The FAA’s Compliance Program, formerly known as the Compliance Philosophy, utilizes education, training, and counseling to resolve instances of inadvertent regulatory noncompliance informally and without the need for Legal Enforcement Actions. The aim is simple: the FAA works with pilots to determine the root cause of the deviation and develop a resolution that will prevent a re-occurrence and improve the overall safety of the airspace rather than proceeding directly to sanctions such as certificate actions.
While compliance actions can address a wide variety of potential deviations, there is an important caveat – the violation must be unintentional. For deviations such as airspace or runway incursions, this is typically not an issue. However, deviations resulting from expired medicals or overdue flight reviews may involve a judgment call by the inspector on the question of inadvertence.
For airman who miss a deadline by a couple of days or weeks, compliance actions are common. These issues are typically addressed by reviewing the applicable regulations and developing new procedures to ensure continued compliance. However, the passage of time makes it more likely that the FAA inspector could conclude that the violation was not inadvertent or that it resulted from a disregard for the regulations. We have seen that airmen who fly without a medical certificate for six months to a year are more likely to face a suspension than airmen who missed an expiration date by a couple weeks.
If you discover that you are no longer current or that your medical certificate has expired, the first step is to take corrective action. Immediately remedying the issue can demonstrate to an FAA Inspector that you are safety conscious and doing your best to ensure safe operations in the future. In terms of a lapsed medical certificate or qualification, obtaining a new certificate or qualification also demonstrates that you were medically qualified even though you missed an expiration date. If you are the subject of an FAA investigation or if you have concerns about a possible deviation, call the AOPA Legal Services Plan at 1-800-872-2672.