Ed O'Grady

FAA Airspace Authorization & Waiver Experiences / Notes

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And so, as of noon today, Feb 7, no new waivers to Part 107 have been posted to the FAA website.  I have a call in to the group responsible for waivers in DC but frankly I don't expect a call back.  What we have are no new waivers approved since Jan 23.  My concern is that waivers to existing regulations are being suspended the same way that new regulations are blocked.  I have not been able to confirm this but I am trying.  If my concerns are founded, then I suspect the same will apply to airspace authorizations.  Let's hope I am wrong.

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1 hour ago, Ed O'Grady said:

And so, as of noon today, Feb 7, no new waivers to Part 107 have been posted to the FAA website.  I have a call in to the group responsible for waivers in DC but frankly I don't expect a call back.  What we have are no new waivers approved since Jan 23.  My concern is that waivers to existing regulations are being suspended the same way that new regulations are blocked.  I have not been able to confirm this but I am trying.  If my concerns are founded, then I suspect the same will apply to airspace authorizations.  Let's hope I am wrong.

Ed, is there another site to check for approved waivers besides this one?

https://www.faa.gov/uas/request_waiver/waivers_granted/

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I read an article on CNN yesterday that said the FAA is holding off approving any new safety briefings due to the executive order. My guess is that it applies to drone requests too. ¬¬

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That is the only site I am aware of @Uaviator53.  And Steve, I did see a piece on the crawl on CNN that caused me to look at this again today.  I have not gotten a return call and don't really expect one but I think OMB, which sets the bar as I understand it, considers a waiver of anything as a re-regulation.  So unless they take away 2 waivers from someone else, we're not getting anything for a while!  At least, that's what it appears.

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Well more info as of 2/8.  I'm told that waivers are still being issued but simply have not been posted online.  I was told that the Presidential Executive Order did not affect the issuance of waivers. I will stay on it.

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Hey guys,

I started following this topic after I submitted my first group of waiver requests.  Here has been my experience:

I submitted my first request on 1/31 for an airspace waiver.  Like everyone else, I was left wondering if it was actually received.  Since I live in an MSA with one class C airport surround by 4 municipal airports that are either class D or E, the majority of my clients' request are going to fall in controlled airspace.  Not knowing how the first one was going to turn out, I submitted 3 additional requests, all for airspace waivers, on 2/2.  

I got a call yesterday (2/8) from the FAA rep who was assigned to one of my requests (ironically, not the first request submitted).  He was very cordial and told me he was calling for a couple reasons.  I put May 2nd as the date that I wanted to fly, so he was curious if that was the actual date I wanted to fly or if I did that to make sure the FAA had 90 days to review the request.  I told him it was because of the latter, and frankly, I need to get out there as soon as possible.  He said he would change the dates to the following Monday (2/13) and make it effective for 7 days to give me time to get out there depending on weather.  Next, he noticed I requested 400' AGL and wanted to know if that's what I had to have or if I would accept 100'.  I asked why, and he said that he could approve the 100' today without any additional research or coordination.  But, if I really wanted the 400', it was going to take additional time to get that approved and coordinate with ATC.  I told him that I'd take the 100', and if that wasn't satisfactory to my clients, I'd reapply for the 400'.  I asked though, if I did want to reapply, what was it going to take to get that approved?   I told him I had access to a 2-way radio, could communicate with ATC, etc., etc.  He told me that I needed to explain all of that in my description of operation, but that given the proximity to the airport, he'd have to do some more work on his end to get that approved.  I didn't get the sense that he didn't want to do the work, but more that he was trying to expedite the process for me...if I could live with 100' he could move on to the next request...  I asked him to confirm that the next step was going to be that I got the approved waiver emailed to me.  He acknowledged that unfortunately there's not a notification process because they are still "building the system as they go," but the next steps were for him to send the waiver to headquarters for signature, headquarters would send it back to him, he'd then email it to me and ATC.  He didn't know how long that would take but expected I'd get it by the end of the week.

Then, a couple hours later, the same guy called me again.  He was reviewing my next request which is closer to the class E airport.  He said that one was good to go, I could have 400', and he just wanted to know about the dates again.  I asked him to make them the same as the other because I could probably do both in one day, but certainly both the same week. 

Unfortunately, he didn't know anything about my other two requests.  He said they must have been assigned to someone else.  His advice on future requests regarding the dates was to go ahead and make the request 90 days out, but in the description of operation, explain that that I would take sooner dates if possible.  Give yourself a window of opportunity to work (3,5,7 days) so you can plan for weather or other circumstances.  Also, if you request the max altitude at 400', go ahead and note weather you must have the 400' or if you can operate at 200'.  I got the sense 400' isn't necessarily an issue, but if there are more logistics involved, they need to make sure everyone can operate safely (i.e., communicate with ATC on 2-way radio, yield to manned aircraft, etc., etc).

I didn't ask why the approvals aren't being posted on the website, but at least we know that they are still granting them (well, assuming I actually get it when he said I would).  Hope this helps everyone.

