Gregory J. Reigel
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July 24, 2013

"Watch This" Will Usually Be Followed By Something Bad Happening

On occasion, I have represented airmen in enforcement actions that arose out of what I like to refer to as a "watch this" maneuvers (usually something less than safe to impress someone else and often a violation of the FAR's). Examples of "watch this" maneuvers include low passes over people or property on the ground when unnecessary for takeoff or landing, performing aerobatic maneuvers in an aircraft that is not approved for aerobatics, intentionally dropping something from an aircraft, and engaging in other inappropriate conduct while flying an aircraft.

As you might guess, the FAA takes a very dim view of this type of conduct. And, not surprisingly, the sanctions sought by the FAA in the enforcement actions that invariably arise from these situations can be pretty severe (think suspensions of 180 days or more and, in extreme cases, revocation of the airman's certificate).

You might be wondering, "how does the FAA find out"? Well, many times the "watch this" maneuver is witnessed by people on the ground. In other instances, the "watch this" maneuver results in an accident, incident or other event whose occurrence gets the FAA's attention. And once the FAA knows about it, the airman is along for the ride.

The moral of the story: No matter how much you may be tempted to do a "watch this" maneuver, don't do it. The suspension or revocation that may follow, or the accident or incident that may result, are simply not worth the pleasure you may receive. When the "watch this" urge strikes, please, resist the temptation.

Posted by Greg

July 22, 2013

An Aircraft Insurance Policy Is A Contract

When an aircraft insurance policy is issued, it represents a contract between you and your insurance company. The policy contains terms and conditions with which you, the insured, agree to comply. In exchange, your insurance company, the insurer, agrees to provide you with coverage. If you fail to comply with your obligations under the policy, that may be considered a breach. And if a claim arises while you are in breach, you may find yourself without coverage.

Unfortunately, many pilots and aircraft owners do not read their policies and may not be aware of their contractual obligations under the policy. This has come back to bite some insureds. To avoid this risk, a thorough review of the policy is both prudent and recommended. After all, how else will you know what your obligations are under the policy/contract if you don't ever read it?

You should begin your review with the Data Page or Declaration Page and then work your way through the policy. If you don't understand something, ask your agent or an aviation attorney familiar with aircraft insurance policies to explain. No, an aircraft insurance policy is not the most interesting reading. However, it is important that you understand your obligations under the policy. If you would like more information regarding aircraft insurance policies, please read my article My Policy Says What?!: Understanding An Aircraft Insurance Policy.

Posted by Greg

July 19, 2013

What Do I Have To Show The FAA Inspector During A Ramp Check?

During the course of a ramp check, the FAA inspector will ask to inspect/review a number of items. Here are some of the items you may need to produce during, or at some point shortly after, the ramp check:
  • Airman Certificate;

  • Current Medical Certificate;

  • U.S. Government Issued Photo ID;

  • Pilot Logbook or other documentation proving your currency for your intended flight;

  • Charts etc. current and appropriate for your intended flight;

  • Aircraft Registration;

  • Airworthiness Certificate;

  • Aircraft Operating Handbook or Flight manual, or Operating Limitations if the aircraft is a homebuilt aircraft;

  • Aircraft weight and balance information; and

  • Aircraft Logbooks.

Most pilots will never find themselves in a ramp check, due to the minimal manpower the FAA has available for ramp checks. However, if you find yourself in a ramp check, it is survivable. For a more detailed discussion about ramp checks, please read my article Surviving The Ramp Check.

Posted by Greg

July 17, 2013

January-Issued Aircraft Certificate Re-Registration Deadline Approaches

If you own an aircraft that was registered in the month of January of any year before October 1, 2010, your aircraft must be re-registered by September 30, 2013. You should submit your re-registration application as soon as possible since you won't be able to operate your aircraft legally after September 30, 2013 unless you have received your new registration certificate. Online re-registrations will be accepted until July 31, 2013. After that, you will need to submit your re-registration application to the FAA via mail. Online re-registration applications may be submitted here by entering the aircraft's N-number and re-registration code to begin the process, or you may submit a written re-registration application to the FAA via mail.

