It’s vital to know when a conversation is more than just a conversation. For pilots interacting with the FAA, a safe approach is to assume that your conversation is never “off the record” and it’s important to remember that anything you say can be used against you. While you should always be polite and professional when dealing with the FAA, it is important to know the Pilot’s Bill of Rights.
Many unintentional regulatory violations are now able to be resolved through the FAA’s Compliance Program, which was implemented to allow the FAA to work together with pilots to foster an open and transparent exchange of safety information, and to obtain a higher level of safety and compliance with regulatory standards. Although the AOPA Legal Services Plan has observed that the FAA’s Compliance Program works well in many cases, it requires the pilot to voluntarily share information with the FAA even though there are no guarantees that legal enforcement action will not be taken. If you find yourself being asked to provide a statement or other information to the FAA about an event, contact the AOPA Legal Services Plan right away- .
In the meantime, it may help to familiarize yourself with this brochure from the FAA on the Compliance Program and Airman Rights. An important note from the second page is this: “You are free to exercise your Airman Rights without repercussions. Refusal to speak or correspond with FAA personnel, or obtaining legal counsel after an event, does not rule out Compliance Action.”