-distancing practices for filers and registry employees. The Public Documents Room is currently closed for direct filing, although parties may leave documents in a nearby bin for regular pickup by registry staff. All mailed documents are subject to a 72-hour quarantine period, which means those documents will not be processed or file stamped until at least 72 hours following receipt or acceptance. Filers should be aware that due to this quarantine, the accepted date of the documents is not the same as the file stamp date.
Fortunately, the FAA has expanded the ability to file documents by email. McCreary summarized new email filing procedures, including a requirement for documents to be digitally executed through a digital signature program, such as DocuSign. As is the case for mailing documents, an email receipt message does not constitute the date of formal filing with the FAA.
Younger added that import and export processes can also be more complicated as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, imports from Mexico are subject to a 72-hour quarantine.
The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 designated registry employees as “excepted” or “essential employees” in the event of a government shutdown or emergency furlough.
Although it’s unclear if the legislative language is broad enough to cover the COVID-19 crisis, the experts see no signs at this time of a disruption of operations or possible closure of the registry. However, the experts caution this is a fluid situation, and there is no projected timeframe to return to normal registry and transactions procedures.
“In business aviation, there’s always an urgency to get transactions closed,” said Younger. “Now there’s an increased tension because the process is slower to be more protective of FAA employees.”
Aircraft transactions can still be completed, but patience is key.
This webinar, titled “FAA Transaction Guidance During the COVID-19 Crisis,” is just one in a series of educational opportunities NBAA has planned for the coming weeks. Learn more, register for upcoming webinars and view recordings of past webinars on the NBAA News Hour site.
This article was originally published by NBAA on April 13, 2020.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao Announces $10 Billion in Relief for America’s Airports see more
WASHINGTON – U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao today announced the award of approximately $10 billion to commercial and general aviation airports from the Trump Administration's newly created Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act Airport Grant Program. The effort will provide unprecedented and immediate relief to American families, workers, and businesses.
“This $10 billion in emergency resources will help fund the continued operations of our nation’s airports during this crisis and save workers’ jobs,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.
In less than two weeks since the bill was signed into law, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is ready to deliver CARES Act grants to eligible airports throughout the nation. The grants will provide economic relief to airports around the country affected by the COVID-19 public health emergency.
“Thank you to the dedicated men and women from the FAA’s Office of Airports for creating an entirely new program in record time to assist airport sponsors in desperate need of these funds,” said FAA Administrator Steve Dickson.
This funding will support continuing operations and replace lost revenue resulting from the sharp decline in passenger traffic and other airport business due to the COVID-19 public health emergency. The funds are available for airport capital expenditures, airport operating expenses including payroll and utilities, and airport debt payments.
The FAA encourages airport sponsors to spend the grants funds immediately to help minimize any adverse impact from the current public health emergency. Airport sponsors should work with their local FAA Office of Airports field office on the application and grant-agreement process.
The CARES Act also provides funds to increase the Federal share to 100 percent for grants awarded under the fiscal year 2020 appropriations for Airport Improvement Program (AIP) and Supplemental Discretionary grants. Under normal circumstances, AIP grant recipients contribute a matching percentage of the project costs. Providing this additional funding and eliminating the local share will allow critical safety and capacity projects to continue as planned regardless of airport sponsors’ current financial circumstances.
The FAA will use a streamlined application and grant-agreement process to make this funding immediately available for critical airport needs. The funds will be available as soon as the airport sponsor executes a grant agreement.
The CARES Act provides new funds distributed by various formulas for all airports that are part of the national airport system. This includes all commercial service airports, all reliever airports and some public-owned general aviation airports.
There is additional program information on the CARES Act website.
This release was originally published by the U.S. Department of Transportation on April 14, 2020.
GA Fights for Public Benefit Exemptions, Accommodations see more
NAFA member, AOPA, fights for the general aviation industry public benefit exemptions and accommodations.
As the coronavirus pandemic alters every facet of life and how industries around the globe operate, the aviation sector is trying to find its new normal. The FAA has taken steps to address the heavily impacted operations of commercial carriers amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and now, general aviation continues to ask for the same treatment as it provides vital services to the public and economy while fighting a worldwide crisis.
