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EAA Declines FAA's Grant of Exemption
Back in April of 2012, the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) filed a petition that would lead to the allowance of fuel reimbursement and logbook time to volunteer Young Eagles pilots for fuel costs incurred during sanctioned Young Eagles events. This past August, the FAA made their decision and granted a partial grant of exemption to the EAA, but with a few caveats.
First, Grant of Exemption 10841 would force the EAA to maintain a record of all fuel disbursed under the exemption. Next, it would require prior notification of all Young Eagles flights and operations to the local FSDO (Flight Standards District Office). But here’s the kicker on that one: it would have to be filed no less than 72 hours prior to each event. This would cause a lot of problems. Most volunteer EAA Young Eagles pilots don’t know how many kids they have ready to fly until about 5 minutes before wheels up, and the line often grows as the event unfolds. It all just depends on how many kids show up and when. To follow the requirements as set forth in the exemption would just shut children out of the experience which is completely antithetical to the purpose of the Young Eagles program.
Another conflict would be the new regulation that would take place under the exemption that would disallow pilots of amateur (experimental) built aircraft reimbursement. Let’s dissect this for a moment. EAA stands for Experimental Aircraft Association. This regulation would refuse reimbursement to the very foundation of the organization.
Needless to say, the EAA recently responded with a big “No.” The EAA declined the FAA’s grant of exemption due to the fact that it would force a complete restructuring of the program and would burden the organization with expenses and time constraints not conducive to the overall intent of the program itself.
EAA’s Vice-President, Sean Elliot wrote to the FAA’s Director of Flight Standards Service stating:
“EAA sincerely appreciates the substantial efforts of the FAA in reviewing, publishing for comment, analyzing, and finally granting an exemption in response to EAA’s petition dated April 17, 2012. Unfortunately, EAA is unable to accept the exemption because of the severe requirements imposed by the FAA grant.”
Elliott later added:
“Meeting this requirement would literally be impossible for EAA without a total restructure of the EF/YE programs and an unaffordable and questionable investment of assets in a brand new chapter monitoring, data gathering, and approval system.”
With this review of the exemption, the EAA has decided not to exercise the privileges of the exemption and intend not to renew.
It doesn’t surprise me that the FAA would stick their fingers this deep into the business of the EAA. What bothers me most about it is that while I feel aviation does need a regulatory department, I think the FAA’s primary job should be focused on safety. It is in instances like this that concern me when I see the FAA taking an incredible experience for children and turning into a bureaucratic nightmare. Layering regulations on such an incredible program for young children is counter-productive at best; program destroying at worst. And as I said safety should be primary, it’s issues like this that trim a bit of safety because the pilots are too worried about the required, though unnecessary paperwork completed just to worry about getting some gas money that should be privileged to them in the first place. It can also force the pilots into a rush. The saddest part, however, those pre-determined numbers. So if a child shows up the day of and sees all these kids going in the air, getting a logbook and a certificate, and smiling from ear to ear, all for free and the new child wants to go, the pilot has to look at that child and say, “Sorry. I can’t take you.” In an instance like that, it’s very possible that that may have been the only chance that child would have to get the aviation bug. And the FAA may have just lost a superb future pilot because of it.
I stand by the EAA’s decision 100% to decline. I think they made the right choice. While I am sure they were partially looking at it from their standpoint, I have been indirectly involved with the EAA for quite a few years now and I know that they were moreso looking at it for the children. That’s what it’s always been about and the EAA holds true to that sentiment today. So kudos on you, Sean Elliott and the EAA pilots. You made the right choice to put the organization before compensation.