Why Can’t The ATF Be More Like the FAA?


As big a gun nerd as I am, I’m just as big an airplane nerd. If I weren’t spending all my time blogging about guns, I’d be doing the same thing for airplanes. Which I already kinda do. In my daily trawl for news articles, I came across something from Bloomberg (the news source, not the person) that piqued my interest on both fronts . . .

You see there’s a bit of a mortality issue when it comes to Part 135 operations, which include things like business jets and charters. Those planes are crashing and causing fatal injuries at a much higher rate than Part 121 operators, people like Delta and American, who use pilots with the same level of certification and qualifications.  The reason? The smaller operations aren’t following the rules. Stay with me, I promise this is gun related . . .

From Bloomberg:

Since 2000 there have been five times more fatal accidents in the U.S. involving private and chartered corporate planes than airliners. Investigators cited pilot error among the causes of 88 percent of those crashes. Accident records show repeated examples of crews skipping safety checks, working long days, and overlooking hazards such as ice on the wings. In April, NTSB investigators reported the pilots working for billionaire Lewis Katz, who was killed last year when his Gulfstream GIV skidded off a runway, rarely did standard preflight safety checks.

In 2001 a chartered jet crashed in Aspen, Colo., killing 18. According to NTSB reports, the passenger who paid for the flight became irate after learning he might miss an airport curfew. That contributed to the pilot’s decision to try landing despite not being able to see the runway, investigators concluded. Private pilots are subject to the whims of the people who pay them in a way pilots for airlines aren’t, says Stuart Matthews, former president of the Flight Safety Foundation, which promotes better practices among corporate and charter operators. “I was constantly hearing stories of corporate pilots who don’t get enough rest or who are always concerned about being pressured to press on,” he says.

Pre-flight checks are kind of a big deal, something that’s drilled into your head from day one. Every checkride expects you to perform one perfectly before the examiner signs off on your certificate, so at a bare minimum these pilots were aware of the rules and the way things should be done — they just ignored them because it was quicker.

The root cause of these fatal crashes is plain and simple: pilots aren’t following the rules. They know the law, but they choose to ignore it because it’s more convenient. In order to reduce those fatalities, the FAA should have the trouble pilots follow the rules. But how do you get a group of people with little to no oversight or supervision to actually follow the law? Even more regulation, perhaps?

Commercial aviation is regulated by multiple tiers of U.S. law, but privately owned aircraft have almost no oversight. “Nobody’s paying attention,” says Kitty Higgins, who served as an NTSB member from 2006 to 2009. The FAA has begun introducing safety data monitoring for private operations like that used by airlines, but NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart says adding new rules won’t make a difference. “A lot of times we’re talking about people who aren’t following the regulations anyway, so I’m not sure that more regulation is the answer,” he says.

The FAA is an organization based on facts, statistics and results. Even though they’re a government organization just like the ATF, they focus their efforts on things that will provide a measurable reduction to fatalities. They don’t make statements unless they are backed up by facts — completely opposite to the claimed “gun violence epidemic” that the ATF perpetuates and doesn’t exist. And while the ATF has a great track record of killing unarmed women and children and burning them alive, the FAA has had great success improving transportation safety and saving lives.

These two very dissimilar organizations are faced with the exact same challenge: a set of established rules and laws and a group of people who know that what they are doing is against those rules. They both need a way to stop that activity to stop people get killed, but their plan of action couldn’t be more dissimilar. The outgoing ATF chief bemoaned the fact that he couldn’t implement more restrictive gun laws. The FAA doesn’t believe that more laws are the answer.

Getting to the rule breakers takes actual enforcement efforts, not more rules and nother stack of meaningless paper. Why can’t the ATF be more like the FAA?


  1. avatar Mike Crognale says:

    Because the ATF is obeying the dictates of our would be slave masters, the democrats and their boy who would be king. The FAA, at least has real grown-ups in charge.
    I am an ATP, ASMEL, CL600, CL604, LR-Jet, LR-60 CFI-AI, CGI-AI, former Designee with ATP and Type authority in all those jets.

    1. avatar Indiana Tom says:

      Agree. There is a very deep rooted political component behind the ATF.

    2. avatar 16V says:

      The entire cultural difference is in the basic charters of said organizations.

      The FAA’s mandate is to do whatever is necessary to promote the airline business, and make it as safe as possible without debilitating impact on the business.

      The BATFE is a culture of “law enforcement” as well as creating as much work as they can for themselves via onerous regulation. The stripping us of our rights is just icing on the cake, since the rules don’t apply to them.

  2. avatar mike says:

    There you go… merge the ATF with the FAA !

    1. avatar Joe R. says:

      . . .then, Merge the FAA with the round can with the foot-pedal flip-lid. . .

