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A site devoted to aviation law, safety and security.

March 29, 2012

Pilot's Reliance Upon VFR GPS Does Not Excuse TFR Bust

The NTSB recently affirmed an administrative law judge's ("ALJ") determination that an airman's violation FAR 91.141 (prohibiting operation of an aircraft within the restricted airspace of a VIP NOTAM) was not excused by his reliance upon a malfunctioning VFR GPS. For more information, please read my article on the case: Pilot's Reliance Upon VFR GPS Does Not Excuse TFR Bust.

Posted by Greg

March 28, 2012

Do Limitations On A Foreign Pilot License Carry Over To A U.S. Airman Certificate Issued Under FAR 61.75?

The FAA's Office of Chief Counsel recently issued a Legal Interpretation answering this question in response to an inquiry requesting a clarification of FAR 61.75 (Private pilot certificate issued on the basis of a foreign pilot license). The inquiry arose out of an accident in the United Kingdom involving a U.S. registered Cirrus aircraft. The pilot operating the Cirrus was doing so using his U.S. private pilot certificate, which was issued under FAR 61.75 based upon the pilot's underlying license from the UK.

The U.K. pilot license apparently requires "differences training" before a pilot may operate a Cirrus aircraft, while the FARs governing the U.S. private pilot certificate contain no such requirement. The issue before the Chief Counsel's office then was "whether the pilot was in violation of his US certificate for flying an aircraft, on his US certificate, for which he would have needed specialized training if flying on his UK certificate."

The Legal Interpretation initially observed that a notice issued by the Aviation Accident Investigations Board (AAIB) in August 2008 draws the conclusion from FAR 61.75 "that any and all limitations and restrictions that a pilot would be subject to under his foreign pilot certificate are incorporated in his US certificate, and apply equally under his US certificate." However, it then goes on to state that the AAIB notice's conclusion is mistaken.

The Legal Interpretation clarified that FAR 61.75 incorporates the limitations and restriction ON the pilot's airman certificate and foreign pilot license. That is, "the pilot is subject to the restrictions and limitations that appear on the face of the US certificate or foreign pilot license."

Since the holder of the FAR 61.75 certificate is bound by the U.S. regulations governing the airman's exercise of privileges under his or her U.S. airman certificate, the Interpretation states that the language of FAR 61.75 "does not include the entirety of regulatory requirements of the foreign State." Thus, "the FAA views that [FAR 61.75] language as addressing the limitations of the sort FAA uses, e.g., 'not valid for night operation,' where the individual has not completed the night training requirements."

The Interpretation then observed that the FARs do not impose a "differences training" requirement for Cirrus aircraft operated by an individual with a U.S. airman certificate. As a result, operation of a Cirrus aircraft pursuant to a U.S. airman certificate when the airman has not received "differences training" would not be a violation of the FARs even though the airman would have needed specialized training if flying on his UK certificate.

Interesting situation/question. As is often the case, this situation/question arose in the aftermath of an accident. Fortunately for the airman, the less restrictive requirements of the FARs, at least in this case, prevailed.

Posted by Greg

March 22, 2012

Airmen With Special Issuance Medical Certificates Will No Longer Need To Carry Their Letter Of Authorization With Them

In a Direct Final Rule published today, the FAA disclosed its intent to remove the FAR 67.401(j) requirement that currently requires an airman granted a Special Issuance Medical Certificate to have his or her corresponding letter of Authorization in the airman's physical possession or readily accessible on the aircraft while exercising pilot privileges. (A special issuance is comprised of both a medical certificate and a letter of authorization that specifies any corresponding requirements or limitations associated with the medical certificate).

The FAA originally imposed this requirement in 2008 to respond to a 2007 International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) adverse audit finding regarding endorsement of FAA certificates. At that time, the FAA was concerned "that traditional enumeration placed on U.S. medical certificates under the FAA's special-issuance medical certification process might not be detailed enough for affected U.S. pilots during a ramp check in a foreign country, for example." The FAA believed that it was in the airman's best interest to have the letter of Authorization readily available.

However, after imposing the rule, FAA received many complaints from affected airmen that the full force of the requirement was overly burdensome and invasive. Additionally, during the three years that the rule has been in effect, "[t]he FAA is not aware of any individuals affected by the standard who have had to produce their letter of Authorization for any civil aviation authorities."

As a result, the FAA determined that the regulation was one that could be removed. However, the Final Rule cautions that "[w]hile this action removes the burden for affected individuals to carry their medical letter of Authorization, long-standing requirements under FAA operational standards requiring individuals to carry FAA certificates while exercising pilot privileges remain unchanged." Thus, airmen will still need to carry their airmen and medical certificates with them while exercising their pilot privileges.

The FAA is accepting comments to the Final Rule on or before May 21, 2012. If it receives adverse comments, it will withdraw the Final Rule. Otherwise, the Final Rule will be effective July 20, 2012.

It's nice to see the FAA actually doing something to make things easier for airmen. Although the Final Rule won't affect a wide range of airmen, it certainly represents a move by the FAA in the right direction. And under the circumstances, I wouldn't expect to see any adverse comments to the Final Rule. But I will keep my fingers crossed anyway.

Posted by Greg

March 20, 2012

Are You "Actively Engaged"?

Are you a mechanic who is interested in obtaining, or renewing, an inspection authorization? If so, you are probably familiar with the requirement that you be "actively engaged" in maintaining aircraft that are certificated and maintained under the FARs. Although the phrase "actively engaged" is not currently defined in the FARs, you should be aware that the FAA has recently issued a notice of policy that includes a definition. To review the definition, and more on this subject, please read my latest article Inspection Authorization: Are You "Actively Engaged"?.

Posted by Greg

March 07, 2012

Virginia PIlot Sentenced For Flying After Revocation Of Certificate

According to a Summary on the Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General website, a pilot in Virginia recently pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court, Norfolk, Virginia, to one count of knowingly operating an aircraft after the FAA had revoked his Commercial Pilot Certificate. The Court sentenced the pilot to twenty days in jail, assessed a $100 fine, and placed him on probation for one year. Additionally, the pilot is not allowed to fly an aircraft or conduct flight instruction while he is on probation.

The Summary indicates that he pilot's commercial pilot certificate was suspended for 120 days for giving flight instruction in an un-airworthy aircraft. While his certificate was suspended, the airman then flew as PIC on nine occasions. When the FAA found out about the nine flights, it then revoked the pilot's commercial pilot certificate. After the revocation, and after his CFI certificate was expired, the pilot then flew as PIC and CFI on two occasion. On the second occasion while the pilot was providing dual, the aircraft's propeller struck the runway.

Not surprisingly, and as is often the case, this type of situation only comes to light after an accident or incident. In this case, the prop strike put the pilot's actions on the FAA's radar. However, based upon these facts, it definitely appears to me that this pilot has no learning curve. Under these circumstances, I don't necessarily disagree with the FAA's actions, although I am a little surprised that the pilot was prosecuted criminally, rather than being assessed a civil penalty. I suspect that the pilot's giving flight instruction to a student had a significant influence on the decision to prosecute. In any event, this is certainly an example of what you shouldn't do if your certificate is suspended or revoked.

Posted by Greg

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