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May 25, 2010

Pilot Arrested For Georgia Beach Landing: Enforcement Action Likely?

According to an article in the Savannah Morning News, a pilot was arrested for landing his aircraft on a beach in Tybee, GA. The pilot was charged with "reckless conduct and operating a motorized craft on the beach." In the comments to the article, several individuals have debated whether the pilot will face FAA enforcement action by the FAA.

Unfortunately, the article doesn't provide enough detail to answer this question with much certainty. However, simply because the local laws or ordinances prohibited landing on the beach, that does not necessarily mean that such a landing violated the Federal Aviation Regulations ("FARs"). As long as the landing was safe and complied with the applicable FARs, FAR Part 91 in this case, the FAA would not have any basis for pursuing an enforcement action. Now, that isn't to say that the local FSDO couldn't try and trump up some alleged violations. But, the bottom line is that those violations wouldn't be based upon the pilot's alleged violation of local laws/ordinances. It will be interesting to see what, if anything, happens.

Posted by Greg

Consequences Of A Mishandled Crosswind Landing

According to an article in a California newspaper, the Modesto Bee, a pilot attempting to land at the Columbia airport had some problems with a crosswind which resulted in a rough landing. The landing was rough because it included a 15 foot bounce and a collision with three parked aircraft. Fortunately, the pilot only suffered minor injuries and her passenger was uninjured. Unfortunately for the pilot, I would expect that she will receive a Request for Re-examination from the FAA. Also called the "709 ride", the re-examination will likely require that the pilot demonstrate to an FAA inspector her ability to successfully handle crosswind, and perhaps regular, landings. For more information on what to expect in a 709 ride, please read my article "The 709 Ride".

The pilot can also expect claims against her by the owners of the aircraft with which she collided. Those aircraft owners will want to recover the damage to their aircraft and, possibly, damage for the loss of use of their aircraft. Hopefully, the pilot and all aircraft were insured.

Posted by Greg

May 21, 2010

Attempt To Hand-Prop A Cessna 182 Results In Total Loss Of Aircraft

According to a Denver News Article, a pilot at Centennial airport successfully hand-propped his Cessna 182, but then was unable to get back in the aircraft before it taxied across an active runway, destroyed a few runway signs and then flipped over. The aircraft was a total loss.

Hate to see this happen to a great airplane like the Cessna 182. Note to self: When hand-propping an aircraft, set the parking brake, chock the wheels or, better yet, have someone else in the cockpit holding the brakes. Unfortunately for the pilot, I am sure the FAA will have something to say about the accident. "Careless and reckless" comes to mind.

Posted by Greg

Disputing The Interpretation Of A Federal Aviation Regulation With An FAA Inspector

A certificate holder recently asked me whether an FAA inspector could violate him for not following the inspector's demand which the certificate holder believed was not in the Federal Aviation Regulations ("FARs"). My initial, lawyerly answer was, "not necessarily." Not very helpful, I know, but further information will help clarify.

With respect to FAR compliance, it is important to know that you are only required to comply with the FARs and the FAA's valid interpretations of those FARs. In order to suspend or revoke your certificate, or authority, the FAA has the burden of proving that you violated an FAR. The confusion arises when you interpret an FAR one way and the FAA inspector interprets it another way.

If you disagree with the demands placed upon you by an inspector, you should ask the inspector to identify the regulatory basis/justification for the demand. The inspector may simply identify the applicable FAR, or he or she may also identify "guidance" explaining the inspector's interpretation. The "guidance" could be in the form of an Advisory Circular, a legal interpretation from the FAA Chief Counsel's office or internal FAA documentation. At that point, you can evaluate whether the inspector's interpretation is accurate.

If the inspector fails to provide anything beyond a cite to an FAR, then you, or an aviation attorney, will need to do some research (e.g. reviewing FAA guidance, other regulations and statutes, and case law) to determine whether your interpretation has any legal support. The results of your research will dictate whether you have a basis to dispute the inspector's interpretation. If you discover support for your interpretation, then further discussions are in order with the inspector, his or her supervisor, or the manager of the FSDO.

Unfortunately, the FAA's interpretation of an FAR, whether right or wrong, will trump your interpretation. If the FAA believes that you violated the FAR based upon the FAA's interpretation then, yes, enforcement action will likely be in your future.

Posted by Greg

May 19, 2010

Lost Your Mechanic Lien Rights? A Judgment Lien May Still Do The Trick.

What happens if a mechanic works on an aircraft and then the aircraft owner refuses to pay for the work? The answer that first comes to mind for most mechanics is: Put a mechanic or artisan lien on the aircraft. That's a good answer, and a good option, when it is available. It is quick, doesn't require the aircraft owner's consent and will likely prevent the aircraft from being sold until either the mechanic is paid or the mechanic releases, or a court orders the mechanic to release, the lien. However, filing a mechanic or artisan lien against an aircraft may not always be possible.

Depending upon the circumstances, and the state in which the work was performed, filing a mechanic or artisan lien against the aircraft may not be an option. It may be too late; too much time may have passed since the mechanic completed the work. The mechanic may no longer have possession of the aircraft. The work may have been performed in a state from which the FAA Registry will not accept a mechanic or artisan lien claim. However, even if a mechanic or artisan lien is not a viable option, the mechanic may yet be able to obtain a lien against the aircraft.

The mechanic would need to sue the aircraft owner and obtain a judgment against both the aircraft owner and the aircraft. Once a judgment is obtained, it can then be filed with the FAA Registry which will create a judgment lien against the aircraft. Unfortunately, this option isn't as quick as filing a mechanic or artisan lien and it is more expensive. However, similar to a mechanic or artisan lien, a judgment lien will also likely prevent the aircraft from being sold until the mechanic's claim is resolved. And, once the judgment lien is obtained, the mechanic could foreclose upon the aircraft to try and collect the amount the mechanic is owed.

The moral of the story: If you work in a state that allows for filing of aircraft mechanic or artisan liens with the FAA Registry, make sure you know the legal requirements for asserting a lien claim and follow them. If you don't follow them or if you live in one of the few states from which the FAA Registry will not accept a mechanic or artisan lien claim, a judgment may still allow you to put a lien on an aircraft.

Posted by Greg

May 07, 2010

Compliance With The Voluntary Disclosure Reporting Program Can Protect An Air Carrier Employee's Certificate

As you may know, certificate holders (e.g. Part 121, 135 and 145, to name a few) can take advantage of the the Voluntary Disclosure Reporting Program ("VDRP") to avoid enforcement action when a qualifying regulatory violation has occurred. However, what about an employee of the certificate holder? Well, according to a D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals decision, such employees may prove compliance with the VDRP to avoid civil penalties or other sanctions in an enforcement action. For an analysis of the court decision, please read my article on the subject here.

Posted by Greg

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