      The FAA (while barely keeping the reins on General Aviation safety) has kept it to a steady dwindling # of participants in relation to % of overall population (whether or not you count the illegal aliens).

      Aviation in general needs only three things 1) anti-gravity [laugh all you want, aviation was anti-gravity until it became aviation, and a certain NAVY admiral killed more test pilots {and claimed that flying was impossible} than the Wright Bros. just months before the bike mechanics pulled it off]; 2) MORE FOOLPROOFING (can’t ever have enough); 3) a statue somewhere nice and important of Vincent Burnelli.

    2. avatar Cucamonga Jeff says:

      If they merge can we put guns on our planes? Cessna + .50 cal = AWESOME!!!!

      1. avatar MarkPA says:

        Yes, but you can’t fly with them; you can only shoot them on the ground.


        1. avatar Geoff PR says:

          “Yes, but you can’t fly with them; you can only shoot them on the ground.”

          I’m not so sure on that.

          Leghorn has done articles on companies like ‘Heli-Bacon’, and that’s shooting full-auto while airborne…

  3. avatar Danilushka says:

    while I think the BATF should behave more like the FAA, there is an obvious political reason they don’t: public and media outcry and pressure. If a small plane goes down killing all 6 on board on FIT due to pilot error on VFR, the media doesn’t jump on a bandwagon and soap box decrying the lack of both oversight of the pilot and regulation of small planes. But let someone with a gun wound 6 people (not even fatally) and the ensuing media circus with public clowns outcries is deafening. It is a sad fact of modern life: what ever the media gives in a 30-second sound- and video-bite, garners all the public attention. Most media-hypnotized Americans want to be told what is important and what to think and feel about it.

    1. avatar Geoff PR says:

      “If a small plane goes down killing all 6 on board on FIT due to pilot error on VFR, the media doesn’t jump on a bandwagon and soap box decrying the lack of both oversight of the pilot and regulation of small planes.”

      Jessica Dubroff.

      The 7year old trying to break the record for youngest pilot trainee to fly cross-country.


      The regulatory fallout gave us the “Child Pilot Safety Act”

      “The statute prohibits anyone who does not hold at least a private pilot certificate and a current medical certificate from manipulating the controls of an aircraft, if that individual “is attempting to set a record or engage in an aeronautical competition or aeronautical feat.”

      1. avatar Missouri Mule says:

        The rules of plane crashes:
        1, too heavy
        2. too high
        3. too hot
        4. too hurry
        You can’t fix stupid, but you can fly it into the ground.
        Not a certificated pilot, just a thinker.

        1. avatar Geoff PR says:

          The accident airplane was 96 lbs overweight and the CG was strongly aft.

          And was being flown into icing conditions.

          Too slow will also kill you. Stall, Spin, *splat*.

        2. avatar Joe R. says:

          Overcome all of these and you will still falter and founder if you take advice on anything from Bloomberg.

        3. avatar John Fritz - HMFIC says:

          You can’t fix stupid, but you can fly it into the ground.

          CFIT. The most interesting of all airline disasters.

        4. avatar 16V says:

          I haven’t looked lately, but up until 10 or so years ago, “too little fuel” was the leading cause of GA crashes at near 50%.

        5. avatar Julian says:

          I’ve seen several lately that were an issue of incorrect fuel. Jet fuel in a gas engine doesn’t work so well…

    2. avatar Chip in Florida says:

      “…public and media outcry and pressure.”

      Add into your equation that there are people who have never flown before. Add in another big pile of people who have only flown once or twice. Hearing about a plane crash is exotic, well outside the bounds of possibility for a lot of people. “that so terrible they crashed! Lucky for me I don’t fly so that will never happen to me…. what else is on the tele dear?”

      Compared with…..

      There is a gun store down the street. There is an indoor range down the street the other way. There’s bad guys with guns behind every tree and bush! “OMG! Someone just got shot in the Walmart Parkig Lot! I was just at a Walmart yesterday… it coulda been me!”

      1. avatar Indiana Tom says:

        Compared with…..

        There is a gun store down the street which bad people of the community buy guns without a background check.. There is an indoor range down the street the other way where bad people blast away irresponsibly and rounds ricochet around the children.. There’s bad guys with guns behind every tree and bush who get their guns at gun shows! “OMG! Someone just got shot in the Walmart Parking Lot, with machine guns sold next to the Toy Department! I was just at a Walmart yesterday… it coulda been me and I do not feel safe!” I have a right to have freedom from fear and freedom in general.

        1. avatar Lucas says:

          Can’t tell if you’re being facetious or not…

        2. avatar Lucas says:

          Can’t tell if you’re being facetious or not…

  4. avatar MarkPA says:

    I argue that guns in America ought to be (primarily) self-regulated with merely supervision by governments.

