An area we’ve discussed before is the creeping, some would say crushing, regulatory environment that GA faces today. Most regulations started off as a common sense approach to address areas that were known to cause accidents. But as too many cooks have learned, if a little spice is good there are rapidly diminishing returns when the oregano overpowers the oatmeal!
I came across an article the other day in the Washington Post by David Fahrenthold that clearly illustrates the point. Marty Hahne, a professional magician, was busted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for not having a license for his one-bunny show. Casey, his trusty three-pound assistant, is the highlight of the gig when extricated from a hat, picnic basket, or other enclosure. Hahne could saw the rabbit in half in front of the USDA inspector—hard on Casey—but apparently not illegal if the beasty is for human consumption (don’t try this at home, kids.)
But it doesn’t stop there. The original reg was just four pages, but now there are 14 pages of just rabbit rules. Sound familiar? When Casey goes on a road trip there must be an itinerary. Not only that, but a disaster plan is needed in case of a fire, flood, heat wave, chemical leak, or tornado. This grew out of some terrible animal abandonment abuses during hurricane Katrina. One magician has a plan: Take the rabbit with you. But Hahne has a 28-pager to illustrate the absurdity of creeping regulation. He notes that “Our country is broke and yet they have the time and money to harass somebody about a rabbit.”
This whole deal was in response to the outrage of a family Dalmatian that was kidnapped and used for experimental purposes by an unscrupulous medical laboratory. If interested, you can read how these 1965 animal protection rules were originally designed to regulate laboratories, zoos, circuses, carnivals and pet dealers at wapo.st/magic-marty. But somewhere along the way over-zealousness overshadowed a reasonable idea. It would be amusing if there wasn’t such a total lack of common sense on the part of the regulators! Don’t get me wrong—I love animals and currently have five rescued furry friends, but…
The operative word here is “proportionality.” Regulate appropriately for the activity and no more. GA suffers badly from being constantly compared to the airlines, and much of our activity is stifled by it. The medical exemption petition is one area, Part 23 rewrite to rein in aircraft certification costs is another, and some archaic flight training rules—all are being pursued by AOPA and the industry. But rule-making takes a long time, and in the interim the application of existing rules could stand some standardization. Some regs are ambiguously written and subject to “creative interpretation.”
The letter of the law, but not the intent, can lead to some very unproductive places. Conversely, we have a few pilots who through an abject lack of common sense (there’s that concept again) bring GA into a bad light, and the regulators respond with a heavy hand as opposed to using just enough oregano. FAA management and staff need to exercise as much common sense as they ask of pilots—because the oatmeal is in really bad shape.