NASA helps pilots through Aviation Safety Reporting System

Put safety first while protecting your certificate and wallet

Did you know that filing a NASA report under the Aviation Safety Reporting Program provides a waiver of sanction for pilots facing FAA enforcement action due to a violation of a federal aviation regulation (FAR)?

Created to encourage a “free, unrestricted flow of information” from the users of the National Airspace System, NASA collects information reported via the Aviation Safety Reporting Program and periodically provides reports to the FAA to remedy safety defects or deficiencies in the National Airspace System. Of course, the FAA understands that pilots may be reluctant to provide this information if they think they might be subjected to an enforcement action for violating a FAR. Consequently, the FAA will waive sanction for an Aviation Safety Reporting Program reporter, as outlined in Advisory Circular 00-46E and 14 C.F.R §91.25.

Under the Aviation Safety Reporting Program, a reporter files a report with NASA, which acts as a neutral third party to collect, de-identify, and analyze the data submitted. In turn, NASA keeps the identity of the reporter anonymous and the FAA will waive the sanction in a subsequent enforcement action. Although the FAA may find that the reporter violated a FAR, the Aviation Safety Reporting Program will ensure that the FAA does not impose a certificate suspension or civil penalty.

There are limitations to this program, however. To reap the benefits of filing a NASA report, you must show that: 

  • Your FAR violation was inadvertent and not deliberate (meaning not reckless or showing a gross disregard for foreseeable consequences. Ferguson v. NTSB, 678 F.2d 821 (9th Cir. 1982));
  • Your FAR violation did not involve a criminal offense, accident, or disclose a lack of qualification or competency
  • You have not been found to have violated an FAR in an enforcement action within the last five years prior to the occurrence;
  • Within 10 days after the violation, or date when you knew or should have known of the violation, you completed and delivered or mailed (either by mail or electronically) a written report to NASA.

A reporter should not file a NASA report if the FAR violation involves criminal activity or an accident, since NASA will not protect the reporter’s identity under these circumstances and will forward the report (identity and all) to the appropriate authorities.

Hopefully, you will not violate an FAR. But if you do, consider whether filing a NASA report might be beneficial. If you have questions, call the AOPA Legal Services Plan staff.

Christoper S Ison
Mr. Ison is a is a panel attorney for AOPA’s Legal Services Plan (LSP) and an aviation attorney.
Topics: FAA Information and Services, Pilot Protection Services, AOPA Products and Services

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