FAA Enforcement Cases

Florida Aviation Law Firm

Earning a pilot’s license is a unique and special accomplishment.  It represents hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of intense practical work and studying in preparation for the exams and check rides.  For many, the books, training and flight time costs tens of thousands of dollars.  For those who have earned the certification of “pilot,” the endeavor is priceless.

NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System

To protect that privilege, if you believe that you have inadvertently violated the Federal Aviation Regulations and accidentally created an unsafe but not criminal condition, you should complete a NASA Aviation Safety Report.  Pursuant to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Advisory Circular No. 00-46E:

c. Enforcement Restrictions. The FAA considers the filing of a report with NASA concerning an incident or occurrence involving a violation of 49 U.S.C. subtitle VII or the 14 CFR to be indicative of a constructive attitude. Such an attitude will tend to prevent future violations. Accordingly, neither a civil penalty nor certificate suspension will be imposed if:

  1. The violation was inadvertent and not deliberate;
  2. The violation did not involve a criminal offense, accident, or action under 49 U.S.C. § 44709, which discloses a lack of qualification or competency, which is wholly excluded from this policy;
  3. The person has not been found in any prior FAA enforcement action to have committed a violation of 49 U.S.C. subtitle VII, or any regulation promulgated there for a period of five years prior to the date of occurrence; and
  4. The person proves that, within 10 days after the violation, or date when the person became aware or should have been aware of the violation, he or she completed and delivered or mailed a written report of the incident or occurrence to NASA.

You should submit the report online or in the mail within 10 days of the event in question and keep a copy of the time/date stamped verification stub.  If you mail the form, send it via certified mail, signature receipt, to assure timely delivery.   Keep copies of all documents as proof of your actions.  Be sure to use secure means to complete the forms (avoid using public use computers/printers) and do not share the documentation with anyone with whom you do not have a legal privilege.  In particular, you should not share this information with other pilots or personnel from the FAA because you can potentially lose the protections the program affords you.

Participation in the ASRS program is confidential, voluntary and non-punitive.  The data provided is given immunity so that honest aviation human factors safety information can lead to a better practical understanding of risks in the industry.  NASA has been successful in developing more effective safety programs with the ASRS.

Although filing a so-called “NASA report” cannot preclude an enforcement action by the FAA or a determination of a violation, it can be used to avoid sanctions.  In some cases, this can save your job.  Once used, you cannot use this “get out of jail free” provision again for the following five years.

FAA Enforcement Actions

Nothing, short of an in-flight emergency, can be more upsetting than a request by the FAA for an airman to participate in an investigation that may result in a violation or suspension of his or her license.  An airman may receive a “Notice of Proposed Certificate Action” or a “Notice of Civil Penalty Action,” along with a request to attend an informal conference at the local FAA Flight Standards District Office.  Any notice should place you on guard that the FAA has already conducted an enforcement investigation and ruled out remedial action in the form of counseling with a FAASTeam representative, remedial training or a Letter of Correction or Warning.

If you are offered an opportunity to request an informal hearing, the FAA is complying with your rights to procedural due process (the right to notice and a hearing) and you are facing legal action.  Many pilots feel that they did the best they could, have nothing to hide and want to attend a conference without legal representation.  They believe that retaining legal representation will cost too much, be bothersome to arrange or will make them appear guilty.  All of those assumptions are not true.  This investigatory stage can be an effective tool for positively resolving the situation.  Properly negotiated, it can result in a full dismissal of the matter.  Handled injudiciously, all statements made at the hearing can be used to substantiate violations and even raise other violations that the FAA was not aware of.

At Podhurst Orseck, we understand the pilot’s side as well as the FAA’s administrative safety role.  We can effectively intercede to ensure a positive outcome in an enforcement matter while protecting our client’s interests to the fullest extent possible.