General aviation is providing vital services to the public and economy during the coronavirus pandemic, as exemplified by Michigan Seaplane flight school instructors Nick Hall and Mike Mato, who have been flying medical face shields to a Michigan hospital in a Cessna 206. AOPA and other aviation groups are requesting exemptions for GA because it is serving a critical role. Photo courtesy of Nick Hall and Mike Mato.
In an April 1 letter to FAA Associate Administrator for Aviation Safety Ali Bahrami, AOPA and seven other industry groups urged the agency to empower the continued health of the multibillion-dollar GA industry through extensions to examinations, certifications, maintenance, and filings. GA has stepped up in many ways to help the nation deal with the COVID-19 crisis through its more than 5,000 public airports across the country, providing transportation and logistical support for needed supplies and personnel.
While the commercial aviation sector has taken center stage as being hard hit throughout the pandemic, the vital contributions of GA often go unrecognized.
General aviation has long been vital to the nation’s transportation and economic infrastructure,” said Christopher Cooper, AOPA director of regulatory affairs. “From providing medical resources to remote locations to supporting millions of jobs and economic activity across the United States, the benefit general aviation provides to the public, especially in times of national crisis, is enormous. Having these exemptions and deviations approved by the FAA will ensure general aviation has limited delay in operations to help the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The letter also cited a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP study showing that GA contributes 1.2 million jobs and $247 billion in economic activity to the United States. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), which falls under the Department of Homeland Security, has designated transportation, which includes GA, as a critical infrastructure sector. Air medical is specifically named by CISA as a critical workforce, and air medical aircraft continue to provide lifesaving missions for those in need whether stricken by COVID-19 or other health emergencies.
“This letter builds upon an earlier request sent to the FAA on March 17, further explaining why these extensions are justified since general aviation is, indeed, a public good. Regulations and exemptions must be found to be for the public good, and this is the rationale the FAA used to provide exemptions for air carriers and commercial operations. We believe general aviation should also be provided exemptions based on the same rationale,” said Cooper.
Similar regulatory activity has already been enacted by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency in Europe and the Civil Aviation Authority in the United Kingdom, where comparable exemptions have been granted to both commercial and noncommercial operations in their respective countries.
Along with AOPA, the Air Medical Operators Association, the Experimental Aircraft Association, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, Helicopter Association International, the National Agricultural Aviation Association, the National Air Transportation Association, and the National Business Aviation Association signed the April 1 letter.
AOPA and seven other GA organizations signed an April 1 letter to the FAA requesting a wide range of exemptions and deviations:
- Extension of FAR Part 61 pilot currency requirements, including the flight review and instrument proficiency check.
- Guidance that 709 reexaminations or paperwork inspections in person (such as logbook inspections under FAR 61.51, or maintenance record inspections under FAR 91.417) be deferred or at least be conducted electronically during the current social distancing safety protocols and directives regarding nonessential activities.
- Extensions for certificated flight instructor certificate renewal, expiration, and endorsement periods.
- Extension of knowledge exam expiration period.
- Extensions for applicants on the ability to complete practical examinations.
- Extension for filing documents under FAR Part 13 (Subparts C, D, and G).
- Extensions for aircraft maintenance and continuing airworthiness requirements with necessary mitigation procedures.
This article was originally published by AOPA on April 2, 2020.
Associations Seek Exemptions to Continue Flying During COVID-19 Pandemic see more
Washington, DC, April 3, 2020 – In an April 1 letter to FAA Associate Administrator for Aviation Safety Ali Bahrami, NBAA and other general aviation (GA) groups requested exemptions and other accommodations to ensure continuity of operations and commerce during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Included requests for exemptions or deviations most applicable to NBAA members include:
- Extension of 14 CFR Part 61 pilot current requirements, e.g. flight review, IPC, PIC/SIC proficiency checks;
- Extensions for certified flight instructor certificate renewal, expiration and endorsement periods; and
- Extensions for aircraft maintenance and continuing airworthiness requirements with necessary mitigation procedures.
