In a Notice published today, the FAA “has decided that it would be beneficial to follow the procedures announced in the May 8, 1980 Federal Register Notice (45 FR 30424) to request public comments on the requesters’ questions, before the FAA issues its responses” to the multiple requests it receives for interpretaion of the flight time, rest and duty period regulations. The new procedure will be effective January 1, 2006.
Under this procedure, when the FAA receives requests for interpretation of the flight time, duty and rest period regulations, it will open a new public docket for each questions and request public comments/answers to the request. FAA intends to avoid repetitive type questions and can still issue an immediate interpretation without receiving pre-issuance comments. In such a situation, it will then solicit post-issuance comments. Also, the FAA reserves the right to modify or discontinue the use of these procedures at any time at the election of the Office of the Chief Counsel.
It seems to me that the FAA is just being lazy. Rather than responding directly to requesters’ questions, the FAA is publishing them to the rest of the class hoping that someone else will provide the answers. Unfortunately, the answers that will presumably be posted by a public commenter will not be official nor will they have any binding or precedential effect as would an official interpretation issued by the Office of the Chief Counsel. Of course, this assumes that members of the public will actually check the public docket and take the time to submit comments. Given that the comments will not have the force of law, the FAA would probably be served just as well with a blog or internet forum. It certainly would be easier and more efficient.
Oh well, it will be interesting to see whether this works and, if so, for how long. If you would like more information regarding this procedure, you may contact Constance M. Subadan, Regulations Division, AGC-200, Office of the Chief Counsel, 800 Independence Avenue, SW., Washington, DC 20591; telephone 202-267-3073.