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A site devoted to aviation law, safety and security.

March 26, 2007

Another Question About Service Bulletin Compliance

Service bulletin compliance has been the subject of spirited debate among aircraft owners and aircraft maintenance professionals. Not surprisingly, I am frequently asked questions reegarding this complicated issue. In fact, I was recently asked my opinion regarding the issue of service bulletin compliance in the context of an aircraft purchase transaction. To learn more about the factual scenario and the answer to the question, please read my latest article on the topic here

Posted by Greg

March 23, 2007

FAA Requesting Comments On FAR Part 125 Information Collection

According to a Notice and Request for Comments published today, the FAA is seeking Office of Management and Budget approval to continue its collection of information regarding compliance and applicant eligibility requirements of 14 CFR part 125 with respect to certain leased aircraft, Aviation Service Firms, and Air Travel Clubs.

The FAA is seeking comments on "[w]hether the proposed collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the Department, including whether the information will have practical utility; the accuracy of the Department's estimates of the burden of the proposed information collection; ways to enhance the quality, utility and clarity of the information to be collected; and ways to minimize the burden of the collection of information on respondents, including the use of automated collection techniques or other forms of information technology."

Comments are due no later than May 22, 20007 and should be sent to Ms. Carla Mauney, Room 712, Federal Aviation Administration, Strategy and Investment Analysis Division, AIO-20, 800 Independence Ave., SW., Washington, DC 20591. If you have questions regarding the Notice, you may contact Ms. Mauney directly at (202) 267-9895, or by e-mail at: Carla.Mauney@faa.gov.

Posted by Greg

Comment Period Open For Pilot Records Improvement Act Information Collection

If you are an air carrier and you have any issues with the obligations imposed upon you by the Pilot Records Improvement Act of 1996("PRIA"), now is your chance to submit comments to the FAA. The PRIA requires that air carriers obtain safety records of prospective employees from the FAA and from previous air carrier employers, and the National Driver Register, before an offer of employment is made to the prospective employee. According to a Notice and Request for Comments published today, the FAA is seeking Office of Management and Budget approval to continue its collection of information pursuant to the PRIA (49 U.S.C. 44936(f)).

The FAA is seeking comments on "[w]hether the proposed collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the Department, including whether the information will have practical utility; the accuracy of the Department's estimates of the burden of the proposed information collection; ways to enhance the quality, utility and clarity of the information to be collected; and ways to minimize the burden of the collection of information on respondents, including the use of automated collection techniques or other forms of information technology."

Comments are due no later than May 22, 20007 and should be sent to Ms. Carla Mauney, Room 712, Federal Aviation Administration, Strategy and Investment Analysis Division, AIO-20, 800 Independence Ave., SW., Washington, DC 20591. If you have questions regarding the Notice, you may contact Ms. Mauney directly at (202) 267-9895, or by e-mail at: Carla.Mauney@faa.gov.

Posted by Greg

March 22, 2007

Court Bars Aircraft Mechanic From Working In Aviation Industry

According to a DOT Office of Inspector General report, an Alabama court recently sentenced an aircraft mechanic to 5 years probation and prohibited the mechanic from working in the aviation industry during that period of time. The sentence corresponded to the aircraft mechanic's plea of guilty to charges of providing false information regarding his licensing and certifications. The aircraft mechanic was originally indicted on three counts of possessing and using false aircraft maintenance certificates.

The OIG determined that the aircraft mechanic obtained employment as a contract sheet metal mechanic at a repair station by providing a false Designated Mechanic Examiner's certification. He also claimed that he had a valid Airframe and Power-Plant certificate with an Inspection Authorization license, even though these certificates/ratings had previously been revoked by the FAA. Unfortunately for the employer, it was required to re-inspect the repairs made by the aircraft mechanic to ensure that they were performed properly and did not pose a safety risk.

Hard to imagine what the aircraft mechanic's excuse or defense would have been to these charges. And now the aircraft mechanic is stuck trying to find employment another industry (not that he wasn't already effectively in that position with the certificate revocations). This case is also another example of why it is prudent for an employer to confirm an employee's certifications and qualifications prior to hire, rather than simply taking the employee on his or her word. In this situation, not only did the employer end up with bad press, it also incurred what was likely substantial expense in cooperating in the investigation and performing the re-inspections.

Posted by Greg

March 16, 2007

A Waterskiing Airplane?

A recently released NTSB accident report discloses another "lucky to be alive" story. The August 27, 2006 accident involved an Aviat Husky that flipped over when it attempted to land. Apparently the emergency brake was set when the main landing gear touched down. However, the fact that the emergency brake was set at landing is not what makes this case interesting.

What is interesting about the accident, and indicative of a lack of good judgment on the part of the pilot, is the reason the emergency brake was set prior to landing: the pilot was "waterskiing" with the aircraft. According to the report, the pilot completed 3-4 "water ski runs", in which the pilot set the aircraft's parking brake, touched down on a reservoir, and then skiied on the main landing gear tires on the water. After completing his "runs", the pilot then transitioned to the airport at which the accident occurred.