    Decades ago I worked in an industry that had a long history of self-regulation under a very light level of Federal supervision. The system actually worked very well albeit, it was hard to rationalize. In the 1970s, regulation shifted to a much more centralized model whereupon, most things got much worse.

    If guns were self-regulated we would not have had Fast & Furious. We could probably make a big dent in straw-buying and trafficking. We certainly wouldn’t have any Ruby Ridges or Wacos.

    Unfortunately, gun control has polarized the politics to such a degree that I doubt we could move toward such a model. The gun-controllers are much too deeply invested in wiping-out civilian guns. The last thing they would tolerate is shifting any regulatory responsibility to the private sector. Most gun owners (who care about the state of regulation) have adopted a bunker-mentality; being opposed to just about every form of regulation. So, for example, if the NSSF were to propose to undertake the licensing and auditing of FFLs, we PotG would be apt to respond that LGSs shouldn’t have to have a license at all.

    The FAA and the ATF are “all about” two totally different objectives. The FAA is concerned with saving lives; politics isn’t very important. The ATF is all about politics, saving lives has nothing to do with it.

    1. avatar Indiana Tom says:

      The ATF is all about politics, saving lives has nothing to do with it. Correct.

  5. avatar Chris Mallory says:

    Both agencies are unconstitutional and should be disbanded.

    1. avatar Aaron says:

      uh, thanks for your inciteful and well-substantiated assertion, i guess.

    2. avatar Indiana Tom says:

      You would think that people associated with the aircraft business would be concerned about safety without government intervention.

      1. avatar Jake says:

        You’d think so, but that strange capitalist word “Profit” has a weird way of rearing its little noggin.

        1. avatar Aaron says:

          True, to a point. Some industries are very good at self regulating – those are industries in which the buyer and seller have equal info.

          But how can a passenger know whether the plane is safe without independent oversight, until somebody crashes?

          There are folks out there who think ALL govt intervention is bad and they cherry-pick examples to “prove” it. But I like knowing that doctors and dentists actually went to med school or dental school. I like having drugs independently tested. We lived in a world without any govt intervention at all, and it was a time of robber barons, quack doctors, phony dentists, etc.

        2. avatar MarkPA says:

          Bear in mind that Med schools are run by highly respected doctors. State medical boards’s members are doctors, not bureaucrats.
          The FDA is run by bureaucrats.

          I don’t have a great one-size-fits-all solution for regulation. Where possible, I’d like to see regulation in the hands of the regulated. Admittedly, it’s the fox in charge of the chicken coop; however, it’s the foxes who know how to wreck havoc with the chicken coop. So, if you want efficacy, you aren’t going to get it without putting the foxes in the driver’s seat.

          I suspect that the pharmaceutical companies and their insurers would be able to design and implement a more effective system to prove efficacy and safety.

          I think that the PotG would be in a great position to self-regulate guns. We want nothing to do with the criminals who prey upon our families. We want safety above all else; we are the most vulnerable to an accident. We understand the machinery and physics; we wouldn’t be creating silly categories such as SBS or SBR or armor-piercing ammo.

        3. avatar Aaron says:

          one can be a doctor and a bureaucrat at the same time. I’m pretty sure that the bureaucrats who set state medical board requirements are also doctors.

          the point is that there is no “natural law” that says gov’t bureaucrats cannot also be experts in their field. those bureaucracies which have no actual measurable “product” tend to be the ones that have clueless bureaucrats, or worse, obstructionist bureaucrats.

          i agree that there is no one size fits all approach to regulation. but i’m not sure how gun owners would regulate gun ownership. regardless, i think there is way too much gun regulation – we should be regulating criminals and the dangerously mentally ill, instead of inanimate objects.

        4. avatar MarkPA says:

          “. . . i’m not sure how gun owners would regulate gun ownership.”

          Well, it’s a big broad topic. But, just for starters, let’s look at the NICS check system.

          The DoJ outsources the operation of the NICS inquiry/response system to a private sector contractor. Who chooses this contractor? The DoJ. What if we, the PotG, chose the contractor? We gun users might do so through the NRA; alternatively, the FFLs might choose the contractor through the NSSF. In either case, then it would be WE – the People – who would hold access to the flow of inquiries; i.e., the names and addresses of gun buyers and CWP applicants.

          Such a switch from government to private control over the NICS data flow would contribute greatly to quiet concerns that the DoJ might be violating the law by keeping copies of the inquiries longer than 24 hours.