The group letter notes other aviation authorities have provided similar exemptions for commercial and noncommercial operations.
The April 1 letter highlights the important role general aviation plays in the U.S. and global economy and the significant public benefit provided by the industry. For example, general aviation contributes 1.1 million jobs and $247 billion in economic activity to the U.S. economy and is a literal lifeline to many communities, connecting more than 5,000 public airports, compared to the 500 used by scheduled airlines.
The Air Medical Operators Association, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, Experimental Aircraft Association, General Aviation Manufacturers Association, Helicopter Association International, National Agricultural Aviation Association and National Air Transportation Association also signed the April 1 letter to Mr. Bahrami.
General aviation provides extensive air medical services, which are designated by the Department of Homeland Security’s Cyber Infrastructure and Security Agency (CISA) as a critical workforce; monitors pipelines and powerlines; transports critical medical personnel; and conducts important aerial applications in agriculture and pest control programs.
Perhaps most importantly during this crisis, general aviation airmen and aircraft conduct humanitarian flights delivering masks, ventilators and other essential items.
Prior to signing on to this most recent letter, NBAA also sought and received exemptions for certain Part 135 training requirements in March. The FAA also worked with NBAA and other groups to issue a COVID-19-driven exemptionallowing pilots to continue to fly if their airmen medical certificate expires between March 31 and June 30.
“We appreciate the FAA’s cooperation and efforts to provide these exemptions and exceptions, keeping business aviation flying without compromising safety or negatively impacting the National Airspace System,” said Brian Koester, CAM, NBAA’s director of flight operations and regulations. “Business aviation plays an important role as the nation continues its work to contain COVID-19, mitigate the devastation the virus might cause and – eventually – begin nationwide recovery.”
Contact: Dan Hubbard, 202-783-9360, firstname.lastname@example.org
This release was originally published by NBAA on April 3, 2020.
Update: FAA Extends NBAA’s Small Aircraft Exemption Until 2022 see more
NAFA member, NBAA, shares update on FAA's NBAA Small Aircraft Exemption.
The FAA recently approved a 24-month extension to NBAA’s Small Aircraft Exemption until March 31, 2022, allowing NBAA members that operate small aircraft to take advantage of the flexibility usually offered to operators of larger, turbine-powered aircraft. The exemption includes a new item in the Conditions and Limitations section.
The current version of the exemption – officially known as Exemption 7897K, the NBAA Small Aircraft Exemption – provides operators of piston-powered airplanes, small airplanes (those with a gross weight of 12,500 pounds or less) and rotorcraft a number of advantages, including the use of alternative maintenance programs and limited cost-reimbursement for certain flights in accordance with Part 91 Subpart F of the Federal Aviation Regulations.
The cost-sharing benefits of Part 91 Subpart F are typically limited to aircraft with a maximum takeoff weight of over 12,500 pounds, multi-engine turbojet aircraft or fractional ownership program aircraft.
The cost-reimbursement options of Part 91 Subpart F are useful in regards to transportation of a guest on a company aircraft, the use of the aircraft by employees of a subsidiary company and other common scenarios. Time sharing, interchange and joint ownership agreements are also permitted under Part 91 Subpart F.
A new condition is included in the updated exemption.
As of Sept. 27, 2020, no person may operate an aircraft under the NBAA Small Aircraft Exemption unless that person files a “Notice of Joinder to FAA Exemptions No. 7897K.” This requirement can be met electronically and must include:
- Basic contact information for the person,
- The person’s NBAA membership number,
- A statement requesting the FAA appends the Notice of Joinder to the list of NBAA with authorization to use this exemption,
- A statement attesting the person will not conduct operations under this exemption if the person ceases to be an NBAA member, and
- An attestation the person will comply with all conditions and limitations of the exemption.
“Use of the exemption is overseen, in part, by a requirement to notify the local Flight Standards District Office when an operation will be conducted under the terms of the exemption,” said Doug Carr, NBAA’s vice president of regulatory and international affairs. “This notification requires the operator to provide a copy of the time-sharing, interchange or joint ownership agreements, and is an opportunity for the local office to review these documents and details of the operation for compliance.
