Oh No, Not Another Acronym!
Flight Standards Enters the Information Age, and Brings You
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
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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