by Greg Reigel, AAL
Copyright 2018. All Rights Reserved
Published in Midwest Flyer – August/September 2018 issue
The short answer to that question is “no.” But before you decide to ignore ATC’s request, you should give it some thoughtful consideration.
First, you should know that you have no legal responsibility to place the call. ATC’s request is not an ATC instruction that you may otherwise be obligated to follow under 14 CFR 91.123.
Next, you should ask yourself why ATC might be asking you to call? Oftentimes the request is intended to obtain your personal information (e.g. name, contact information, etc.) so the FAA will know who was operating the aircraft. If you provide that information, you will have then given the FAA what it needs to place you in the aircraft at the time of the incident or situation that prompted the request for you to call ATC. If the situation results in an enforcement action, you would have given the FAA what it needs to help make its case.
Alternatively, ATC may want to advise you of procedures or provide information with respect to your flight operations. ATC may simply be trying to educate you regarding operations within its area of coverage or to help correct an aspect of your operation that may otherwise not have been in strict compliance with the regulations.
If you do make the call, you need to understand two important points:
1.The telephone call will be recorded. So, the FAA will have a record of everything said during the call, both by you and the ATC representative; and
2.The FAA will use the information you provide. If the situation is one that warrants treatment as a “compliance action,” the FAA will use the information to help correct your regulatory deviation and to ensure that future deviations do not occur. If the situation is more serious and leads to an enforcement action, the FAA will use any information you provide against you to support its position that you violated the regulations.
With this information in mind, you should analyze your situation to determine whether it does or does not make sense to make the call. If the situation involves a potentially serious violation of the regulations, then it may not be prudent to make the call.
If the situation involves conduct that may qualify for treatment as a compliance action, or if you want to try and find out what ATC wants without providing any personal information, then making the call may be a reasonable option. After all, one of the criteria for a compliance action is that the airman shows a compliance attitude. Ignoring the request for a call could result in the FAA believing that you do not have a compliant attitude, which certainly won’t help your situation.
Unfortunately, no hard and fast rule exists to help you make the decision. You will need to review your situation and give it some thought/analysis. And if you are unsure, it may make sense to discuss your situation with an aviation attorney to help you make the decision. In that case, feel free to contact me and I will be happy to help.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Greg Reigel is an attorney with Shackelford, Melton, McKinley & Norton, LLP, and represents clients throughout the country in aviation and business law matters. For assistance, call 214-780-1482, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or Twitter @ReigelLaw.