On August 2nd, NAAA received a letter from Lawrence Fields, Acting Executive Director, Flight Standards Service, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) responding to concerns expressed by the association regarding the changes to the Part 137 certification process for Uncrewed Aircraft System (UAS) applicants outlined in FAA Notice 8900.659. This newsletter previously published a summary of the Notice
as well as NAAA’s concerns expressed to the FAA
In this response letter
, the FAA cited the backlog of Part 137 UAS applicants awaiting certification as the driver for the changes and contended that FAA’s Flight Standards Service had considered the possible risks and determined this course as the most effective use of Inspector resources in service to the public. They pointed to specific risk mitigations in place such as only allowing Visual Line of Sight (VLOS) operations, requiring UAS to always yield the right-of-way to all crewed aircraft operations, limitations to altitude and the requirement to file Notices to Air Missions. They do not, however, specifically address who was considered in these risk analyses, nor acknowledge Part 137 crewed operators as primary risk bearers of Part 137 UAS operations.
The FAA also did not address NAAA’s concerns regarding the potential stratification of Part 137 operations resulting from geographically adjacent operations dealing with different FAA officials/offices. They did note, however, that all Part 137 UAS operators are entered into the Enhanced Flight Standards Automation System, which would enable local FSDOs’ engagement if surveillance or other action is required.
The agency’s response, while not complete in addressing all NAAA’s concerns, shows that the interests of the agricultural aviation industry are being heard and considered by the FAA. This is significant, considering the immense lobbying pressure exerted on them by deep pocketed UAS interests. Quoting the letter: “The FAA will always monitor the on-going risk and incidents involving these Part 137 UAS (only) operations and will adjust if circumstances warrant it.”
View the FAA response letter here