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@B fabulous post!  Thank you so much for that.  I have been in touch several times this week with the FAA section that handles waivers (not airspace) in DC and I have n't gotten anything really dfinitive from them.  It's good to know that the contractors handling airspace are alive and well.  I too had to accept 100' in one of my requests. In know they are working hard on this and trying to keep everyone happy.  Again, thanks for the update and congrats on getting it!

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Authorizations are required for most all operations anywhere near a metro area. Most active photography companies are not licensed are certainly are not obtaining authorizations. Does anyone have success stories in the area of obtaining waivers and authorizations for commercial aerial work?

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I'll also point out that there is a BIG difference between "authorizations" & "waivers". FAA is not granting airspace waivers from everything we know. Authorizations are being granted for class C, D & Surface E. No Class B authorization is being approved yet.

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Based on @B's post above, it appears that FAA continues to issue airspace authorizations.  However, this morning I spoke again with the unit that handles waivers, AFS-800, in DC and was told that while they are continuing to work on waivers and are processing them, they are not being release due to President Trump's Executive Order.  They will be released when and if the Order is either rescinded or it expires.  I was told that this was reaffirmed in a meeting held yesterday.

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2 hours ago, Ed O'Grady said:

...... they are continuing to work on waivers and are processing them, they are not being release due to President Trump's Executive Order.  They will be released when and if the Order is either rescinded or it expires.  ........

Well. That blows. Thanks for following up on this.

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9 hours ago, Ed O'Grady said:

Based on @B's post above, it appears that FAA continues to issue airspace authorizations.  However, this morning I spoke again with the unit that handles waivers, AFS-800, in DC and was told that while they are continuing to work on waivers and are processing them, they are not being release due to President Trump's Executive Order.  They will be released when and if the Order is either rescinded or it expires.  I was told that this was reaffirmed in a meeting held yesterday.

Which executive order?

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My understanding is that the Office of Management and Budget, which has set the bar regarding the regulations covered by the executive order, deems that waivers to an existing regulation are prohibited just as new regulations are.  That's my understanding, not an official interpretation.  In any case, it looks as if we are at a standstill for now based on what FAA has told me.

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1 hour ago, Ed O'Grady said:

My understanding is that the Office of Management and Budget, which has set the bar regarding the regulations covered by the executive order, deems that waivers to an existing regulation are prohibited just as new regulations are.  That's my understanding, not an official interpretation.  In any case, it looks as if we are at a standstill for now based on what FAA has told me.

Thanks. Leave it to govmn't pinheads to decide this exec order applies to waivers, brilliant!

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On 2/11/2017 at 6:43 PM, Uaviator53 said:

Thanks. I've read this before, not sure what it has to do with part 107 waivers or authorizations.

If you consider the following 2 paragraphs, I would interpret it the same way as Ed (bold emphasis mine)...

Quote

Section 3)
(c)  Unless otherwise required by law, no regulation shall be issued by an agency if it was not included on the most recent version or update of the published Unified Regulatory Agenda as required under Executive Order 12866, as amended, or any successor order, unless the issuance of such regulation was approved in advance in writing by the Director.

Quote

Section 4.  Definition.  For purposes of this order the term "regulation" or "rule" means an agency statement of general or particular applicability and future effect designed to implement, interpret, or prescribe law or policy or to describe the procedure or practice requirements of an agency, but does not include:

(a)  regulations issued with respect to a military, national security, or foreign affairs function of the United States;

(b)  regulations related to agency organization, management, or personnel; or

(c)  any other category of regulations exempted by the Director.

I could totally see how someone in the FAA might think this applies to issuing new authorizations or waivers since it costs FAA budget to do so and affects existing interpretation of regulations passed prior to the current president taking office.

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Respectfully disagree, Steve. I believe the key word is waiver, is not in the definition. And no NEW regulation was issued after 1/20/17, part 107 was issued last year. Is the federal government currently paralyzed? Doesn't appear to be. This FAA interpretation only encourages government to do what it does best; delay and obstruct. The FAA pinheads (lawyers and management not those at the front lines) are merely delaying approvals and backing up the applications so they can later whine about their budget. I spent 32 years in local, county, state government. I am familiar with how things are done by bureaucrats.

The President's executive order is simply being used by bureaucratic hacks to do what they do best, nothing. And there's not one thing we taxpayers can do about it except suck it up.

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Just now, Ed O'Grady said:

However, @Uaviator53, what the waiver group told me in DC is that they are continuing to process them but not releasing them yet.  So that suggests they are doing something but I wouldn't stake my life on it!

 

3 minutes ago, Ed O'Grady said:

However, @Uaviator53, what the waiver group told me in DC is that they are continuing to process them but not releasing them yet.  So that suggests they are doing something but I wouldn't stake my life on it!

Thanks Ed. As Dr. McCoy once said "The Bureaucratic Mentality Is The Only Constant In The Universe. ":D

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Hey guys,

This may seem contrary to what you are experiencing, but, I got a call from a different rep today who was processing another one of my requests.  He said he was approving it, sending it out for signature today, and I should receive it soon.  This rep was in Dallas, and the previous rep was in Houston.  After this one, I have one more request pending.  He didn't know about it and said it must have been assigned to someone else...ironically, it was the first one I submitted...  Nevertheless, I'm experiencing an approximate 2-week turnaround and currently batting .750...

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