          Now, then, if this form of self-regulation were adopted we could decide whether to destroy records of inquiries within 1 day or 1 week or 1 month or 1 quarter. Under such a scenario, it would be feasible for us to run surveillance over “frequent buyers”. E.g., why is this young woman from Atlanta suddenly taken up the shooting sports with a passion? Three dozen Glock 19s in two weekends; remarkable, isn’t it? Perhaps we should recumbent that the Atlanta constabulary pay a call on her to see how she is doing with her muzzle discipline.

          None of us wants the ATF looking at our buying patterns; yet, it’s quite a different matter if folks from our user-group/industry are conducting such surveillance according to criteria that we ourselves regard as worthy of followup.

        5. avatar Aaron says:

          Absent legislation MANDATING privacy standards, why on earth would you think a private company can be trusted with your data any more that a gov’t agency?

        6. avatar MarkPA says:

          It’s simple. You own the privacy over whatever it is that you control. DoJ controls the contractor who runs the NICS inquiry system; therefore, it owns the privacy. Do you like that? Or, can you imagine that PotG could do better?

          (The last thing I’d rely on is having the government mandate the privacy standards.)

          One step better would be for the DoJ to let the prime contract to a gun group such as, by way of illustration only, NRA or NSSF. Such a group could run the NICS service using its own employees or sub-contract it to an IT/service company and then have just a few of its own employees supervise the subcontractor.

          A second step better would be for the prime contractor (or DoJ itself) to let multiple contracts to regional organizations; e.g., the ‘North West Association of FFLs’; . . . ‘South East Organization of LGSs’. Now, imagine that somehow an employee of one of the regional operators were corrupted to steal the flow of NICS inquiries. At most, he would be able to tap into the flow of data for only 1/4 of the country; and, then only for the period of time during which he was in his position as a computer operator able to copy the data flow.

          A third step better would be for 30 – 50 State FFL associations to operate their respective State’s service.

          We need a realistic objective here. It’s not like we need the security of a priest’s confessional. All we need is the ability to frustrate the theft of data flow by the DoJ such that they could never accumulate more than a small fraction of the historic flow; e.g., no more than 3 months of data flow from one region of the nation.

          If you wanted an even stronger scheme look at the proposal called “BIDS” Blind Identification Database System. http://www.gunlaws.com/BIDSvNICS.htm

          We PotG ought to be skeptical; and, at the same time, imaginative and innovative. To be simply a nay-sayer is to do nothing to advance our cause. To sit-back and let the government run roughshod over us until a messiah comes to revoke all the laws that vex us.

          The concept of “self regulation” works pretty well. Look at, for example, our “4 rules”. Did Congress come up with these 4 rules? Did Congress establish the system of Range Safety Officers? Of course not. Gun users did it themselves. NRA’s training division established a standard RSO curriculum for certifying range supervision. Plenty of other private parties and private training organizations contributed in countless ways.

          What can happen with an effective self-regulatory scheme is that government steps back and takes a relatively hands-off attitude toward the activity that seems to be well-enough self-regulated. There aren’t too many incidents that give rise to a public cry for government intervention. When there is such a cry, legislators can respond by saying that the industry participants are managing it pretty well on their own. E.g., we do not have government regulation in the US over the dangerous activity of SCUBA diving. Why not? Because the divers very well self-regulate.

          Probably the idea of self-regulation (not individual personal responsibility, but rather ‘industry-wide’ organized self-regulation) is hard for most folks to understand. Most of us have little or no experience with the notion. We take personal responsibility for some of our activities and expect other activities to be regulated by governments (public schools, police, municipalities, counties, States and the Federal government).

          In one industry I worked in, I saw self-regulation work very well; and, then, when the government decided to seize a much more powerful role, for the system break-down into a quagmire. So, I don’t construe self-regulation to be a panacea; it’s not that. Rather, it is one strategy to userp government intervention by successfully handling the problem better within the ‘industry’.

        7. avatar Aaron says:

          Companies will sell you out for a dime. Plus they cut cornsre on security.

          facebook, google, etc. track everything you do and sell the info.

          Facebook more than once tried to change privacy settings without notifying users.

          Sony hack.

          Target breach, and hundreds of others.

          Telecomm companies turning over data to oppressive governments – like in Iran, where they used (Nokia, T-mobil, can’t remember) records to “disappear” hundreds of protestors.

        8. avatar MarkPA says:

          I leave you to the tender care of the DoJ and its appointed vendor.

        9. avatar Aaron says:

          I think you miss my point. Without checks and balances, you can’t trust private companies or government agencies.

          the market can’t provide checks and balances in cases in which conflict of interest and disymmetry of information exist – unless you are willing to count economic collapse and damage/harm/death caused by fraud and/or cutting corners as a “check and balance”.

        10. avatar MarkPA says:

          Review my description of possible institutional arrangements.

