In Administrator v. Konop, the FAA alleged that the ATP airman violated FAR 121.548 when he refused to allow an FAA inspector access to the cockpit to conduct a flight deck en-route inspection and the airman had the inspector physically removed from the flight because he allegedly believed that the inspector was a security and safety risk. After a hearing, the ALJ determined that the violation had occurred, but he reduced the suspension to 30 days, down from the 45 days sought by the FAA.
On appeal to the Board, the airman argued that the inspector did not properly identify herself or her purpose or obtain the proper authorization for flight deck access. He also argued that the PIC has the emergency authority to exclude anyone from the cockpit in the interests of safety. The Board determined that precedent overruled the first argument because FAR 121.485 does not contain any requirement that an FAA inspector either announce her purpose for riding in the jumpseat or present a copy of the airline’s form authorizing same. Rather, it merely requires that the inspector present her credentials. With respect to the second argument, the Board agreed with and deferred to the ALJ’s determination that an emergency situation did not exist. The Board also granted the FAA’s appeal and reinstated the 45-day suspension sought by the FAA. The Board held that it was required to defer to the FAA’s sanction request and that the sanction request was supported by the FAA’s Sanction Guidance Table which recommended a suspension of up to 60 days for the violation.
This is definitely one of those cases where you have to wonder what was truly going on in the background. In light of the facts established at the hearing, the airman must have had some undisclosed reason for denying the inspector access to the cockpit. And, given the penalty the airman had to have known he could face, it must have been pretty important. Hope it was worth it.