The NTSB recently affirmed an ALJ’s decision suspending an airman’s commercial pilot certificate for 100 days for FAR violations arising from an incident in which the wingtip of the airman’s Cessna 182 struck the wingtip of a Beechcraft King Air, causing damage to both aircraft, and the airman then flew the Cessna 182 without having it inspected. In Administrator v. Scuderi, the FAA alleged that the airman operated his aircraft so close to the other aircraft that it created a collision hazard, and his operation of the aircraft was careless and reckless. The FAA also claimed that the airman departed without first taking corrective action, inspecting, or repairing his aircraft, that the airman operated the aircraft as pilot-in-command while he did not have a current medical certificate, and that he failed to present his pilot certificate, medical certificate, logbook, and other items in response to a reasonable request from a state trooper.
The FAA concluded that the airman’s conduct during and subsequent to the incident violated FARs 61.3(c)(1) (duty to maintain airman certificate and medical in your possession when operating an aircraft), 61.51(i)(1) (presentation of certificate, logbook etc. to law enforcement for inspection upon request), 91.111(a) (prohibiting operation of aircraft so close as to cause collision hazard), 91.13(a) and (b) (careless and reckless), 91.405(a) (duty of aircraft owner/operator to have aircraft inspected and maintained in accordance with FAR Part 43), and 91.7(a) (operating an unairworthy aircraft). Based upon these allegations, the FAA issued an order suspending the airman’s certificate for 180 days. The airman appealed the FAA’s order and, after a hearing, an NTSB ALJ affirmed the FAA’s order for all violations except the FAR 91.405(a) violation and he reduced the suspension from 180 to 100 days. The airman then appealed the ALJ’s decision to the full NTSB.
On appeal, the airman primarily argued that the ALJ’s finding of a violation of FAR 91.7(a) was in error, even though that finding was based upon a credibility determination to which the Board must defer unless it was arbitrary, capricious or otherwise contrary to law. He also argued that a 100-day suspension was inappropriate and should have been subject to a waiver of sanction under the Aviation Safety Reporting Program (“ASRP”). The Board determined that although the FAA had not presented evidence to prove that the airman’s aircraft did not conform to its type certificate, it did show that the aircraft was not in a condition for safe operation when the airman operated the aircraft after the collision. The Board found it significant that the airman had the damage to the aircraft inspected two days after the collision and observed that the airman’s “awareness of the potentially unsafe condition leads us to conclude that his operation of the aircraft resulted in a violation of § 91.7(a).”
With respect to the airman’s argument regarding sanction, the Board deferred to the ALJ’s finding that the airman’s testimony was insufficient to justify waiver of sanction under the ASRP (apparently the airman never received the time-stamped strip back from NASA, but did receive some letter acknowledging that he had made some type of filing). The Board also noted that the record did not support a finding that the airman’s violations were inadvertent and, thus, the airman did not meet his burden of showing that he was eligible for a sanction waiver under the ASRP. As a result, the Board affirmed the ALJ’s decision in all aspects.