Civil Enforcement Actions
As a licensed private pilot, flying is my passion. To be behind the controls of an airplane is the true definition of freedom. The Federal Aviation Administration is charged with regulating that freedom, to enforce the Federal Aviation Rules and to impose penalties on those who do not follow the regulations.
When a pilot breaks a rule, the FAA may start an enforcement action against the pilot to suspend or revoke the license held by the individual. Additionally, as the only regulating agency in the United States, the FAA has procedures and guidelines an applicant must pass before obtaining a certain license. If you have been served with an enforcement action notice, representation is essential. In many professions, such as physicians, when a doctor makes a mistake, the licensing agency generally comprises a peer review committee to determine if misconduct has occurred. However, the FAA is a little less forgiving. Usually when a pilot makes a mistake, such as flying in restricted airspace, landing in less than VFR conditions or causing an accident due to negligence then FAA will determine if any FAR’s have been violated from a more arbitrary standpoint. Usually, it is very difficult to know when the FAA will act. However, when they do, you must prepare yourself, as the fight is usually extreme.
The most common FAR’s that pilots get into trouble with are in the following categories:
Part 43 – Maintenance, Preventive Maintenance, Rebuilding and Alteration
- Preventive maintenance, persons authorized to approve return to service, maintenance records, airworthiness limitations
Part 61 – Certification: Pilots, Flight Instructors and Ground Instructors
- Alcohol & Drugs, duration of pilot certificates
- Aircraft Ratings & Pilot Authorizations
- Addit aircraft ratings, glider towing
- Student Pilots
- Solo requirements, Class B requirements, Solo Cross Country
- Night flying exceptions, flight proficiency, aeronautical experience
- Night flying exceptions, privileges and limitations
Airline Transport Pilots
- Privileges and limitations, night flying exceptions
- Aircraft ratings, flight proficiency
Part 91 – General Operating Flight Rules
- Alcohol Use, Dropping Objects, Careless or reckless operation
- Flight Rules (Visual & Instrument)
- Takeoff and landing, Flight Plans, VORs, VFR Minimums, Right Of Way, ATC light signals, Operating in Class A,B,C,D,E, G
- Equipment, Instrument & Certification Requirements
- Inoperative instruments and equipment, supplemental oxygen
- Special Flight Operations
- Parachutes, Towing gliders, experimental certificates, special airworthiness certs
- Inspections, Maintenance Records
- Large & Turbine Powered Multiengine & Fractional Ownership
- Survival equipment when over open water
- Large Transport Category Aircraft
- Operation of US Aircraft outside of US
- Noise Limits (sonic booms)
- Fractional Ownership
The other governmental agency that often makes referrals to the FAA is the National Transportation Safety Board. Mandatory reporting to the NTSB is required when:
- Flight Control Malfunction
- In-flight Fire
- $25,000 or more in damage during an accident
- Overdue aircraft believed to be involved in an accident
Most of the enforcement actions I deal with involve pilots flying too low to the ground, flying with equipment that does not meet Airworthiness Directives, flying without current medicals, or when pilots do not notify the FAA or NTSB during situations they try to cover up. Also, pilots who get a civil DUI for operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs are required to notify the FAA of such a conviction shortly after the conviction. Many pilots try to cover their convictions up from the FAA and then later find their license being revoked because they failed to disclose their conviction in a timely manner.
I also have assisted civilians who are concerned with the activities of pilot maneuvers around their real property. There are many civil remedies to pursue an individual pilot who is flying too low to the ground, performing acrobatic maneuvers within close proximity to persons or property or flying in a dangerous manner. For the most part, general aviation is highly regulated, requires a tremendous amount of discipline for those who participate in the sport, and is usually enjoyed by true flying enthusiasts. With that in mind, I personally am happy to use my skills as an attorney and a pilot to pursue someone who is abusing this privilege.
AIRPLANE PURCHASES AND SALES
My office can perform any airplane purchase closing or escrow agreement between parties. Title searches, damage history and independent evaluations can be conducted with my office. I have many professionals that I employ who can inspect your airplane, evaluate damage, and appraise the funding. Also, I work with a network of financial companies who specialize in funding aircraft financing. While there is certainly a lot of competition in this field, there are very few licensed attorneys that you can assist you in this endeavor. An attorney has a trust account called a Lawyers Trust Account. This account is highly regulated by the state bar. When you transfer escrow deposits or airplane funding to an attorney for closing, you are assured that funds are kept safe and will only be disbursed once the appropriate closing has been completed.
A typical aircraft purchase will generally involve two parties, the buyer and a seller. There are also airplane brokers who assist sellers in listing their airplane. Many brokers receive a commission from the sale of the airplane that is paid by the seller. Once the parties have agreed to a price, a simple sales contract is endorsed by the parties. The contract will usually have certain contingencies, such as what a buyer or seller must do before closing, i.e., completing an annual or making necessary repairs. Once the contingencies have been complied with, it is on to closing. My office can assist a buyer or a seller in drafting a suitable contract for purchase.
Before closing, if I represent the buyer, my office will conduct a title search of the airplane to insure the title is transferable. A plane may have been salvaged by an insurance company due to damage or flood. Also, a title may be encumbered by judgments, liens or third party claims. A paper title to an airplane does not mean that is transferable. A buyer must have these things done prior to closing for most financing companies to fund the loan.
The entire process takes a very short period of time from start to finish. The best thing to do is to contact me at the very beginning of the process to assist you in the process so that everything goes through as smoothly as possible.
Many planes are lost each year due to accident, acts of god or theft. While the hull value insured for is usually less than the actual replacement value, an owner many times will find that a pushy insurance company will settle a claim for less than it is worth. If you find yourself being presented with a settlement offer from an insurance adjustor, it may be possible to get closer to actual replacement value than an insurance company may initially be willing to pay. Many insurance companies will salvage a plane in an effort to pay less than hull value.
My advice for clients is to see what the insurance company will offer them, and then call me for a consult. Remember, insurance companies are multi-billion dollar industries that make money by paying the least amount possible. Before you settle a substantial claim, you should always have the advice of a professional attorney.
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