Public Declaration Letter
The following information is provided to assist you in obtaining your Certificate of Waiver/Authorization (COA) for the Public Agency for which you are affiliated
In March 2010, the FAA issued an interpretation stating that for purposes of public aircraft operation, no state University would be considered as having public aircraft status without documentation from the state government affirming the University’s status under the public aircraft statute. This affirmation has been expanded to apply to other non-federal organizations including law enforcement, fire and first responders agencies within states, and is necessitated by the fact that the organization and authority of state governments and their political subdivisions are unique to each state. The FAA has no cognizance of the organization of the individual states and will not make such a determination.
Accordingly, the first step is to submit a public declaration letter which must be signed on letterhead by your States Attorney General (AG) County or City Attorney (or their designated representative). Proponents are cautioned that letters from their agencies General Counsel will not be acceptable since they are akin to self-certification by the applicant. Since the FAA may have little or no oversight of public aircraft operations, the determination by a state, county or city that an entity qualifies is an acknowledgment by the state, county or city of the state’s responsibility for operation of a UAS. This is a primary factor in our decision to require proof from a state, county or city government that the entity requesting a COA is an entity recognized by the state, meets the term contained in the statute, and that the state, county or city recognizes its legal responsibility for the operation. This is probably the most time consuming step. Regarding the phrasing and prose required for the state, county or city Attorney General Letter, here are some guidelines:
1) The applicant must prove that the agency is part of the government of the state in which it resides, or a political subdivision of the state (however, a political subdivision is usually reserved for other forms of government such as county commissions, city councils, public service districts, etc.) Most applicants refer to individual state statutes concerning the particular agency; the proponent should review how the state statutes refer to the agency. After that, proponents should state which statute/chapters are referenced to prove Public status. As a disclaimer, do not claim that the agency is part of the state government or a political subdivision without proving that it qualifies for such status. If the proponent states that the agency is Public, the proponent must prove it. A proponent cannot self-certify public status. The repercussions of Public Agency presumption can result in termination of the COA application.
2) After the first paragraph, the proponent will need to specifically address 49 USC 40102(a) (41) (C) and/or (D). (C) Applies to whether the proponent buys or owns an aircraft and (D) applies to an aircraft which is leased for at least 90 continuous days.
3) The proponent must address 49 USC 40125(b), dealing with commercial purpose. A proponents request for a COA will be approved contingent on the premise that no operations will be conduct for “…compensation or hire”. A Public proponent cannot get paid by an outside non-federal agency to conduct operations. Refer to 49 USC 40125(a) for a complete definition of commercial purpose.
An example of a letter could be (this example is very short and is a bare minimum):
“…As a Public Law Enforcement, Fire or First Responder Agency under the state code/statute/chapter (list proponents preference), and aircraft owned by Public Law Enforcement, Fire or First Responder Agency qualifies and will be operated as ‘public aircraft’ as defined in 49 USC 40102(a)(41)(C) and/or (D). In addition, the Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) will not be used for “commercial purposes” pursuant to 49 USC 40125(a).”
49 USC 40125 (a)
(1) Commercial purposes. –The term “commercial purposes” means the transportation of persons or property for compensation or hire…
Simply because an operator is eligible to conduct a public aircraft operation does not mean that any operation it conducts is a public aircraft operation. Operations that do not meet one of the definitions in §40102(a)(41), or that are found to be for compensation or hire are not public aircraft operations and must comply with all of the requirements of Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations that are applicable to the aircraft. Please note that “not-for-profit” status of the operator imparts neither status as a public aircraft operation nor a determination whether an operation is for compensation or hire. The term commercial purposes in the public aircraft statute is regarded by the FAA as having a broader prohibition on reimbursement than similar usage of the term regarding 14 CFR Part 91 operations.
No further action will be taken on your COA account until the FAA receives the information described in this letter. The responsibility to establish a legal nexus between the state and the Law Enforcement, Fire or First Responder Agency rests with the State’s Attorney General, County or City Attorney and the Public Agencies appropriate legal counsel. We suggest giving this email to the Agencies Office of General Counsel and have them draft this letter to/for the State’s Attorney General, County or City attorney to sign (again, the Law Enforcement, Fire or First Responder Agencies Office of General Counsel will not suffice). Once the State Attorney General, County or City Attorney has finalized and signed the letter, they can send it to me via email or regular postage.
Please forward signed public declaration letters to;
Federal Aviation Administration
Jacqueline R. Jackson
Acting Air traffic Manager
Unmanned Aircraft Tactical Operations, AJV-115
490 L’Enfant Plaza SW Suite 3200
Washington Dc 20024
Also, If you would forward a copy of the public declaration letter via email to Steven.firstname.lastname@example.org, I can move the process along more rapidly.