PRIA: FAA Enforcement Actions And Your Aviation Career

  • ON Oct 05, 2015
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  • BY Christopher Ison
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  • IN Pilot Law

Did you ever fall off your bike as a child and scrape your knee? If so, what did your mom do when she saw your “boo boo?” Did she pull out the Morton salt and pour it on the raw flesh? If she did, we’re sorry to hear that…but, if your mom is anything like ours, she probably just put a Band-Aid on it and sent you on your way. As an aviator, you might know by now that the FAA can sometimes be the mom that pours salt on that fresh, flesh wound. In that, when it comes to the Pilot Records Improvement Act (PRIA) the FAA is pouring salt in our wounds all the time. The following will walk you through how PRIA works and make some suggestions as to how to avoid the FAA’s wrath.

 

PRIA requires that all air carriers operating under 14 CFR parts 121, 125, and 135, request, receive, and evaluate certain information concerning a pilot/applicant’s training, experience, qualification, and safety background, before allowing that individual to begin service as a pilot with their company. Of course, this is a good idea…we don’t need Bozo the Clown being hired to fly a 737 for Southwest just because his resume says he has 20,000 hours. Essentially, PRIA provides potential employers with confirmation from the FAA and one’s previous employers that an applicant’s qualifications are credible and accurate.

 

An airmen’s PRIA records will include files from the FAA, previous employers, and the National Driving Registry. The FAA’s file will include records containing information on your airmen certificates, current medical certificates, and type ratings. However, the frustrating part about PRIA is that the FAA’s file on you can contain career-crushing data. In that, the FAA records required to be reviewed by the hiring airline include your Enforcement Information Subsystem (EIS):

Enforcement Information Subsystem (EIS)

  • Computerized database of enforcement actions
  • Information may be accessed without pilot’s permission
  • Maintained by Flight Standards’ Information Management Section (AFS-624) in Oklahoma City

So, what’s the big deal? Well, everything is hunky-dory until the FAA decides to bring an enforcement action against you or you have an accident. Prior to 2010, records of action brought against your certificate would be expunged after 5 years. However, The Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010, signed August 1, 2010, changes how PRIA works. Now, the new law requires the FAA to retain certain legal enforcement records until the agency is notified that a pilot has died. The FAA won’t be happy until we are all dead. As a result, if you are hit with a certificate suspension, your potential employers will know about it…which probably won’t make your application go straight to the top.

 

So what can you do in an effort to keep your PRIA record looking pristine? The obvious first step is to avoid doing anything that would warrant the FAA bringing an enforcement action against your certificate. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done. The FAA can essentially investigate whatever they feel like investigating. Luckily, the FAA will still expunge letters warning notices and letters of correction after 2 years. Furthermore, open cases are not reported by PRIA. Once fully adjudicated and closed, both suspensions, other formal enforcement events, and revocations will become permanent entries on an airman’s EIS record, and are required to be reported by PRIA. These EIS records will remain on the PRIA report, even in cases where the airman has re-qualified, and has been issued another current and valid airman certificate.

 

Beyond that, PRIA will retain records of civil penalties. A civil penalty is basically a monetary fine issued either to an individual airman or to an air carrier. When it comes to civil penalties, air carriers are held to a higher standard. An air carrier can be subject to a penalty of up to $11,000 for a single violation. Other certificate holders such as repair stations, pilots or mechanics, can receive a penalty of up to $1,100 for each violation. Civil penalties have also become a permanent entry on an airman’s EIS record and subsequently on their PRIA report.

 

Should the FAA bring legal action against you (either in the form of a certificate action or civil penalty), the ideal modus operandi would be to adjudicate the action to its fullest. This way you can attempt to have your name cleared and your PRIA record remaining faultless. In the event of winning your enforcement action case, the “legal action” notice on your PRIA record will be expunged between 30 and 90 days. The relationship between of PRIA and enforcement actions is frustrating for airmen…such that it feels like the FAA is continuously pouring salt in the proverbial “wound.”

 

If you are the subject of an enforcement action and want to speak with an aviation attorney, call your friends at The Ison Law Group. Let us vector you through your legal turbulence… call us today with your questions at 1-855-LAW-1215.

