According to an article in the LA Times, the FAA has issued an order revoking an airman’s ATP and ground instruction certificates in the aftermath of an aircraft accident. According to the article, the airman was one of three pilots performing a formation flyover of three Aero Vodochody L-29 Delfins. During the flyover, one of the Delfins fell out of formation and crashed, killing the pilot and passenger.
The FAA subsequently issued its revocation order against the airman alleging that the airman flew his aircraft over densely populated areas at less than 1,000 feet, improperly carried a passenger on the flight and falsely claimed in the deceased pilot’s log that the airman had checked the deceased pilot out in the L-29 before the crash. As it turns out, the airman was an FAA designated examiner in the L-29.
The airman has indicated that he will appeal the revocation order and has argued that the L-29s avoided populated areas by following the area’s railroad tracks which were not within the city and flew between 1,200 and 1,500 feet, well above the minimum required altitude.
Interestingly, the article does not mention any enforcement action against the third pilot in the formation. Presumably the FAA would also allege an altitude violation against that pilot. However, such an operational violation typically involves suspension, rather than revocation. The revocation action against the first airman resulted from the allegation that he made a false/improper entry in the deceased pilot’s logbook. According to the FAA, logbook falsification warrants revocation because it demonstrates that an airman lacks the required care, judgment and responsibility to hold any airman certificate.
As is often the case with the media, especially these days, the article does not include all of the facts, some of which will hopefully support the airman’s defenses. However, this situation is a good example of how an enforcement action is typically preceded by some type of incident or accident. Once the event occurs, the FAA’s subsequent investigation will quite often uncover some information that leads the FAA to believe that a regulatory violation has occurred.
It is important for an airman involved in an incident or accident to have an aviation attorney assist him or her in responding to the subsequent investigation in order to minimize the airman’s exposure to a possible enforcement action. In that situation, the FAA is definitely not there to help the airman. However, given the opportunity, an aviation attorney certainly can help.