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Sat, Feb 14, 2009

White House Memo Prevented FAA From Issuing ADs

Matter Cleared Up After Two-Week Delay

A White House memo appears to be the reason why we haven't seen any new airworthiness directives issued by the FAA over the past several weeks.

The Wall Street Journal reports a memo signed by White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel on January 20 directed all federal agencies to freeze any pending regulations that originated during the Bush administration... until they could be reviewed by the new sheriffs in town.

In addition to holding off decisions on such political footballs as new mining and drilling standards, the rule also prevented the FAA from issuing any new ADs over a two-week period.

FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown said the memo left the FAA's authority in limbo... which was apparantly compounded by the January 23 confirmation of Ray LaHood as US Transportation Secretary. The spokeswoman described "an initial indication that were considered rules," as defined by the White House, so "we had to clarify the issue."

LaHood signed a new memo on February 5 that clarified the FAA's authority, "allowing ADs to be issued," said DOT spokesman Bill Mosley... who added the department is "looking at how to complement the chief of staff's direction across our rulemaking actions."

Brown stressed flight safety was not compromised by the oversight, stating if a particular situation warranted emergency action "we could and would have done that." This week, the FAA released four new proposals for ADs, though no final decisions have been implemented.

The situation raised eyebrows among FAA oversight groups. Richard Williams of Denver-based Aviation DataSource Inc. notes previous changeovers between presidential administrations never affected the FAA... but "[t]his time, they managed to stop the FAA bureaucracy dead in its tracks."

FMI: www.faa.gov/regulations_policies/airworthiness_directives/

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