What Does The FAA Do?

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Written By Berry Mathew

Much like with motor vehicles on the ground, air traffic was unregulated when flight first became available to man. During the early days of aircraft development, anyone from anywhere could build and operate any type of flying machine in any type of weather condition. Additionally, safety requirements, both for the pilot and those on the ground, simply didn’t exist. All of this led to a greater risk for accidents and injuries as the result of midair collisions, aircraft crashing to the ground, improper maneuvering and taxiing and more.


In the United States, the growing number of aircraft in the sky in the early 1900s led to the need for standards and regulations to protect pilots, passengers and civilians on the ground. The Federal Aviation Administration was borne from these needs, and today, the FAA provides guidance to and regulations for virtually all civilian air traffic in the United States. Additionally, the FAA approves what types of aircraft can fly and the regulations that govern various parts standards. For example, you can buy FAA approved aircraft landing lights from Specialty Bulb Inc. and know that you are purchasing products that fit within the guidelines set forth by the FAA regarding safety standards and visibility regulations.

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FAA Regulations In The Air

Aside from regulating safety equipment like aircraft light bulbs and aircraft lamps, the FAA is also responsible for producing regulations that relate to in-air conduct of pilots and the aircraft they operate. If you want to operate a civilian aircraft in the United States, you will need to receive a pilot certificate from the FAA. There are several different types of pilot certificates available depending on what type of air craft you intend to operate.

Failure to follow FAA regulations in the air, including failure to use proper aviation lighting and aircraft lights while landing, can lead to the suspension or revocation of a pilot certificate along with fines and fees. Aircraft landing lights are just one example of the different components of aircraft operation that the FAA sets guidelines for. Air traffic communication standards, in-flight maneuvers and more are all things that fall under FAA guidance.

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Does The FAA Regulate Military Aircraft?

The FAA is the chief administrative body for air travel in the civilian sector. The military’s Air Force and all air travel associated with branches of the armed forces operate outside of the FAA. This does not mean that the FAA has no effect on military air travel. Instead, military leaders work alongside the FAA to coordinate air travel to ensure both service members and civilians are safe.

The FAA may also designate, alongside military operations, certain airspace as restricted or closed. This is usually done during unique events that require air traffic to be kept to a minimum for safety purposes. In the aftermath of the attacks on the World Trade Center in September of 2001, virtually all civilian air traffic was temporarily grounded across the United States. Air traffic can also be restricted above and around certain government sites or during certain events.

Does The FAA Regulate Airport Operations?

Because airports are essential to commercial flights and flight safety in the United States, the FAA does have some regulatory authority over airports. With this stated, airports can also be privately owned and regulated by city and state laws and ordinances, so many airports actually have a mix of both federal and local oversight involved. Depending on the size and scope of an airport, the FAA may have regulatory control over air traffic control personnel, but individuals like baggage handlers for private air carriers may face fewer regulations.