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Oh No, Not Another Acronym!
Flight Standards Enters the Information Age, and Brings You Along

by Phyllis Anne Duncan, 2007
Reprinted with permission from FAA Aviation News

One thing about the transparency of government is our operator's and the public has always had access to the guidance materials used by FAA inspectors in certification, inspection, or surveillance. Up until recently, that meant that operators had to subscribe to up to three large paper directives, or orders. If you're an air carrier you probably know FAA Order 8400.10, Air Transportation Operations Inspectors Handbook, and FAA Order 8300.10, Maintenance Inspectors Handbook. If you're any other kind of air operator or air agency, then, you're familiar with Order 8700.1, General Aviation Operations Inspectors Handbook, as well as Order 8300.10. Those three directives have been the guiding documents for inspectors for the past two decades.

In addition to the printed versions of these documents, we posted .pdf versions of them on the FAA's public Web site for public and industry use. Then, in 2004, we made some changes to the presentation of the information from these directives, which affected inspectors only. Basically, we did some digital "magic" to the content to allow inspectors to search across all three directives electronically. We continued to issue paper changes and updates to the three directives and post those changes on the public Web site. We called this new inspector application the Flight Standards Information Management System, or FSIMS.

The content of FSIMS was essentially the content of the three inspector directives'including any duplications'but inspectors could set up an "account" in FSIMS which filtered out any information not related to their particular specialty. For example, a general aviation operations inspector could designate preferences so that any searches he or she did would return only GA Ops information - no paging through a large document to find the information and no wading through unrelated chapters. Inspectors used this application, with enhancements and upgrades, for three years, providing us feedback as well on how to improve. One thing many inspectors said was, "Wouldn't it be great if our operators could use FSIMS?"

Well, coincidentally, the Director of the Flight Standards Service, James J. Ballough, came up with the same idea. For many years, in fact since he was a field inspector, he has wanted a single source, electronic, policy document for inspectors, which operators could also access. He tasked the FSIMS program office with not only combining the three paper directives into a single, electronic directive, but to make certain operators, and the public, had the same access to the same information.

This past September, we delivered to our inspectors FAA Order 8900.1, Flight Standards Information Management System, at the same time canceling Orders 8300.10, 8400.10, and 8700.1. We haven't lost the content of those orders; merely, it's now included in the FAA's first all-electronic order. This order will never be printed'it would amount to around 8,000 pages! On the same day this electronic directive debuted for inspectors, a public version also appeared on the FAA's public Web site - http://fsims.faa.gov.

Don't be dismayed by any "Page not found" or redirect messages you may receive when you look at any book marked pages for the cancelled orders. Just bookmark that URL above, and you'll be able to get to all the information you were accustomed to in the old, printed directives. Of course, we did rearrange the order of the content extensively, but there's help for that as well.

Let's take a look at the "home" page (Figure 1) for the public side of Order 8900.1.

We recommend you first click on "Help and Training" (Figure 2) on the lower left. This is your online training on how to use the features of 8900.1, and you can learn about the features of 8900.1 several different ways, including an embedded Quick Tour. Exploring this first will help you navigate through the remainder of the directive.

Once you've used the "Help and Training" feature, note 8900.1 provides several different means to access specific information. You have "Library by Subject," broken down by Aircraft, Airmen, Air Operators, Air Agencies, and General. Within each of these subject libraries, you can "drill down" to more specific information or select a regulation area within each. On the left hand side of the home page, you can also use "Areas of Interest," for example, certification, surveillance, enforcement, etc. As well, there's an alphabetical index (Figure 3). Click on Index from the left hand side, and let's say you wanted to see all our policy on repair stations. Select "R" from the alphabet at the top of the page, and you'll see something like Figure 3.

By far the best feature of 8900.1 is Search, particularly the Advanced Search function (Figure 4). This is where reviewing the Help and Training Section is key'because you'll see just how powerful this search function can be in getting you to the specific information you need.

The ease of navigating 8900.1 will increase naturally with use, and we'll constantly improve its functions and features'and content. One upcoming enhancement will allow you to sign onto a ListServ function, meaning you'll receive a e-mail any time we change FAA policy in an area which might affect you. Because both the public and inspector access to 8900.1 come from the same server, when we update the inspector version, the public version also gets updated. So, you and your principal inspectors will be reading from the same sheet of music, so to speak. Hey, you asked for standardization, and we're happy to provide.

Go to fsims.faa.gov and experiment with it after going through the Help and Training. We think you'll be pleased. And since it's a directive, we won't be adding another dreaded acronym to our long list.

Direct any questions about the technical content of 8900.1 or FSIMS, if you prefer, to your principal inspectors. If the features or functions don't work, please e-mail 9-awa-avs-afs-fsims-librarian@faa.gov and provide a detailed description of the problem.

Phyllis Duncan oversees the FSIMS Program Office for Flight Standards and is a former editor of FAA Aviation News.