          I imagine it would be unlikely that institutions such as NRA or NSSF would rent an office tower, build a server farm and hire a team of clerks to operate NICS; instead, they would probably sub-contract the job out to IT/Service organizations.

          Such an institutional arrangement would be consistent with checks and balances where the supervising institution would maintain a small number of watchdogs who would look after the sensitive aspects of the contracting organization doing the work. We are really only terribly concerned with one narrow part of the operation; i.e., maintaining security over the active file of inquiries processed over the past N days. Today, N = 1. Tomorrow, N might equal any value from 1 days. We wouldn’t want it to be too long; certainly not perpetuity. Some number of days long enough to catch traffickers (imagining that were admitted to be a goal) but short enough that a breach of security would not undermine the objective of frustrating the Anti’s goal of accumulating enough data to be useful in a confiscation scheme.

          This limited goal is really fairly easy to reach. Access to a particular storage volume is limited according to the legitimate needs of the software application reading the data. Use of the data beyond rendering a “Proceed/Wait/Stop” response would not require any network access outside of the operating company. Therefore, the ability to “hack” into the volumes of accumulated data would be substantially reduced.

          What is needed is to keep track of a handful of employees who have the responsibility of taking backup copies of the data. These few can be rotated such that they wouldn’t be able to accumulate enough data flow to jeopardize the objective (of precluding the accumulation of enough data to support a confiscation.)

          If you carry out the arrangement to dividing the nation’s data into 4 or 30 regional/State databases, the problem of stealing enough data to support confiscation becomes ever more difficult.

          At the extreme, consider the BIDS scheme where every FFL maintains sole control – locally – over its own customer identity records.

          Bear in mind that we are interested in a different problem than, by way of contrast, a merchant protecting its credit card customers’ card numbers and PINs. A merchant needs to protect every single one of its customers’ data. If just a single credit card number is lost then that customer’s funds are at risk. If one customer’s data is vulnerable to being lost the data for hundreds or thousands or tens of thousands of customers might be lost.

          The merchant’s concern is not our concern. We are already well aware of the fact that the identity of millions of gun owners is available through the medium of credit card purchases at FFLs and shooting supply outlets. The Feds know who we are; or, if they don’t, they could find out.

          What we want to protect against is any significant fraction: 50%; 25%; 10% or 5% of make+model+serial# being tied to purchasers’ names and addresses. We already face this risk insofar as NICS is a single channel of data flow for most States and Point-of-Service systems are single-channels for the PoS States. The latter are in a position to trace sales of handguns or long-guns to FFLs and from there to 4473 forms to run a confiscation of – e.g., – “assault weapons”. The Feds represent a more distant threat; yet, still within the scope of imagination.

          Some of us PotG dream of a gun-owner’s Utopia where there will be no regulation of guns whatsoever. Perfection is the enemy of the good-enough. Shall we leave the field of innovation to the Antis? Or, should we think of ways to frustrate the Antis?

          I have to take my hat off to the inventors of BIDS. They have a really great idea. So, the voters want BCs? OK, will give you BCs. We gun-owners want privacy; you give us privacy from 4473 archives and we’ll give you your BCs. I find it baffling why BIDS never found traction among PotG. It has been hardly discussed at all.

          I don’t presume to say whether BIDS would ever pass Congress. We will never know without trying. Nor will we know if something sort-of-BIDS-like with some different provision supporting legitimate law-enforcement traces might one day pass Congress. Why not?

          We PotG seem to be unable to separate our personal commitment to perfection in the mission to defeat the Antis. The Antis are not so principled; they will take by any means necessary any measure to crush gun rights. We let them out-manuver us.

        11. avatar Aaron says:

          And one final point: you have to be joking about “self regulation”. Do you trust the Clintons to “self regulate” the conflict of interest caused by a sitting secretary of state having a family charity fund that accepts donations from parties that have financial interests in state department decisions?

          Do you trust investment banks to “self regulate” when they make enormous short term profits on credit defaul swaps and derivatives, even though it ends up crashing the economy a la 2008.

          Note that “sub-prime mortgages” were not the onky thing that crashed the economy – it was the BUNDLING of subprime mortgages into derivatives and a host of other issues. This includes rating firms who made more money servicing these i-banks than they made by rating them – magically, everyone gets a good rating in that scenario.

          “self regulation” is a fantasy.

  6. avatar NYC2AZ says:

    Nick, be careful what you wish for. In many ways, the FAA is just as corrupt and poorly run an organization as the ATF. In some ways, it’s much worse. Further, the licencing and medical certification schemes can be be challenged or revoked by pretty much any Aviation Safety Inspector. Maybe Texas still has human beings at it’s FSDO, I can assure you Scottsdale doesn’t. There’s a reason Sporty’s sells shirts that read, “FAA motto: We’re not happy until you’re not happy.”