FAA Ramp Checks: A Survival Guide

  • ON Aug 24, 2015
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  • BY Christopher Ison
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  • IN Pilot Law

You’ve landed, taxied to the ramp, and are tying your Cessna 172 down for the night. But who is that guy walking across the ramp toward your plane…oh no, it’s the FAA! When you see the badge clipped to his shirt that says “FAA” in big letters, you’ll probably want to climb into the baggage compartment and hide, but don’t. If you understand the “Ramp Check” process and are properly prepared for an unexpected chat with the inspector, the chances are you will survive.

 

Remember back to when your flight instructor briefly mentioned “Ramp Checks.” It is likely he or she did not spend too much time going over the process of a “Ramp Check” because they seem fairly rare. If you are a flight instructor, it may be a smart idea to have a mock “Ramp Check” with your students before sending them off to solo. Nonetheless, what is a “Ramp Check?” Essentially, these checks are conducted to ensure that a licensed pilot or student pilot are conducting flight operations safely and within the parameters prescribed by the Federal Aviation Regulations. While most checks end with the inspector shaking your hand and saying “everything looks good,” it is possible for the check to result in an enforcement action. If the FAA initiates an enforcement action as a result of a ramp check, it is possible that your pilot’s license could be suspended or revoked, and/or you could face a civil fine. The stakes are high.

 

When will a “Ramp Check” occur? A ramp check is not scheduled and is unpredictable. A check will commonly occur when an inspector observes an unsafe operation in the traffic pattern or on the ramp, is notified by ATC of an unsafe operation, or just feels like checking out your operation to make sure you are in compliance with the rules. If you are approached by someone claiming to be an FAA inspector, make sure you ask for identification before proceeding with the check, as the inspector is required to present identification prior to initiating a check. If the inspector does not present identification, make note, as that may become part of your defense if the check proceeds to an enforcement action. Furthermore, the inspector may not detain you if it means you will miss a flight or an appointment; he or she may only detain you long enough to check your records.

 

Once the “Ramp Check” is initiated, however, what can you do to ensure you keep your nose clean with the FAA? Most checks will include an inspection of the pilot’s airman and medical certificates, the aircraft paperwork, and an exterior inspection of an aircraft. Your pilot certificate will be inspected to make sure that you are licensed for the operations that you a conducting. For instance, if the inspector witnesses you landing in IFR conditions, he or she will look at your certificate to make sure that you are an instrument rated pilot. Furthermore, your medical certificate will be checked to make sure you are conducting operations within your class medical. Again, the inspector is making sure that for instance you aren’t conducting commercial operations with a third class medical. And if you are a student, your logbook will be checked for records of currency, solo endorsement, etc.

 

As to your aircraft, the inspector will want to make sure you have certain documentation/equipment onboard. Do you remember ARROW from your training – now is the time to use it! The inspector will want to see that you have with you your aircraft’s airworthiness certificate, aircraft registration, weight and balance information, and operating handbook. Beyond that, the inspector is authorized to inspect: the aircraft’s minimum equipment list (if applicable), Aeronautical charts (if applicable), the general airworthiness of the aircraft, the ELT battery, the seats/safety belts. Furthermore, the inspector can conduct a VOR check. It is important to remember, however, that the inspector is not authorized to board your aircraft without the knowledge of the entire crew; however, the inspector may inspect the exterior and look through the windows. Again, if the inspector boards your aircraft without the knowledge of the crew, note that, as it may become part of your defense if the check leads to an enforcement action.

 

Always remember to prepare for an unexpected FAA “Ramp Check,” as preparation is your only chance to survive one of these checks. Furthermore, if the check is in response to a possible violation, anything you say can be used against you. If you have questions about “Ramp Checks” or are the subject of a check, contact your team at The Ison Law Firm. We are standing-by 24/7 to vector you through legal turbulence…call us at 863-712-9472 or e-mail to Anthony@ThePilotLawyer.com.

