Real Answers from Real Pilots

Pilot Deviations and the consequences associated

(Robert K) #1

Hello Pilot Mentors,

Just a quick question here. We were having one of the weekly meetings at ATP in Mesa and a question came up about pilot deviations. I have never had one and hope to not ever have one in the future, but these are still questions of interest that maybe you guys could answer.

  1. What are the consequences in your career if you do receive a pilot deviation?
  2. Do the airlines have access to your record if you do have a pilot deviation?
  3. I understand there must be levels of severity in pilot deviations, but are they all considered the same at the Airlines and on your record?
  4. Are you able to erase them from your record if you do get one?

Thanks for the help!


(TX) #2

While you’re waiting on an answer to your specific questions, let me add something from the perspective of a former controller…

We saw a LOT of deviations. Often multiple in one day. The majority were minor and we wouldn’t even bother bringing them up. Out of the rest, the majority of those were nothing more than a correction on the radio (e.g. “N123, verify level at eight thousand” when they dropped low, “N456, you were to go behind the Citation on taxiway alpha, not in front”, etc.).

Very rarely would we have somebody call us. Usually when we felt that safety was compromised or if we needed to talk more than we could do on the radio. I feel like I personally saw it maybe once every 3 months, if that. Fun fact, the “possible pilot deviation” statement giving you a phone number is called a Brasher Warning. Maybe the first guy to get caught screwing up was named Brasher. I dunno.

In every single one of those cases, the supervisor would educate/chew out the pilot over what happened, and that was that. None were passed on to the FSDO for follow up, to my knowledge.

Except for some unusual cases, it’s ATC who will be the ones who become aware of a deviation, and they are not the sky cops. They just want you to fly safe. Unless we had reason to suspect that a deviation was intentional and reckless, I don’t know anybody who would turn it in (unless we had some other compelling reason to do so, like an accident occurred because of it).

I’ll add that this is just my personal experience, but it’s over five years in multiple facilities, so I feel that it’s fairly representative of what you’ll see. Apologize, acknowledge your mistake, learn from it, and that’ll almost certainly be the last you’ll hear about it. And don’t it again, of course.

Oh, last thing… from what I know about the FSDOs, their preference is also to educate and counsel first. Enforcement action is scary, but they just want you to be safe. So if you do get a call from them, own up and don’t be evasive about it. Enacting penalties is more work than talking it over, so… make it easier on everybody and admit up to any mistakes. From what I’ve been told by FSDO friends.

Edit to add: I know there are a lot of good arguments to not volunteer any extra information should the FSDO call you, to lawyer up, etc. The last bit was just repeating what a friend from the FSDO said. Take it as you will, YMMV.

(Tom Tolento) #3


Do you know about the ASRS from NASA? It is the Aviation Safety Reporting System which is independent from the FAA designated under NASA to try and recognize and mitigate safety related issues.

Quick run down on how it works. It is a Voluntary, Confidential source to report either yourself or others and can be done by Pilots, ATC, FAs, Mechanics, Ground Personnel, and others out there. Its not to be looked as “ratting” anyone out more as improving the skies. You will fill out the report, NASA then removes any identifying information and issues it a number. You will receive an letter in the mail with your report number and the FAA/NTSB/AOPA (anyone that cares about improvements and how to accomplish) will receive the report without identifying factors.

Its something good that if you bust a Bravo (even if not called out on it) to report it, explain what happened, what you will do in the future and if you reached out to a CFI to talk more about avoiding it in the future.

The FAA has an agreement with NASA to not use ASRS reports against those in reports should identifying information ever get out (NASA touts over 1 Million reports and not 1 breach of identity).

Now I doubt this would protect you working for an airline if you deviate and a coworker reports to the airline but the FAA at least wont punish you.

Just wanted to let you know about it as not everyone knows this resource is out there.



First for you to say you “hope to not ever have one in the future” is unrealistic to say the least. There’s something called the “Inevitability of Human Error” and there isn’t a pilot alive that hasn’t had a deviation. Modern aviation acknowledges the facts pilots are human and ALL the organizations involved (FAA, NTSB, and the airlines) have concluded the education is more beneficial than punishment. To that end the FAA has created what’s known as the ASAP (Aviation Safety Action Program) program. The idea here is to encourage pilots to report their deviations, errors etc by offering them “protection” if they self-report. Meaning if you deviate from a clearance, turn the wrong way, descend without clearance etc, EVEN if ATC doesn’t say anything the FAA would like you to rat yourself out and explain what happened. The hope is they can identify potential problem areas etc and correct them (btw ATC controllers make mistakes as well and are encouraged to submit the same type of report). Provided the deviation is not willful or substance abuse related the majority of the reports are accepted and you get a pass. I have filled out more than my share and I’ve never had a issue, had it reported to my airline.

I see Tom mentioned the NASA reports which is a similar program but I believe there’s a limit to how many you can fill out within a certain period of time. ASAP has no BUT if you make a habit of making these errors I’d expect a phone call from the FSDO.

In answer to your other questions of course the airline can see your record. If it’s a single event and you have a reasonable explanation you’ll be fine, if not you might not.




  1. It really depends not he severity of the deviation. That being said, nobody is perfect and airlines know that. An honest mistake is one thing, an intentional deviation is another.

  2. Yes.

  3. No. A simple altitude deviation would be very different than flying through restricted airspace.

  4. Nope, they stay there forever. No juvenile court in the airlines.

(Tom Tolento) #6


Thanks I did not know the FAA had a program as well. Also nice to know that the airlines have a common thought on it as well for minor ones that aren’t reckless or SA related.

The more you know folks! Never stop learning!


(Robert K) #8


Thank you all for your informative replies! I will convey the information forward.


(TX) #9

Does ATP use ASAP? I thought it was geared more towards collaboration with carriers and creating safety programs with them (of which voluntary self-reporting is part). If I understood it correctly, the AC says it only covers people who are working with a carrier who has signed an MOU to use the program; it excludes “Reports of events that occurred when NOT acting as an employee of the certificate holder.”


No, like you though, ASAP was designed for the airlines. FAA students and instructors have NASA reports available to them, like all pilots do.