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March 25, 2010

Great Lakes Region FAASTeam Releases Pilot Deviation Notice

Today the Great Lakes Region FAASTeam (FAA Safety Team) released its Fiscal Year 2010 2nd Quarter Notice regarding airborne pilot deviation. The Notice discusses pilot deviations (FAR operational violations) and indicates that the FAA believes the most common causes of deviations are "poor technique, inattention, loss of situational awareness, or failure to plan properly." Specifically, the Notice identifies the most common IFR and VFR deviations. Not surprisingly, altitude, clearance, airspeed and airspace violations top the lists. The Notice also suggests ways pilots can avoid these types of deviations/violations. Although the suggestions are, to a large part, common sense, they are helpful in identifying specific actions pilots can implement to ensure a safe/legal flight.

Generally speaking, it boils down to proper preparation for a flight and then keeping your head in the game while conducting the flight. The information isn't new, but it is worth reading if for no other reason than as a reminder of the things pilots should be paying attention to before and during a flight.

Posted by Greg

March 24, 2010

ATP Receives 90-Day Suspension For Failure To Find Suitable Landing Site For Hot Air Balloon

In Administrator v. Chemello, the airline transport pilot landed a hot air balloon in a high school parking lot in the morning shortly before the start of classes. Of course, the balloon attracted a lot of attention from the teachers, students, local law enforcement and, not surprisingly, the FAA. The FAA investigated the incident and subsequently issued an order suspending the airman's ATP certificate for 90 days for alleged violation of FARs 91.119(b) (prohibiting operation of an aircraft over congested area below an altitude of 1,000 feet above the highest obstacle within a horizontal radius of 2,000 feet of the aircraft) and 91.13(a) (careless and reckless). The airman appealed the suspension to the NTSB.

After an evidentiary hearing, an administrative law judge ("ALJ") affirmed the suspension. Relying upon his determination of the witnesses' credibility, the ALJ held that the school parking lot was a "congested area" at the time of the landing and that no emergency was present that would have prevented the airman from landing the balloon in a different, suitable location. The airman appealed the ALJ's decision to the full Board arguing that the ALJ's credibility determinations were contrary to the evidence.

The Board initially observed that an airman's "selection of a suitable landing site for a balloon is dependent upon the balloon’s proximity to power lines, buildings, and trees, and the availability of alternative landing sites." It also noted that, in addition to generally deferring to an ALJ's credibility determinations, the Board will specifically defer to an ALJ's "credibility determinations with regard to whether a respondent believes that he or she must land a balloon in a certain area due to wind conditions." The Board concluded that the airman had not presented any evidence to compel it to disregard the ALJ's credibility determinations. As a result, the Board affirmed the ALJ's decision.

Tough to get a decision reversed when it is based upon the ALJ's credibility determinations. Unfortunately, this is typically the situation when a case involves a factual dispute, as opposed to a case involving a determination of whether undisputed facts support a violation. The key is to convince the ALJ at the hearing. But that, too, is easier said than done.

Posted by Greg

March 23, 2010

NTSB Dismisses FAA Appeal For Untimely Filing Of Appeal Brief

In a recent NTSB case in which an administrative law judge awarded attorney's fees and costs to an airman under the Equal Access to Justice Act ("EAJA"), the Board dismissed the FAA's appeal of the EAJA award for failure to timely file an appeal brief. In Application of Hayes, the FAA timely filed its notice of appeal. However, the FAA did not then file an appeal brief by the deadline required by 14 C.F.R. 821.48(a). Although the FAA’s appeal brief was dated the last day allowed by the rule and the certificate of service stated the brief was served by overnight mail on that date, the Federal Express tracking data indicated a pickup date of three days after the deadline for filing the brief.

Based upon the untimely filing, the airman subsequently filed a motion with the Board to have the FAA's appeal dismissed. The FAA did not respond to the motion within the time allowed, but did later file a notice of withdrawal. The Board ruled that the FAA's failure to show good cause for its untimely appeal brief, or to request, before the appeal brief was due, leave to file the appeal brief out of time, required dismissal of its appeal. As a result, the Board deemed the FAA's withdrawal of its appeal as moot.

Nice to know that, at least with respect to timing requirements for filing of appeals, the Board will treat the FAA the same as airmen.

Posted by Greg

March 04, 2010

FAA Extends Relief To U.S. Military Personnel Serving Outside The U.S.

The FAA today published a Direct Final Rule replacing Special Federal Aviation Regulation 100-1 (SFAR 100-1), with SFAR 100-2 that will:
  • allow Flight Standards District Offices (FSDOs) to continue to accept expired flight instructor certificates and inspection authorizations for renewals from U.S. military and civilian personnel (U.S. personnel) who are assigned outside the United States in support of U.S. Armed Forces operations; and

  • allow FSDOs to continue to accept expired airman written test reports for certain practical tests from U.S. personnel who are assigned outside the United States in support of U.S. Armed Forces operations

According to the FAA, "[t]his ensures these U.S. personnel assigned outside of the United States, who continue to preserve, protect and defend the American public, can obtain additional time for renewal of their flight instructor certificates, inspection authorizations, and airman written test reports."

The Final Rule is effective June 20, 2010, but comments may be submitted on or before April 5, 2010. SFAR 100-2 will then remain in effect until further notice.

Nice to see the FAA actually doing something to help.

Posted by Greg

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