“The FAA is bringing additional compliance checks and scrutiny to all exemptions, so it’s important that NBAA members understand this additional submission to the docket will ensure the NBAA Small Aircraft Exemption continues to be valid and is utilized appropriately,” said Carr.
NBAA will create a form to allow members to easily comply with the new requirements of the exemption. This form will be available prior to the Sept. 27, 2020, notification date.
“This NBAA-provided form will ease the burden of compliance and allow small aircraft operators who need the exemption to operate as they are currently, in compliance with regulations and the exemption conditions,” said Carr.
This article was originally published by NBAA on April 3, 2020.
FAA Responds to NBAA’s Call for COVID-19 Accommodations on Part 135 Training see more
NAFA member, NBAA, shares FAA's response to call for COVID-19 accommodations on Part 135 Training.
Faced with an unprecedented situation driven by the escalating COVID-19 pandemic, the FAA has answered NBAA’s call for the agency to take unprecedented steps to ensure that many charter operators are able to continue flying through the crisis.
On March 25, the agency issued the following four exemptions in effect through May 31, 2020, and applicable to most Part 135 operators:
- FAA-2020-0291, exempting Part 135 operators from the requirement that crewmembers don protective breathing equipment or oxygen masks during recurrent and upgrade training, testing and checking.
- FAA-2020-0292, allowing Part 135 ground personnel and crewmembers to complete recurrent training and qualification activities up to three calendar months after the month that the activity was due to have been completed, for requirements that were due to be completed through May 31, 2020.
- FAA-2020-0307, exempting Part 119 certificate holders, including some Part 135 operations, from the requirement that crewmembers don protective breathing equipment or oxygen masks during recurrent and upgrade training, checking and evaluation.
- FAA-2020-0308, allowing Part 119 certificate holders, including some Part 135 operations, allowing ground personnel, crewmembers and dispatchers to complete recurrent training and qualification activities up to three calendar months after the month that the activity was due to have been completed, for requirements that were due to be completed through May 31, 2020.
“We thank the FAA for its responsiveness to our request for these accommodations to ensure that business aviation operators will be able continue flying through this unprecedented and challenging situation,” said Brian Koester, NBAA director of flight operations and regulations. “As we continue to adapt to the realities of the COVID-19 environment, NBAA will work to ensure our industry is fairly represented in these and other actions taken to maintain our nation’s aviation infrastructure.”
In issuing these exemptions, the FAA noted that the agency has circumvented the typical publication process in the Federal Register, as “delaying action would have an adverse and potentially immediate impact on [the] continuity of critical aviation operations essential to the public interest.”
This article was originally published by NBAA on March 26, 2020.
FAA Makes Changes to Public Documents Room Due to COVID-19 see more
NAFA member, Debbie Mercer-Erwin, President of Wright Brothers Aircraft Title, Inc., shares the latest update on the FAA Civil Aviation Registry and Public Documents Room.
In light of the continued spread and impact of COVID-19, or Coronavirus, the FAA Civil Aviation Registry has issued new procedures affecting the Public Documents Room (PDR) in the Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center.
The change in processes comes in an attempt to minimize exposure to employees, permit-holders who regularly access the PDR, their families and the public at large.
The FAA intends to keep the PDR open and “provide essential services while maintaining social distancing and restricting physical public access.”
There are now temporary measures in place, effective as of 8:00 am, Thursday, March 19, 2020, to help slow the spread of Coronavirus and maintain efficiency at the Registry.
While the PDR remains open for their usual hours, 7:30 to 4:00 CDT, the “filing” window has been closed, which removes the ability to immediately file documents.
For now, document submissions will be collected from drop boxes located directly outside the PDR – hourly for those qualifying as “priority” and twice a day for those that do not.
During this time the Registry will not provide “minute-by-minute” filing stamps. Digital submissions are allowed if all closing documents are digitally signed and less than 20 pages.
