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I had never really heard of OpSpecs until I started a new flying job that was at a Part 135 company.

So for those people who are new to this (or are just interested):

  • What is an Operation Specification and how does it relate to the actual CFR regulations?
  • What kinds of things are they used for?
  • Who uses OpSpecs?
  • In general terms, how is an OpSpec obtained?
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Putting aside the legal definition for someone else, they are a set of rules that an operator (an airline for example) agrees to operate by. The FAA has to approve them. The ops specs can be more restrictive than applicable FAA regulations, but never less restrictive (as I remember). They cover many things, some of which (that I can remember) are:

  1. Type of equipment you're going to operate.
  2. Where you're going to operate.
  3. Extent to which VFR operations will be allowed.
  4. Types of navigation equipment permitted.
  5. Who you can offer your services to.
  6. Crew training required.
  7. Duty and flight time limitations.
  8. Disciplinary protocols to follow.
  9. Flight planning, dispatch, flight following requirements.
  10. Lists of who is who: chief pilot, flight standards director, etc.

There are a lot more areas, but basically it's how you're going to operate your airline. The thing to remember is to give yourself as much leeway as possible. Don't do something stupid like saying that if someone fails an alcohol or drug test that you're simply doing to fire them. Provide for as much VFR operation as you can possibly get the FAA to agree to. Don't saddle yourself with impossible maintenance requirements if you have a mechanical problem in, say, Harare.

Ops specs are best written by someone who has been around the block many times. Write them poorly and you're going to cost yourself a lot of money that you would otherwise not have to spend. If you get a recalcitrant FAA inspector, it's worth fighting it out. Appeal as necessary until you get what you need. Don't be afraid to show up the ignorance of FAA newbies that may have been assigned. Also, remember that the FAA regions are not standardized. It may even be worth considering changing the region where you're technically based to get what you want.

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  • $\begingroup$ OpSpecs are pre-written templates these days, and you either get them or you don't (unless you get a deviation). The last two paragraphs are great advice for an FOM/GOM and other manuals though, and the beginning all applies to OpSpecs! $\endgroup$ – Lnafziger Feb 10 '14 at 1:54
  • $\begingroup$ @Lnafziger When they started requiring OpSpecs for Part 135 operators, pre-written templates quickly appeared. However, I can't imagine a pre-written template being acceptable for a Part 121 or Part 125 carrier. But then I've been retired since 1999 and perhaps things have changed more than I realize. $\endgroup$ – Terry Feb 10 '14 at 6:26
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An OpSpecs is basically a contract between the FAA and the Carrier. It grants permission for the carrier to operate and contains the permissions for several parts of the operation. The OpSpecs are created and agreed upon before the carrier receives there certificate to operate.

The carrier's (certificate holder's) Manual should ensure that the OpSpecs are upheld or the FAA could pull the carriers certificate. See the following (one is for Part 121 but, it explains a lot): http://fsims.faa.gov/wdocs/8900.1/V03%20Tech%20Admin/Chapter%2018/03_018_003.htm

https://www.faa.gov/about/initiatives/atos/air_carrier/intro_to_part121_cert/

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