For a discussion of the FAA's re-registration requirements, please read my article Understanding The FAA's New Aircraft Re-Registration And Renewal Requirements. Additionally, the FAA has a Frequently Asked Questions page regarding re-registration which you can view here.

Posted by Greg

July 12, 2013

Who Can Return An Aircraft To Service On Behalf Of A Repair Station?

When a repair station completes work on an aircraft and wants to return that aircraft to service, we all know that someone has to sign the aircraft's logbook. But "who" is required to sign has been a confusing issue (at least it has been confusing for some FAA personnel). Fortunately, the FAA's Office of the Chief Counsel answered that question and set the FAA personnel straight in a recent legal interpretation. For an answer to the question and a discussion of the interpretation please read my latest article on the topic: Who Can Return An Aircraft To Service On Behalf Of A Repair Station.

Posted by Greg

July 10, 2013

What Are An Airman's Options After The FAA Denies A Medical Application Based Upon A Disqualifying Condition?

When an airman is denied a medical based upon an admitted disqualifying condition, an appeal will, in almost all cases, be unsuccessful. In that situation, the airman has the burden of proving that the airman is qualified to hold a medical certificate. That's a tough thing to accomplish if the airman has already admitted that he or she has a disqualifying condition.

If an airman is denied based upon a disqualifying condition, but the airman believes he or she is otherwise qualified, the airman should request that the FAA grant a special issuance medical certificate. A special issuance is a medical certificate that has limitations and/or conditions with which the airman must comply in order for the certificate to be valid. The conditions/limitations will often include regular testing or evaluation, test results within acceptable ranges, no changes in medication etc.

If the FAA refuses to grant an airman's request for a special issuance, the airman may appeal that denial to the NTSB. However, since the Board defers to the FAA's discretion in denying a special issuance, the only way to be successful is to show that the FAA's denial is arbitrary or capricious. For example, if a denied airman can prove that the FAA has granted a special issuance in circumstances that are very similar to or identical with those of the airman, then an ALJ may be convinced that the FAA's denial in the airman's case is arbitrary or capricious. As a practical matter, however, this can be a very difficult task.

If you have a medical condition that may disqualify you from obtaining a medical certificate, get help before you apply for your medical certificate. Talk to an aviation attorney or the medical certification professionals at AOPA or NBAA. By taking a pro-active approach and getting help, you will be able to "pick your battles" wisely to maximize your chances of successfully obtaining a medical certificate.

Posted by Greg

July 02, 2013

Aircraft Loan Documents: What To Expect

If you are financing the purchase of an aircraft, you know, or at least you should know, that the lender will have a number of documents for you to sign before it advances the funds. The loan documents typically associated with a basic aircraft finance transaction and required by a lender include a promissory note, aircraft security agreement, guaranty/pledge and authorization.

A promissory note contains the terms of the loan (e.g. amount, repayment schedule, interest rate etc.) and the borrower’s promise to repay the loan according to those terms. It also provides the lender with remedies if the borrower does not fulfill its obligations under the promissory note.

The aircraft security agreement pledges the aircraft as security for the promissory note. If the borrower fails to repay the promissory note, the lender will have the right to take possession of the aircraft. Once it has regained possession, the lender is able to sell or otherwise dispose of the aircraft to recover as much of the outstanding loan balance as possible. If the lender is able to sell the aircraft for more than is owed, the excess is paid to the borrower. However, after the lender offsets the amount received from sale against the outstanding balance and the lender’s costs/fees incurred in repossessing and selling the aircraft, it is unusual for an excess balance to exist.

For transactions in which the loan is being guaranteed by someone other than the borrower, that individual or business will need to execute a guaranty that obligates the guarantor to repay the loan in the event that the borrower defaults. If the borrower or any guarantor is a corporation or limited liability company, the lender will require that an appropriate official of the entity execute an authorization representing that the person executing the documents on behalf of the entity is authorized to sign and bind that entity.

Most lenders will have standard or form documents they use in aircraft finance transactions. However, depending upon the lender, the financial position of the borrower, the relationship of the borrower with the lender, and the amount of the loan, many of the terms in the loan documents may be negotiable. And it never hurts to have an aviation attorney review the documents on your behalf and negotiate any changes that may be required to protect your interests.

Posted by Greg

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