Documents can still be mailed via the usual means, but there is now a temporary email option as well.
Documents can be emailed following certain requirements: all digitally signed, attachments 20 pages or less per document, one aircraft per email, and priority indicator.
Another notable change is that the FAA cannot guarantee “in by 11 out by COB” expedited processing of documents for imports.
There are also changes to payment services, which should now be completed online at pay.gov. A receipt can be generated to be submitted to the Registry if filing documents via email.
It may be a while before we fully see the effect these changes have on document filing and transactions, but there will certainly be some delay while we become accustomed to the new procedures.
While disruptions inevitably continue for industries worldwide, we are encouraged by the actions our leaders and communities are taking to protect our health and help businesses continue to run.
This is a summary of details regarding the FAA’s PDR changes. For more information and assistance please contact your local agent.
This release was originally published by Wright Brothers Aircraft Title, Inc. on March 20, 2020.
GATS! Coming Soon to a Country Near You see more
NAFA member, Wright Brothers Aircraft Title, discusses the Global Aircraft Trading System (GATS).
The Global Aircraft Trading System, or GATS, is an initiative stemming from one of the most successful multi-country treaties. The Cape Town Treaty, signed in 2001, set up uniform rules and regulations to help facilitate asset-based financing and leasing of aviation equipment worldwide.
As discussed in our previous blog, The History behind the International Registry (another initiative of Cape Town), the treaty established a set of laws more favorable to lenders that would expand international financing opportunities and open doors for new market entrants around the globe.
The Aviation Working Group (AWG) was a central participant in this process as a not-for-profit legal entity contributing to the development of policies, laws and regulations that advance international aviation financing and leasing.
Their latest project, coming soon to a country near you, is GATS, which specifically aims to “increase the transparency of and confidence in aircraft trading, and further protect rights, by introducing a secure, live and searchable electronic ledger displaying details of ownership and security interests.”
Both the International Registry and the Global Aircraft Trading System are designed to modernize and facilitate, via electronic registries, the efficient and secure trading and financing of aircraft equipment, while protecting the rights of all parties. GATS, however, focuses on “reducing the burdens on lessees, lessors and financiers” and even more so, protecting the lessee’s rights.
Out of necessity, the trading and financing of aircraft equipment subject to leases continues to grow in the aviation industry. Likewise, the need for trusts. You can read more about this in the blog Why an Aircraft Should be Registered in Trust, by our sister company, Aircraft Guaranty Corporation.
Subsequently, the need for more efficient lease and trust transactions has become increasingly important, especially in commercial aviation where ownership interests in leased collateral changes hands on a frequent basis. Every time the ownership changes, the lease between lessor and lessee must also change, creating a heavy burden on the lessees.
An airline employee once complained that they had to alter a lease agreement 11 times in 2 years. Placing aircraft in trust transfers the burden of these ownership changes to an owner trustee, allowing lessees to focus on operating their airlines. While the benefits of GATS can clearly be seen in the commercial airline realm, the benefits to the business and general aviation sector remain to be seen.
The fully electronic system will be voluntary and open to all industry participants. With e-signatures, e-delivery of documents and use of a secure e-ledger to record transactions, the platform will detail the trust history of aircraft that are registered on GATS.
The new registry could be another tool for aviation escrow services to use in Clearing Clouded Aircraft Titles, similar to an FAA title search. While this could increase safety and transparency in international aircraft transactions, it will also increase costs. It may also increase the time it takes to close, depending on how quickly and efficiently the new GATS registry system can be searched.
At first, any GATS trust will be formed in Ireland, Singapore or the U.S., and subject to the applicable jurisdiction for the creation and transfer of security interests. Available jurisdictions may expand in the future.
The rights of lessees will be specifically protected by prohibiting transfers unless agreed upon conditions in favor of the lessee have been met. GATS will also further “reinforce ‘no increased obligations’ lease provisions in favor of lessees”.
The GATS platform for electronic trading is practically here. The static URL was activated on December 10, 2019, and from March 1st to 31st a ‘simulated transaction period’ will be open. The full launch is targeted for April 1, 2020.
