If you’re under investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”), you may have questions about responding to a FAA Letter of Investigation (“LOI”). First, what is a FAA Letter of Investigation? The FAA sends a Letter of Investigation to a certificated airman/entity (pilot, A&P mechanic, IA air carrier, repair station, etc.) when there is evidence that the airman or entity allegedly engaged in activity which may have been in violation of the Federal Aviation Regulations (“FARs”). The purpose of the LOI is two-fold, in that it puts the certificate holder on notice that an investigation has been initiated and furthermore allows the certificate holder an opportunity to provide a verbal or written statement in response to the allegation(s) brought against him or her. When a certificate holder receives a LOI, natural instinct is to send an immediate response to the FAA inspector, detailing why the allegations are false or otherwise unworthy of investigation; however, providing such a response may not be the best move to make as a certificate holder. What should your response be to a FAA LOI?
The answer to the question posed above is somewhat complex. It is important to remember, however, that a response to the FAA’s Letter of Investigation is not required. In that, failing to respond to a FAA LOI does not create a presumption of “guilt.” In the alternative, anything you do say or do in response to the Letter of Investigation can be used against you. This means that if you provide a response to the FAA which ultimately admits to some level of “guilt,” the FAA could present that as evidence in a hearing before the NTSB to show admission of “guilt.” Most importantly, however, is that your statement in response to a LOI can later be used as impeachment evidence, whereas the FAA attorney could introduce your LOI response at the NTSB hearing if that statement is contrary to a statement made later during the course of litigation. For example, in response to a FAA Letter of Investigation sent to an A&P mechanic, the mechanic hypothetically responds to the inspector with a written statement which reads: “I did not perform maintenance on the aircraft that morning, as I was late for work.” However, later on in the course of litigation, the mechanic testifies that he actually arrived at work ten minutes late or maybe evidence is produced which shows the mechanic actually did do some work on the aircraft that day. Overall, no matter what the mechanic’s intentions were in providing his response to the LOI, having a statement which is contrary to the evidence will allow the FAA to impeach the mechanic’s testimony and will ultimately speak to the mechanic’s credibility before the NTSB law judge.
As such, it is always recommended that you speak with an aviation attorney prior to responding to a FAA Letter of Investigation from the FAA. In some cases, it may be best to provide the FAA with a courtesy response, simply acknowledging receipt of the Letter. It may be determined, however, in consult with your FAA defense attorney, that a more detailed response is necessary. If you have questions about responding to a FAA Letter of Investigation, call your aviation attorney at The Ison Law Firm. The Ison Law Firm is standing by to vector you through legal turbulence.
*This article is not legal advice and should not be construed as such. If you have a legal problem, please contact a licensed attorney.