Don’t Drone In Liability: A brief look at drone liability and ways to protect a business operating Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)

  • ON Jun 02, 2015
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  • BY The Ison Law Group
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  • IN Drone Law

Without a doubt, starting a new business can be one of the most rewarding, and equally terrifying, experiences in anyone’s life. With the commercial availability and success of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), commonly referred to as drones, many business entrepreneurs are starting new aviation businesses. Whether the UAS business uses drones for aerial mapping/videography/photography, pipeline/hydro-transmission line inspection, real estate, railroad and highway maintenance, film production, agricultural and conservation, or for any other purpose, UAS business owners need to consider the drone liability ramifications should a drone cause damage to a person’s property or injury to a person during the commercial usage of that UAS.
 
From a legal standpoint, current federal law states that “a lessor, owner or secured party of an aircraft is liable for personal injury, death, or property loss or damage on land or water only when a civil aircraft, aircraft engine, or propeller is in the actual possession or control of the lessor, owner, or secured party” and “the personal injury, death, or property loss or damage occurs because of the aircraft, engine, or propeller, or the flight of, or an object falling from, the aircraft, engine, or propeller.” 49 U.S.C.A. §44112(b) (2015).
 
In a case involving the crash of a fixed wing aircraft and death of a passenger, the Florida Supreme Court in Vreeland v. Ferrer, 71 So. 3d 70 (Fla. 2011), held that 49 U.S.C.A. §44112 preempts Florida’s statutes and applies in cases where people on the ground (surface of the Earth) are injured or killed, but does not apply when the injury, death or property damage is to the passenger of an aircraft. Given the holding of the Florida Supreme Court and unique nature of unmanned drones, liability for drone operators, at least in Florida, will fall under 49 U.S.C.A §44112. Consequently, as the “lessor, owner or secured party of an aircraft,” the UAS business entrepreneur will likely be liable for injuries or damages to people or property on the surface when caused by the UAS drone.
 
So, what does the UAS business entrepreneur do to protect himself? For starters, UAS business owners that operate drones can personally protect themselves from liability by forming either a limited liability company (LLC) or a corporation. While an LLC provides for both a favorable flow-through partnership taxation and limited liability protection for all members, corporations allow for limited liability, continuity of life, free transferability of ownership interests and centralized management. The greatest benefit of a corporation is the limited liability aspects – a shareholder’s financial risk is limited to the amount invested in the corporation and the shareholders is not liable for corporate obligations. Simply put, in most cases, the liability for any injuries or damages due to a UAS crash will stop with the business such that the injured or damaged party will not be able to collect from the UAS business owner’s personal assets.
 
New UAV business owners should also consider insuring their drones before taking to the skies. In the unfortunate event that a drone crashes, a UAS business owner will want to have peace of mind that any damage caused by his drone will be covered by insurance. A quick Google search yields several insurance companies that insure UAS operators for commercial purposes. UAS Business owners should purchase an insurance policy that will fully cover all aspects of the UAS business’ operations. Before inking the contract for drone insurance, read the policy to see what exclusions the policy contains. After all, a UAS business owner would hate to have a drone crash and injure a person because the drone lost signal connectivity, only to later find that the insurance policy excludes accidents that occur under those conditions.
 
Even before the FAA grants a UAS business owner’s petition for Section 333 exemption, the business owner needs to consider the liability aspects of his new business. If you are a UAS business entrepreneur and have questions about your new drone business, give The Ison Law Group a call at either 855-LAW-1215 or 863-712-9475.

Drone Use for Businesses: FAA Makes Petitioning for Section 333 Exemption Easier With “Blanket” COA

  • ON May 24, 2015
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  • BY The Ison Law Group
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  • IN Drone Law

With the commercial success of the DJI Phantom and DJI Inspire, many Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) (popularly referred to as drones) are becoming economically viable for certain industries. Consequently, whether your business is in real estate, construction, agriculture, filmmaking, or an industry that could benefit from the use of a UAS, many businesses are taking a look at how drones can supplement their productivity.
 
In order to fly a UAS for commercial purposes, the drone operator must meet certain standards put forth by the FAA. Since the use of drones is a new area of aviation, many of the Federal Aviation Regulations (F.A.R.s) cannot, or will not, apply to drone usage and flights. How, then, can a business fly a drone for commercial purposes and not run afoul of the F.A.Rs or FAA?
 