    1. avatar Nick Leghorn says:

      I’m well aware of the insanity of the FAA.

      The 172 assigned to the San Marcos CAP squadron had a small rock get kicked up and thrown into the prop, creating a small nick in the blade. Any rational person would have simply required a trip to the prop shop to get that looked at. The FAA got wind of it, and are demanding we treat it like a full stop of the engine — complete teardown and re-build. The engine isn’t even at TBO yet. She’s gunna be down for weeks, and cost a ton to fix.

      The difference is that, at least in this case, there’s some modicum of logic to the situation. The FAA wants to err on the side of safety, and while they might be going a little extreme there’s no long-term impact. We’ll get our plane back, and everyone will keep flying.

      With the ATF, if your gun malfunctions, you’re going to jail. Accidental double fire due to improperly installed trigger? Jail time. There’s no “get it fixed and we’re cool” phase, they go straight to punishment.

      1. avatar CGinTX says:

        When it come to the FAA, following the story of Bob Hoover and his adventures with arbitrary decisions by individuals within the FAA, his limited appeal rights and stacked arbitration process, will convince you that the FAA is a government agency, powered by the same core as the ATF. As a prior manager of an FBO I’ve met many folks who wound up on the wrong side of the wrong FAA person, and lost their livelihood. I will admit that with the FAA, you rarely wind up dead or in jail as a direct result of their actions.

      2. avatar Virginai Gunner says:

        Nick, does the CAP plane have a Lycoming engine? Check out this article for relevant info:


        1. avatar Aaron says:

          what?! you mean those evil gubmint jackboots at the FAA actually have the FACTS behind them?

          This would cause Sexual Tyrannasaur to have a stroke!

      3. avatar NYC2AZ says:

        Nick, if you’re arguing purely on the grounds of incarceration penalties, I’ll agree with that point that not everything means jail time. However, the FAA is just as well versed as the ATF in ruining people’s lives because bureaucracy.

  7. avatar CM says:

    great article!

  8. avatar mike oregon says:

    The simple answer is, The F.A.A. exists to promote aviation and increase safety, The B.A.T.F.E. exists to impede and harass the firearms industry and firearms owners.

    1. avatar Virginai Gunner says:

      You pretty much said it. There are hardasses in every agency, but the general missions of these two agencies with respect to their jurisdictions are vastly different.

    2. avatar Jake says:

      I would argue otherwise. The ATF doesn’t require anything near the type certification requirements that the FAA does to allow a fully assembled aircraft into the US market. I’ve found that their charter regulations, which as Nick pointed out are often unfollowed after certification, prove a major barrier to entry in the general aviation commercial market. Granted, the ATF has a different way about being draconian in the NFA and GCA. However, the FFLs are easier to obtain than 135 certificates and certified aircraft that are allowed and suitable for considerable profits.

  9. avatar uncommon_sense says:

    I will argue that the objective of the FAA is to eliminate airplane crashes … and they do that with rules and regulations whose complexity and expense eliminate most “riff raff”. The ATF on the other hand does not have an objective to eliminate firearm “crashes” (e.g. accidental discharges). Rather, the objective of the ATF is to restrict firearms ownership only to the chosen few according to the whims of the ruling class.

    I suppose you could argue that the objectives end up being nearly the same. However, the FAA has facts and data to justify their position. And nowhere near 50% of the population wants to fly.

  10. avatar Heartland Patriot says:

    The FAA does have their issues, if you’ve ever dealt with them, or heard the stories that go around. However, the FAA does actually get feedback from operators and mechanics, and sometimes takes it seriously, amazing isn’t it? Good luck getting the highly politicized BATFE (whose actual acronym should be BFE since the Treasury handles alcohol and tobacco now) to do that. Now, most people don’t know that the FAA is an unfunded organization meaning they don’t have a specific, directed revenue stream but are paid out of the general tax fund. Not so the ATF, who are funded via the Justice Department. The FAA have to get good results, or they won’t get any money. The ATF can do whatever they want and never worry about a dime. Time to unfund the ATF and watch them fix themselves.

  11. avatar Missouri Mule says:

    Because the right to fly is not embedded in the Constitution. It is not a natural right. Repeal the BATFE.
    There are 617,128 active certificated pilots in the USA as of 2013. How about you get a license for that firearm Nick. I am SURE you will be safer!

    Ultralights used to be free to fly. What happened to that? Oh, sport pilot’s certificate.
    I think you need to get a “sport shooter certificate” for your 22 single shot. You know the new pink Crickett you bought for your daughter for $129 at Walmart.

    This is the stupidest article I have read lately!

