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02

Nov,2015

DUI and the FAA: What Should I Do?

Navigating the treacherous terrain of a DUI and the FAA can be tough. Did you know that you could have your airmen certificate suspended or revoked for certain offenses related to driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol? Beyond that, the FAA can deny an application for any certificate, rating, or authorization in response to a DUI offense. The FAA’s consequences for a DUI will make you regret ever drinking something besides water. However, the following will walk you through a scenario in which you are charged with driving under the influence and give you a few pointers on the FAA’s requirements.

 

Let’s say you go out on Friday night with your friends and with the social mores what they are today, you decide to indulge in an alcoholic beverage. Maybe you end up having more than one drink, but you claim to feel “fine.” One thing leads to another and you find yourself behind the wheel of your car, trying to find your way home. This is when you get pulled over by the local police for swerving in your lane. The officers conduct a field sobriety test, which you fail, and it is determined that your blood alcohol is approximately .250. As a result, you are charged with a State statute prohibiting the operation of a motor vehicle while intoxicated/impaired by drugs or alcohol. In this situation, you should speak to an attorney as to how to handle the DUI on the State/criminal level. Nonetheless, for the purposes of understanding a DUI and the FAA, let’s assume that you hire an attorney and you end up being convicted of one charge of DUI.

 

What happens now? The FAA has very strict reporting guidelines when it comes to airmen being charged with a DUI offense. The answer to this question comes from 14 C.F.R. §61.15(e), which reads: “[e]ach person holding a certificate issued under this part shall provide a written report of each motor vehicle action to the FAA…not later than 60 days after the motor vehicle action.” Did you catch that? The FAA requires that 60 days after you the motor vehicle action, you must submit a written report to the FAA. You have to tell the FAA about your DUI!

 

Some people think they will outsmart the FAA. They say, “I just won’t tell the FAA and they will never find out.” Okay, let’s run that theory down for a second. You may get away with not telling the FAA for a little while, but they will always find out somehow. The likely scenario is that the information will come out when you go to get your next medical certificate examination, as Form 8500 (medical application) authorizes the release of your National Driving Record to the FAA. Keeping this information from the FAA is a BIG MISTAKE. 14 C.F.R. §61.15(f) states: “failure to comply with paragraph (e) of this section is grounds for…denial of an application for any certificate, rating, or authorization…or suspension or revocation of any certificate, rating, or authorization.” When the FAA finds out about the DUI and subsequently revokes your certificate because you failed to notify them, they will now beg you as a liar and will make your life much worse than it needs to be.

 

So let’s say that you report the DUI to the FAA within the 60 time period. What happens next? When you report the alcohol-related motor vehicle action, the FAA will initiate a preliminary investigation to ensure your report was within the required 60-day time frame and that there are no other reportable actions. This investigation may lead to a formal investigation where the FAA will consider either suspending or revoking your certificate or giving you a warning, etc.

 

There is one tip which may seem self-serving to all the FAA Enforcement and Aviation Attorneys out there, but is really the best piece of advice for airmen in this situation: hire an Aviation Attorney. An Aviation Attorney can help you draft your initial 60-day filing to the FAA with an eye toward protecting your certificate from a certificate suspension or revocation. Beyond that, a FAA Enforcement Attorney can help coordinate medical experts and preserve legal evidence from the DUI conviction, which may become relevant in a subsequent FAA Enforcement Action.

 

As soon as you are involved in a DUI situation, it is important to contact your FAA Enforcement Attorney. Getting your Aviation Attorney involved in the process early on is a good idea, as he or she can ensure that you get the appropriate counseling and evaluation in anticipation of a FAA certificate action. If you have questions about a DUI charge in Florida, or have questions about a DUI and the FAA on a national basis, feel free to call an Aviation Attorney at The Ison Law Firm. We are standing by to vector you through legal turbulence…call us at 863-712-9472 or e-mail to Anthony@ThePilotLawyer.com. 

