A recent NTSB decision illustrates the consequences a certificate holder may face if he or she fails to keep the FAA informed of the certificate holder’s permanent address as required by FAR 65.21 (certificate holders must notify the FAA within 30 days of any change in permanent address). In Administrator v. Mazufri, the FAA sent letters to the mechanic on October 4, 2004 and July 5, 2005 addressed to the mechanic at his address of record. Both letters stated that the FAA had reason to question the mechanic’s qualification to hold his mechanic certificate with airframe and powerplant ratings and requested that the mechanic submit for re-examination or otherwise provide evidence that he should not be subject to re-examination.
After receiving no response to either of its letters, on May 11, 2006 the FAA issued an emergency suspension order that suspended the mechanic’s certificate pending his submission to re-examination and demanded that the mechanic surrender his certificate. The FAA sent the emergency suspension order to the mechanic’s address of record via certified mail, regular mail and Federal Express. When the FAA again received no response from the mechanic, it conducted some additional investigation and discovered an address for the mechanic in a different city.
On March 5, 2007, the FAA sent a letter to the mechanic at the new address, along with a copy of the suspension order, advising that the mechanic’s certificate was suspended and that he faced potential civil penalties of $1,000.00 per day if he refused to surrender his certificate. Subsequently, on March 14, 2007 the mechanic surrendered his certificate and included a letter that indicated that the mechanic had been living at the new address for seven years and he wished to appeal the suspension order. In response to the mechanic’s request, the FAA filed its complaint on April 6, 2007, republishing and filing the May 11, 2006 emergency order of suspension as the complaint, and moved to dismiss the mechanic’s appeal as untimely. After the ALJ granted the FAA’s motion and dismissed the mechanic’s appeal, the mechanic then appealed the decision to the full Board.
On appeal, the Board analyzed (1) whether the FAA actually or constructively served the mechanic with its order of suspension; and (2) if the FAA did serve the mechanic, whether the mechanic established that he had good cause for the untimely filing of his appeal. The Board found that the FAA did serve the mechanic because it sent the order of suspension to the mechanic’s address of record. It also found that the mechanic’s failure to inform the FAA of his change of address was not good cause and precluded him from successfully arguing that he never received proper service. As a result, the Board upheld the suspension order.
Although this case isn’t novel, several items are interesting. One, given the low standard the FAA must meet in order to request re-examination (see my article on the subject here), even if the mechanic’s appeal had been timely I seriously doubt whether it would have been successful. Another interesting aspect of this case is the length of time in which the case played out. Once the FAA had reason to doubt the mechanic’s qualifications, it took the FAA over a year and a half to issue its suspension order. It then took another ten months for the FAA to track down the mechanic. During the entire time, the mechanic was, presumably, working as a mechanic and performing maintenance on aircraft. Doesn’t say much for aviation safety if, as alleged by the FAA, the mechanic was truly not qualified to hold his certificate.
Finally, in a footnote to the decision, the NTSB observed that “the case at issue here is distinguishable from the facts of the cases in Administrator v. Lavigna, NTSB Order No. EA-5274 (2007); Yi Tu v. National Transportation Safety Board, 470 F.3d 941 (2006); and Jones v. Flowers, 547 U.S. 220 (2006)” because “the question answered here is not whether respondent received the mail at his permanent address, but whether respondent updated the address that he represented to the Administrator as the address where he could receive notifications regarding his certificate.” Whether this was in response to an argument made by the mechanic based upon these cases, or simply of its own accord, the Board appears to be attempting to narrow, or at a minimum, to clarify the influence of these cases.