    1. avatar Cdotson says:

      Someone needs to re-read the 9th Amendment. We all have the natural right to do whatever we well and truly please up until it infringes upon another’s right to do the same.

      1. avatar Missouri Mule says:

        Thanks bro! The anit-Federalists warned me about listing specifics in the Bill of Rights. A tip of the hat to you!

    2. avatar Jeff R in IL says:

      Ultralights are not Light Sport Aircraft (and vice versa). Ultralights are governed by FAR part 103: http://www.ultralighthomepage.com/FAR.part103.html

      You can still pilot an Ultralight without any sort of pilot certification. Sport Pilots are allowed to fly larger aircraft than qualify under part 103 as ultralights (roughly double the max top speed, 4x the max gross weight, etc).

      1. avatar Missouri Mule says:

        Thanks, blame it on instant internet research. I prefer sky diving.

    3. avatar JimD says:

      i agree with you – when you consider all the training and licensing requirements of the FAA, we really don’t want the ATF working that way either. Moving from rimfire to center fire? You want a gun that cycles the action automatically? You want to carry at night? Those all require training and testing. Don’t forget about the mental health exam!

  12. avatar Joe says:

    There are plenty of examples of FAA bureaucrats being craniorectally impaired but, for the most part, you’re right. Consider, though, that the percentage of people involved in general aviation is miniscule. Charter operations also account for a very small number of people compared to the general population of the country. There is no comparison with firearms in the perception of problems associated with the two issues. For that reason, aviation has not become the political football that firearms have so there aren’t a boat load of whining wombats scurrying around, trying to get it banned. If there were we would be seeing a lot more dumbfuckery coming from the FAA.

  13. avatar Aaron says:

    The big difference between the FAA and ATF is not just politics, it’s WHY the ATF is more political: there is no measurable objective for the ATF to accomplish.

    The FAA has to actually accomplish something: overseeing a complicated transportation system. If they screwed it up, the results would be instantaneously obvious. The FAA may not be very efficient, but they are effective. We know this because the air transportation system is remarkably safe and handles enormous volume.

    What exactly is the goal of the ATF? To enforce laws and regulation – and laws are political. How would you even know whether the ATF was being effective? You can’t know, because nothing they do has any effect on crime rates or safety.

  14. avatar Bob says:

    Lefties envy the wealthy and they assume people flying in private aircraft are wealthy, so they like it when wealthy people are killed.

    1. avatar Ben says:

      Unless said wealthy are bankrolling them.

  15. avatar Ian says:

    Having spent a lifetime developing an identity in the general aviation community and having successfully been through the STC process several times I can assure you that the FAA should not be used as an example for any organization to aspire to. Unless perhaps the organization you are trying to develop is dedicated to discouraging participation and creating unnecessary hurtles in front of and behind reasonable ones in every situation possible, all while having no oversight or accountability. In that case yes, the FAA is a great role model.

  16. avatar Noah says:

    The FAA is just as useless as the ATF. Anyone who participates in aircraft sport (or is from a small, municipal airport) knows exactly what I’m talking about…

  17. avatar Mk10108 says:

    Completely disagree. Noted yes you are correct in fix vs. punishment. Roughly 4000 commercial aircraft are the backbone of US Aviation. The remaining 224k of which 10% are experimental.

    General Aviation is dying and being slowly hammered to death by FAA regulations. The work around is home built movement but that is waning as well. Evidence is overall cost of pilot training, maintenance and certification of engines and aircraft. No other activity or hobby requires as much time, effort or funding. AND THEREIN lay the parallels between the two.

    Reducing both guns and GA is a process of increasing cost through regulation every so slowly. Shutting down airports, requiring costly equipment installed in aircraft.

    The bright spot for arms is reversing shall vs may carry laws. Relaxing Cities & states silencers laws.

  18. avatar Out_Fang_Thief says:

    “I promise this is gun related . . .”

    Well, that’s going to leave a stretch mark. If this topic was about being able to carry a firearm on a private charter or your private aircraft, then that would make it gun related. In the same way that comparing the FDA to the FAA does not make it food-related.

    Some have asserted that it’s political, winch though true, is not the crux of the biscuit. The issue has been, and always will be, personal responsibility. Personal responsibility starts before government even opens its eyes. Handling or operating anything lethal requires personal responsibility. If you look around, you’ll find that the concept of personal responsibility is not exactly a top priority. Moreover, if you’re not inspecting whatever lethal equipment you’re using, then your lack of personal responsibility will most likely result in a negligent death. And that’s something no Fedgov agency can regulate, or mitigate.

