Did you know that the FAA via FAA hotline complaints allows anyone to file a complaint with the FAA if he or she thinks that you (a certificated airman, air carrier, or otherwise) has violated a Federal Aviation Regulation or have otherwise jeopardized the safety of the National Airspace System? The problem with the FAA hotline complaint system is two-fold: anyone can file a complaint against a certificate holder and the reporter can remain anonymous. As you’ve probably already figured out (or have experienced in practice), the system opens the door to allowing everybody and their mother air their dirty laundry vis-à-vis FAA inquiries or investigations. While allowing concerned citizens to report legitimate safety concerns to the FAA is an important function within this safety-sensitive industry, it’s interesting to note that an inordinate amount of “false” reports are funneled through this process on a regular basis.
Typically, false FAA hotline complaints come from a person on the same airfield as the airman at issue, who has otherwise gotten their “nose out of joint” and is going to “make the other airman pay.” In other words, there are people out there that will file a report with the FAA because they know it could potentially spell trouble for an airman’s career and/or the airman’s ability to fly. What seems to be the most common form of complaint regards an airman’s qualification to hold an airman medical certificate with the FAA. For instance, one of the most egregious situations is where someone falsely claims to the FAA that an airman has a condition which would be medically disqualifying under the Federal Aviation Regulations (the airman is bi-polar; the airman has substance abuse problems, etc.). The problem with this scenario is that if the airman does not really have a disqualifying condition, it may end up being the airman’s responsibility (and financial burden) to prove otherwise. On the other hand, if the airman does have a condition which has been unreported to the FAA, such a hotline complaint can create a legitimate issue for an airman’s medical or airman certificate.
Have you received a FAA hotline complaint? If so, it is important that you represent your interests from a “damage control” perspective. In that, the FAA has both the authority and the liability to follow up on any complaints (false or not) and how you respond could possibly affect your certificate. So, if you fail to respond or otherwise provide a response which could implied guilt or lack of qualification, the FAA could use those statements or lack thereof in an action against your certificate. Your response must aim to avoid and at all costs “shut-down” an FAA inquiry.
If you’ve received a FAA hotline complaint, make sure you call on a qualified aviation attorney to guide you through the investigative process. At The Ison Law Firm, there is a FAA enforcement attorney with experience handling FAA hotline complaints, waiting to vector you through legal turbulence.