Although the aircraft was substantially damaged when it flipped over upon landing, fortunately, the pilot only suffered minor injuries. However, since the FAA investigated the accident on behalf of the NTSB, I would not be surprised if the pilot is facing enforcement action for violating a number of FARs, likely including, but probably not limited to, FAR 91.119 (minimum safe altitudes) and FAR 91.13 (careless and reckless). The pilot may also face a 709 Request for Re-examination. That would be an interesting case to defend!

Posted by Greg

March 14, 2007

Aircraft Parts Supplier Receives 78 Month Prison Sentence For Selling Falsely Certified Aircraft Parts

According to a report by the Dept. of Transportation Office of Inspector General, a Florida aircraft parts supplier was convicted of making materially fraudulent representations concerning the condition of aircraft parts he sold to the Department of Defense. At trial, the government presented evidence showing that between 2005 and 2006, the aircraft parts supplier purchased used aircraft parts and resold them to the Department of Defense as "new" or "new surplus." The aircraft parts sold by the defendant were flight-critical and their failure could have resulted in catastrophic loss of life and serious damage to aircraft. The defendant also sold fraudulently certified aircraft parts to non-military users. Apparently neither the defendant nor his busines were certified to perform inspections, repairs, or overhauls or otherwise certify the airworthiness of aircraft parts.

This case really makes you wonder what this defendant was, or more likely wasn't, thinking. Although the OIG report doesn't provide all of the facts, my guess would be that the defendant was simply paying less for the used parts (because they were used) and then simply re-selling them with an added mark-up to correspond to his representation that the parts were "new". Maybe he also cleaned the parts before he sold them (to make them look more like "new").

The defendant's conduct is particularly troubling when you consider that the parts he was selling were flight critical and likely time-limited parts. So the buyer's are purchasing parts they think are "new" when, in fact, the parts are worn or, in the case of time-limited parts, may very well have had little useful life left. Truly a recipe for disaster. Fortunately, the defendant was caught before one of these parts failed and caused an accident or killed someone.

Posted by Greg

March 12, 2007

4th Circuit Court Of Appeals Affirms Jury Verdict Against Aircraft Dealers

In Jet Source Charter, Inc. v. Doherty et al., the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a jury verdict finding that the aircraft dealers owed the plaintiff the duties of a fiduciary and that the aircraft dealers breached their fiduciary duty by providing the plaintiff with misleading information about the negotiated price of aircraft in six separate transactions. After a trial, the jury found the defendants liable to the plaintiff for intentional misrepresentation, negligent misrepresentation, breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract and conversion.

Specifically, the jury believed that the defendants had acted as the plaintiff's broker in locating aircraft for the plaintiff and then acquiring them with the plaintiff's money. In each of the transactions, the evidence showed that the defendants mislead the plaintiff into thinking that the purchase price for the aircraft was higher than what the defendants had negotiated. The defendants then pocketed the difference between the real purchase price and the purchase price disclosed to the plaintiff.

On appeal, the defendants argued that substantial evidence did not support the verdict against them. However, the Court found that the jury had sufficient evidence to find that the defendants acted as agents of the Plaintiff, rather than "middlemen" as argued by the defendants. The Court relied heavily upon the evidence presented by the plaintiff that none of the defendants had the resources to finance the worldwide search and negotiations they conducted for the aircraft the plaintiff eventually acquired, let alone the wherewithal to purchase any of those aircraft for its own account. Rather, the plaintiff financed the activities and the purchase price of each of the aircraft and this undermined the defendants' argument that they acted as "middlemen".

Although the Court noted that brokers do not always owe a fiduciary duty, it held that the testimony of the defendants and plaintiff's expert, as well as the overwhelming jury verdict, supported the conclusion that the defendants did owe the plaintiff a fiduciary duty.

Posted by Greg

March 06, 2007

FAA Issues Guidance On Two Year Inspection Authorization

The FAA has issued Order 8000.354 providing guidance to aviation inspectors for dealing with the increase in duration of the Inspection Authorization ("IA") from one to two years. IA's must now be renewed by March 31 during odd years (2009, 2011 etc.).

With respect to the activity requirements listed in FAR 65.93 (1) through (5) (which have not changed), if an IA is issued fewer than 90 days before March 31 of an odd-numbered year, the IA will still have to be renewed, but the applicant does not have to meet activity requirements to be eligible for renewal for that 90-day period. However, if an IA is issued fewer than 90 days before March 31 of an even-numbered year, the applicant does not have to meet activity requirements for that 90-day period in order to renew the IA.

Starting in March 2009, in order to renew an IA, the IA must show the activity requirements for each year the IA was active. Additionally, if an IA does not meet the activity requirements at the end of an even-numbered year, the IA may not exercise the privileges of the IA certificate in the odd-numbered year without taking and passing an oral test with the local FSDO.

Posted by Greg

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