Fighting the FAA on an intentional falsification charge may sound like a daunting task if you are a pilot or A&P mechanic facing certificate revocation. When the FAA catches wind that for example a certificate holder provided false information on a FAA medical application or allegedly falsified information in a logbook, the FAA will typically issue an Emergency Order of Revocation, stripping the certificate holder of his or her airman, mechanic, or medical certificate for a year and authorizing re-certification only after that year has been exhausted. What the FAA doesn’t make abundantly clear to certificate holders in these Orders, however, is that in intentional falsification cases the law allows for at least three avenues through which a pilot or mechanic can successfully develop a defense. The correspondence a certificate holder receives from the FAA typically does not paint a very bright picture for overturning an Emergency Order of Revocation, but certificate holders should know that they most likely have a defense vis-a-vie the three Hart v. McLucas elements.
Appeals from FAA Orders are heard by the National Transportation Safety Board (“NTSB”). This means that when the FAA decides to revoke a pilot or A&P’s certificate, he or she will go before a NTSB Administrative Law Judge and present his or her defense. The NTSB has long adhered to the three-prong analysis found in in Hart v. McLucas when determining cases of intentional falsification. 535 F.2d 516 (9th Cir. 1976). The so-called “Hart elements” required the FAA (NOT THE CERTIFICATE HOLDER) to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the certificate holder: (1) made a false representation, (2) in reference to a material fact, and (3) with knowledge of the falsity of the fact. Consequently, the “Hart elements” allow a certificate holder at least three opportunities to overturn the FAA’s decision. If the certificate holder can show (depending on the facts of the case) that at least one of these elements was not supported by a preponderance of the evidence, the Emergency Order will be overturned and the certificate holder will remain a certificate holder.
The foregoing is not legal advice, but rather stands to show certificate holders that there are potential defenses available for intentional falsification allegations. It is extremely important that if you are a pilot, A&P mechanic, or other FAA certificate holder, that you contact your FAA Enforcement Action Attorney at The Ison Law Firm if you are facing a FAA Enforcement Action for “intentional falsification” charges. There is an aviation attorney standing by ready to analyze your case and develop a hopefully WINNING defense.