In In the Matter of: American Air Network, Inc. the FAA administrator has upheld an administrative law judge’s assessment of a $7,000.00 civil penalty against a Part 135 air carrier for violating FAR 135.95(a). The FAA alleged that the air carrier operated a flight with a second-in-command pilot whose second-class medical certificate was expired and sought an $11,000.00 civil penalty. After a hearing, the ALJ assessed a $7,000.00 civil penalty finding that a violation had occurred but that the air carrier’s prompt corrective action justified reducing the amount of the civil penalty.
On appeal to the administrator, the air carrier argued that (1) it neither intended for the second-in-command pilot to fly without current and appropriate medical certification nor did it condone the flight; (2) it instituted changes to prevent pilots from flying without current and appropriate medical certification in the future; and (3) a $7,000 civil penalty was excessive relative to its financial means. The administrator rejected the air carrier’s arguments and affirmed the $7,000.00 civil penalty.
The administrator held that the assessed penalty was at the low end of the applicable maximum penalty range designated by the Sanction Guidance Table and Compliance/Enforcement Bulletin No. 92-1. Further, that the reduced sanction was appropriate in light of the air carrier’s prompt corrective action. The administrator also disregarded the argument regarding the unintentional nature of the violation based upon precedent that “evidence that the violation was unintentional does not mitigate an otherwise reasonable sanction.”
Finally, the administrator held that even though financial hardship may constitute grounds for reduction of a sanction, the air carrier has the burden of proof. In this case, “the evidence does not show that [the air carrier], which had a net income of $287,062.60 in 2002 and $242,404.55 in 2003, could not absorb a $7,000 civil penalty.” An unfortunate result for the air carrier, but consistent with civil penalty precedent given the nature of the violation and the financial status of the air carrier.