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Old 09-14-2009, 12:13 AM   #1  
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Joined APC: Feb 2005
Position: 747-400 captain
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Lightbulb How to survive an FAA investigation

Informative video with an aviation law attorney:

FlightPod Television

Highlights of interview:

Q- What’s the first thing that we should think about when we get a certified letter from the FAA?

A- Contact your lawyer. Don’t respond on your own to the letter.

Q- Should we ever expect the FAA to call us over the phone? And if they did would that be appropriate?

A- Yes, they can call. Always be courteous but do not answer any questions or try to explain. Tell them that you have an attorney.

Q- What are some common misconceptions that pilots have about that initial contact with the FAA?

A- Common misconception is that you have to talk to the FAA. You have to present your Airworthiness Certificate, your medical, and your FAA License. They can demand your logbooks or as a commercial operator they can demand to inspect your airplane and/or your aviation records. Your are not required by law to carry your logbook, so never carry it.

Q- Can the FAA ground you?

A- The FAA can ground you by an Emergency Order but not on the spot. They must have a court order or subpoena. If this happens, call a lawyer immediately.

Q- As far as a hearing goes, what can we expect the next few steps to be?

A- You will get a notice of proposed certificate action listing the charges against you. Your lawyer will request a EIR with all of the evidence against you. The next step is an informal conference. NEVER ATTEND THIS ALONE. It is an attempt to get a plea confession from you.

Q- How long does this entire process take from the time you get the letter until the time there’s a disposition?

A- It depends on what kind of violation. TFR or SFRA / ADIZ are usually pretty quick, but it depends on how serious the government feels your charges are. With an attorney it can take anywhere from 3 weeks to a year or more. You have 20 days to appeal an order against you to the NTSB or you will loose the appeal. The FAA has 5 days to file the complaint.

Q- What are the most common types of violations, or some of the most common traps that you see pilots fall into time and time again?

A- Squawking VFR in the SFRA , clipping airspace, IFR busts. It’s always up to the person on the other end of the microphone as to whether it becomes something more serious. Do your best to correct it, but never try to explain it. Carry NASA forms. NASA forms are only good for inadvertent or it becomes an admission. You only have 10 days to file so carry them in your bag with a lawyers card and NO LOGBOOKS.

Q- What can you do today to put yourself on a better legal footing to be prepared in case something like this were to happen?

A- Don’t carry logbooks, keep FAA info up to date, carry aviation lawyer’s card, carry NASA forms. Recommend the AOPA Legal Servces Plan. Hourly rates are high without the plan.

Q- What if I fly for an airline, or what if I fly for a large corporate flight department, do I still need that protection?

A- When you’re acting within the scope of your employment typically your employer will cover you. There is a caveat; There is an inherent conflict between the company and the pilot in certain types of FAA violations. Always demand separate representation if the FAA is charging your company and you as an individual airmen. The AOPA Legal Services Plan is a nice back up. Always call an attorney and ask if you need representation.

Q- What’s a good way to get in touch with you and your law firm?

A- Dunlap, Grubb & Weaver - Attorneys at Law or email Tom at [email protected]
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