27

Oct,2015

Pilot Deviation Penalties

Pilot deviation penalties can be stiff. What is a pilot deviation? A pilot deviation is an action of or by a pilot that results in a failure to comply with an ATC clearance and/or instruction. The penalties for pilot deviations can range anywhere from a FAA Administrative or Enforcement Action, a “709” ride requirement, or even death. Possibly the best (and worst) example of how disastrous a pilot deviation can be comes from the deadliest aviation accident in history…the Tenerife Airport disaster.

 

On March 22, 1977, at the Los Rodeos Airport (now Tenerife North Airport) in the Canary Islands, two Boeing 747s collided on the runway causing the death of 583 people. At the time of the accident, the Tenerife airport was under dense fog and the taxiways were congested with overflow traffic. Immediately after lining up, the Captain of KLM Flight 4805 advanced the throttles and the aircraft started to move forward. The First Officer advised the Captain that ATC clearance had not yet been given, to which Captain Veldhuyzen van Zanten responded, “I know that. Go ahead, ask.” First Officer Meurs then radioed the tower that they were “ready for takeoff” and “waiting for our ATC clearance”. The KLM crew then received instructions which specified the route that the aircraft was to follow after takeoff. The instructions used the word “takeoff,” but did not include an explicit statement that the flight was “cleared for takeoff.”

 

First Officer Meurs read the flight clearance back to the controller, completing the read-back with the statement: “We are now at takeoff.” Captain Veldhuyzen van Zanten interrupted the First Officer’s read-back with the comment, “We’re going.” The controller then immediately said “OK” followed by “stand by for takeoff, I will call you,” indicating that he had not intended the clearance to be interpreted as a takeoff clearance. Unbeknownst to the KLM crew, Pan Am Flight 1736 was not clear of the runway. As a result, the two 747s collided, causing the deadliest aviation accident in history.

 

Let’s use this disaster to learn more about pilot deviations and their associated penalties. As evidenced by the Tenerife collision, the most important thing to know is that pilot deviations can be deadly. Some pilots may be able to stomach a potential FAA Enforcement Action brought against their certificate, but there is not one pilot on this planet that could stomach the death of passengers, crew, and those on the ground. While it may be easy to think “ATC probably won’t notice my screw up if I fly at 25,000 feet instead of 24,700 feet,” or “the FAA won’t ding me for such a small deviation,” you MUST remember that a simple deviation such as that could be the difference between life and death.

 

However, let’s say for example that the two Boeing 747s at Tenerife managed to avoid collision. Maybe KLM Flight 4805 was able to prematurely rotate and get airborne before striking Pan Am Flight 1736. What would the penalty be for a deviation like this? There were no fatalities. There was no property damage. There was, however, potential for disaster…which is what the FAA is concerned about. In this scenario, the FAA would likely initiate investigation and potentially administrative or enforcement proceedings. There is a litany of Federal Aviation Regulations that the FAA would claim the crew violated, however 14 C.F.R. §91. 123 and 14 C.F.R. §91.13 are used most often. §91.123 speaks to compliance with ATC clearances and instructions and §91.13 speaks to careless and reckless operations. Note that the §91.13 “careless and reckless operation” card is one that the FAA regularly plays, ancillary to other FAR violations. The penalties to such violations could include no action, a warning notice or letter of correction, a “709” ride, certificate suspension, civil penalties, and even certificate revocation.

 

If you are the subject of a FAA investigation, administrative or enforcement action, or civil penalty, make sure you contact an aviation attorney to speak about your possible defenses. In most cases, filing a NASA report is a good idea if you deviated from ATC clearance or instruction. If you have any questions about pilot deviation penalties and defenses, call an aviation attorney at The Ison Law Firm. We are standing by to vector you through legal turbulence…call us at 863-712-9472 or e-mail to Anthony@ThePilotLawyer.com.

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