FAA Receives Data Quality Challenge

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) received a request Jan. 15 under the Data Quality Act challenging six studies that FAA uses to justify its Age 60 rule; this rule does not allow service pilots to fly after the age of 60. The 61-page challenge asserts that the studies are false and misleading in the information and statistics they disseminate due to flawed methodologies and biased investigations. Several pilots and the Israeli Association of General Aviation filed comments in support of the challenge. FAA Sept. 9 by denying most of it, but did decide to incorporate a caveat into the findings of two reports. The caveat acknowledges a potential impact from removing information that the petitioner believes should be mentioned. Beyond that, for four of the six reports FAA believes the other specifics challenged “are matters of interpretation and emphasis rather than fact. Therefore, no other corrections are required…” FAA justifies using the other two studies based on decisions by U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled the studies have value. The response offers no modification or withdrawal of the Age 60 rule and states that the rule predates any of the challenged studies. A request for reconsideration was filed Oct. 10. The appeal argues that the appropriate office did not review the initial request and that the office that did conduct the review ignored the main points of the request, introduced irrelevant information, and relied upon an improper standard of review. The appeal also expounds on the petitioner’s belief that the underlying statistical studies used for the reports are invalid. The petitioner’s appeal also rejects FAA’s solution of inserting a caveat into two of the reports. The petitioner believes the caveats will be hidden in the reports and will not resolve the flaws. The request for reconsideration contends that the only solution is to remove the reports from the Internet. In an amendment to the request for reconsideration, the petitioner cites a letter from the FAA to Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) in order to argue that the studies should be viewed as influential. However, this falls far short of the strict definition of “influential information” in the data quality guidelines. A second amendment was also filed that raises a recent FAA decision to rely on the challenged studies for a regulatory action. The second amendment also points to additional evidence that the studies are flawed acquired in a Freedom of Information Act request.
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