- FAA cannot use these reports for enforcement actions, but ...
This system does not do for hiding rule violations, bad behavior and
accidents. A letter from a reader in
Soaring, February, 2016, (sign-in required) explains the system.
In addition to promoting aviation, the FAA has the task of promoting
safe aviation. As explained in an Advistory Circular and websites, the
Administrator cannot fix unsafe conditions until it knows about them,
therefore, the FAA and NASA have devised the Aviation Safety Reporting System
But from time to time, you may hear a pilot speak of receiving immunity for his own transgressions as a result of participating in the ASRS. The word "immunity" -actually used on the site- seems to instill the ideas such as "get out of jail free" or "home free" when perhaps anonymity would be a better choice of words.
A person may make a report by completing the online form or printing and mailing the paper form. The form page explains the anonymity aspect of FAR 91.25; the FAA cannot use these reports for enforcement action. The form does ask for name, address and phone; sometimes, NASA personnel need more information to indentify or define unsafe conditions before passing the report on to the FAA. To satisfy the anonymity provisions of FAR 91.25, NASA will stamp the date of receipt on the form header which contains your name, tear it off, and send it back to you as proof of submission. This proof provides the limited "immunity" (or mitigation) should the FAA acquire your identity through other means. But before NASA tears off your name, it inspects the form for suggestions of criminalty or accident. Finding such, NASA will send the form with your name still on it to the proper regulatory authorities, be it FAA and NTSB or law enforcement. Please note, the program does not provide anonymity to the alleged perpetrators of criminal activity or those possibly responsible for accidents or reckless behavior. Also; the FAA may use information it finds through other sources for any legal purpose.
References: AC 00-46E, FAA Handbook 7210.3, 14CFR §91.25 and the NASA website found at the link at the top of the page.