  19. avatar Jeremiah S. says:

    Hey Nick, if your ever flying by Dallas Love field for some reason, stop by the Jet Aviation FBO and they’ll hook you up with some good prices on fuel. Just tell them that Jeremy sent you, and they’ll take care of you. They’ve got free ice cream too.Anyway, great article. I like the the comparison between the FAA and ATF. I feel like if the ATF did focus more on safety and the people operating guns and less on the weapons themselves that would be good for everyone.
    There are some negatives though, if the ATF were like the FAA, everyone would have to have their guns registered in a public database, like tail numbers on aircraft. Also, having to have my gun sent into the manufacture annually for a maintenance check-up like an aircraft would be annoying. Also you have to stay up to date on a government regulated safety and firearms courses to keep a “gun license” active. All of that sounds like a problem that I’m glad we in the gun-community don’t have to do (at least in most states).

  20. avatar Bill Cook says:

    Just an observation from a pilot (43 years-USAF, Northwest and Delta)…
    When a pilot screws the pooch, he is usually an active participant in the crash. Stupid shooters often target others.

    Remember, the pilot is always first on the scene of an accident!

  21. avatar FedUp says:

    Is Nick forgetting the agency motto?
    “We’re from the FAA, and we’re not happy until you’re not happy”

    1. avatar Bill Cook says:

      I thought that was Northwest’s motto. Along with “The Big Company with the Little Heart.”

  22. avatar Stinkeye says:

    Forget the FAA. Why can’t the ATF be more like the WPA?

    And by that, I mean “defunct and dissolved”.

    1. avatar Aaron says:

      Why can’t the ATF be more like a convenience store?

      Think about how popular they would be if they provided a one-stop source for all of the things they are trying to regulate!

  23. avatar jeremy says:


  24. avatar Ralph says:

    When I was counsel for a huge company with it’s own air fleet, the chief pilot was a major safety Nazi — right up until the time that the CFO demanded to fly the G3 while on a business trip. He wasn’t rated for instruments or jets, but he flew it anyway. Which is the ballistic equivalent of “hold my beer — I’m gonna try something.”

    Not cool, but corporate egos know no bounds.

  25. avatar Justsomeguy says:

    I think your experience might be limited Nick. There are more people in the FAA that love rules, love making rules and love finding new and more restrictive ways to interpret rules. You do not want the ATF to be like the FAA.

  26. avatar Dustin Cade says:

    The FAA has it’s own ATF called TSA

    1. avatar Aaron says:

      uh, no. TSA is part of Homeland Security.

  27. avatar Wielsucker (@Wielsucker) says:

    Only a new pilot could have such a rosy view of the “we are from the FAA and we are here to help you” bunch. OK, they are much better than the ATF but so is just about any organisation you could name, possibly including the SS and AMTRAK.

    -PPL-SEL with 20 years of trying not to get noticed by the FAA

  28. avatar Christopher says:

    Another distinction between the ATF and FAA I haven’t seen mentioned yet. As an ATSS that repairs/maintains navaids, if I eff up and it costs lives, there will be an investigation and I will be held responsible. If an ATF agent effs up and costs lives, there will be an investigation, and a whitewash.

  29. avatar John Gancho says:

    Totally different demographic the different bureaus police. There are no private pilots who are not enthusiasts. There are tons of gun owners who know little and care little about their weapons. We, the enthusiast community, are not the problem with guns.

  30. avatar Jay Dee says:

    Two things my instructor taught me when I was first learning to fly.

    So long as you don’t take anyone with you, the FAA really doesn’t care if you kill yourself due to poor safety or knowingly flying a defective airplane.

    If you were sitting at the end of the taxiway and the earth opened up and swallowed your airplane, the FAA will somehow claim this was due to pilot error.

  31. avatar Don from CT says:

    One interesting separation has to do with the FAA and the NTSB. The NTSB is as apolitical an organization as is humanly possible. They investigate crashes and then by a data driven process determine the likely cause(s) of the crash.

    Then the FAA proposes rules if necessary to reduce the risk of that kind of crash in the future.

    One other interesting point is that outside of regulation, airlines may choose to address an issue based on NTSB recommendations. Further, airlines’ insurance companies may push a rule on the airlines long before the regs change. If you want to be indemnified, you make the change.

    Finally, based on insurance regs, many airlines choose to set minimums that are more conservative than the law allows. This removes the pilot from having to make an uncomfortable judgement call. At least in theory.

    A Category IIIc ILS has NO MINIMUM decision height or runway visual range. But most airlines set minimum RVRs and DHs.

    I’ve blabbed on enough. Its interesting to note the crossover between airplane people and gun people.


    p.s. post 9/11 I had to remind a lot of pilots that we need a group like the NRA for pilots. AOPA is fine, but we need a group with more teeth. There is no Constitutional Amendment guaranteeing the right to fly yourself around in your own plane.

Write a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

button to share on facebook
button to tweet
button to share via email