Under the FAA Modernization Act of 2012, a business can petition the FAA for a “Section 333” exemption, allowing for the piloting of a UAS even though the drone does not meet the requirements of certain F.A.Rs. If the FAA grants a Section 333 petition, a business may operate a drone for commercial purposes.
 
While the FAA only recently began granting Section 333 exemptions for commercial drone, the FAA has streamlined the exemption process if a business can operate within a certain set of criteria – referred to as a “blanket” Certificate of Authorization or Waiver (COA). Under the new policy, the FAA will grant a COA for flights at or below 200 feet to any UAS operator with a Section 333 exemption for aircraft that weigh less than 55 pounds, operate during daytime Visual Flight Rules (VFR) conditions, operate within visual line of sight (VLOS) of the pilots, and stay certain distances away from airports or heliports.
 
Under this “blanket” COA, drone operators need to be 5 nautical miles (NM) from an airport having an operational control tower, 3 NM from an airport with a published instrument flight procedure, but not an operational tower, 2 NM from an airport without a published instrument flight procedure or an operational tower, or 2 NM from a heliport with a published instrument flight procedure.
 
The “blanket” 200-foot COA allows flights anywhere in the country except restricted airspace and other areas, such as major cities, where the FAA prohibits UAS operations. Previously, a business had to apply for and receive a COA for a particular block of airspace, a process that can take 60 days. The FAA expects the new policy will allow companies and individuals who want to use UAS within these limitations to start flying much more quickly than before.
 
If your business need to commercially operate a UAS, but the “blanket” COA is too restrictive, your business must obtain a separate COA specific to the airspace required for that operation.
 
The Ison Law Group is prepared and equipped to handle your petition for Section 333 exemption under the FAA Modernization Act of 2012. Give us a call today at 855.LAW.1215 or 863.712.9475.

Sue Your Criminal Defense Attorney for Legal Malpractice

The need for an attorney that handles legal malpractice cases may not be readily apparent – until you realize that you need to sue your criminal defense attorney for negligently handling your criminal case. Perhaps your criminal defense attorney failed to properly investigate your case, allowing you to remain in jail when you should have been set free. Perhaps your criminal defense lawyer failed to have the prosecution drop the charges against you when you should not have been arrested in the first place. In these certain types of cases, you may be entitled to sue your criminal defense attorney for legal malpractice.
 
Our Forefather’s built America upon certain fundamental principles that were groundbreaking and revolutionary for their time. These fundamental, Constitutional principles are no less important today than they were when they were first inked in 1787.
 
One of the most important rights that Americans enjoy stems from the Fifth Amendment guarantee that no person “shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” This Constitutional Amendment is often taken for granted – that is, until you find yourself on the wrong side of the law, sitting in a jail cell for a crime you did not commit. And while the American justice system is the finest in the world, negligent mistakes happen – mistakes that could be avoided if your criminal defense attorney properly investigated your criminal case.
 
Criminal defense lawyers in Florida can be held liable for legal malpractice if they fail to properly investigate a criminal charge. For example, in Rowell v. Holt, 850 So.2d 474 (Fla. 2003), John Rowell sued his Public Defender for legal malpractice after his attorney failed to provide evidence to the State Attorney’s Office that would have secured his immediate release from custody. Mr. Rowell spent two weeks in jail before his lawyer submitted the proper documentation to the prosecutor, which proved that Mr. Rowell should not have been arrested. The criminal defense attorney committed legal malpractice because he had been in possession of this documentation for nearly two weeks, but failed to do anything – leaving Mr. Rowell to sit in jail.
 
A Florida jury found that the criminal attorney for Mr. Rowell was negligent in committing legal malpractice which caused Mr. Rowell to suffer damages for mental anguish, pain and suffering. After all, his attorney’s failure to do his job caused Mr. Rowell to sit in jail for two weeks – clearly an infringement upon Mr. Rowell’s pursuit of life, liberty, and property. As such, a jury awarded Mr. Rowell $16,500.00 for the brief period of time that he wrongfully remained in custody.
 
If you want to sue your criminal defense attorney for failing to properly investigate your case, call the Florida legal malpractice attorneys at The Ison Law Group at 863-712-9475 or 855-LAW-1215.