If there is one common issue that keeps air show professionals up at night, it is probably federal regulators. The vast majority of air shows and individual performances go off without a hitch or hiccup. It’s also true that most FAA and Transport Canada inspectors are perfectly reasonable and eager to help you run a safe, successful, drama-free air show. Unfortunately, there are exceptions to every rule and it sometimes happens that the inspector in charge becomes an impediment to running a problem-free event.
So, what can you do as a pilot or event organizer to mitigate the disruption caused by an overly-aggressive or poorly trained inspector? Like all problems or potential hazards, the best defense is a good offense. You should have a strong understanding of the regulatory guidance that governs air show operations in the United States and/or Canada. You should carry a hard copy of the entire guidance document (Chapter 6 of FAA Order 8900.1 in the U.S. and, for Canada, Part VI, Subpart 3 of the Canadian Aviation Regulation along with Standard 623 (Special Flight Operations, Division I, Chapter One, Air Shows). Use these documents as a reference when planning your show. And make sure that the inspector assigned to monitor your show understands that you are familiar with the document and are abiding by its guidance.
Like all relationships, getting off on the right foot in your relationship with your inspector is paramount for a successful venture. If you are an air show event organizer, plan on contacting your inspector at least six months before your air show to keep him/her in the loop. If you are an air show performer, make an attempt to introduce yourself to the IIC as soon as you can. In all cases, recognize the inspector’s responsibility for ensuring that the air show is run safely and understand the value in working closely with that inspector to achieve this shared goal.
However, if all of these options fail you and you feel that the IIC is causing a direct safety hazard to your air show or has become a distraction to your performers, do not hesitate to contact ICAS Director of Operations Dan Hollowell at 703-779-8510. You can reach Dan Hollowell anytime on the weekends at 317-217-0668.