With the FAA issuing an opinion on January 22nd concluding that “the GATS transitional trust documents comply with applicable federal law and will support aircraft registration in the name of a GATS trustee”, it appears that GATS is ready for takeoff.
Stay tuned for more GATS developments. For more information on GATS, visit awg.aero/project/gats/.
This article was originally published by Wright Brothers Aircraft Title on February 10, 2020.
The Difference between Filed and Recorded FAA Documents & Why it Matters see more
NAFA member, Aircraft Guaranty Corporation, discusses what you need to know about filed and recorded FAA Documents.
There is a difference between the filing and recording of documents at the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA), and it matters when it comes to properly registering your aircraft in trust. This article explores the differences between the two and the effects both unrecorded and improperly recorded documents can have on an aircraft’s title and therefore registration in the U.S.
How are documents filed at the FAA?
The FAA has strict rules about how documents being filed need to look. The seller’s name must match the FAA records, only certain titles under signatures are acceptable, there are boxes to check for buyers, and lenders need help releasing outstanding loans or filing new ones. If any documents are not properly filled out when filed, the FAA could refuse to record them, causing problems for a buyer or owner trustee on down the line.
The FAA reviews all documents that are filed at or received by the central registry in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. For the time being, there is a window in the Public Documents Room (PD Room) where anyone can walk up and hand in a document for filing. The window attendant will stamp the document with the date and time it was received. This document has now been filed at the FAA.
With the digitization of all records, required by the FAA Reauthorization Bill passed on October 3rd, 2018, the PD Room is likely to be less of a factor in timely filings. However, whether in person, by mail, or via the internet, the rules and processes for filing documents remain the same.
How does the FAA record documents that have been filed?
Filed documents are put through a rigorous review process, which can take up to six weeks to complete. The FAA has an extensive list of rules and regulations that documents must meet in order to be eligible for recording. If you’re not familiar with the rules, specifically those that apply to your situation, there’s a good chance that your document will not be in the proper recording format.
Documents that meet all the requirements are stamped a second time with the new date and time reflecting that the document has been recorded by the FAA. They are then placed in the main aircraft file.
Interestingly, in most cases, the priority of recorded documents relates back to the filing date, giving “first in time, first in right” status to recorded documents based on the time they were filed, not recorded. In other words, generally, first to file wins (although this is ultimately decided by a court of competent jurisdiction).
If a document is rejected by the FAA because it doesn’t meet their regulations, it is not stamped as recorded and it is placed in a separate file called “suspense”. The suspense file is publicly available, so anyone can view what was filed and by whom, but questions always arise about the validity of these rejected documents.
Any unrecorded documents that remain in the suspense file of an aircraft create a “cloud” in the title that will have to be addressed before registering in trust. These unrecordable documents have a profoundly negative effect on an entity’s title, and they can be costly and time consuming to fix.
Are all documents that are recorded with the FAA valid?
While the review process is thorough and careful, it is not always the case that a document is properly recorded. In other words, just because a document is recorded doesn’t mean it’s 100% accurate or valid – clouds may exist even for documents that have been recorded by the FAA.
In general, the FAA does not validate the documents that are filed or recorded there. Rather, the registry will record documents if they are submitted correctly and within the allotted time frame.
The validity of all documents is ultimately determined by a court of law in the relevant jurisdiction, but you can be pretty sure that there will be challenges to the validity and priority of documents that have not been recorded by the FAA.
What does this mean to an aircraft owner in trust?
Navigating the rules and regulations related to filing documents with the FAA can be tedious at best. The filing of documents is not necessarily the difficult part of the process – meeting all the necessary FAA requirements to get them properly recorded though is a challenge without industry knowledge and experience.
There are many possibilities for error in the registration process, increasing the amount of time and money spent. It’s complicated and requires experts for error-free and timely filings. The main role of an owner trustee is to represent the interests of the beneficiary, and as such, it is our responsibility to ensure that all documents filed at the FAA are recorded and kept up to date.
This article was originally published by Aircraft Guaranty Corporation on January 8, 2020.