If you have ever been the subject of an FAA investigation and/or FAA enforcement action, you may have felt that the conduct of the inspector(s) and other FAA personnel went beyond proper and professional behavior. Well, you are not alone. However, targets of FAA investigations and enforcement actions may soon have some recourse for improper conduct by FAA personnel.
The FAA has recently been called onto the carpet thanks to an investigation instigated by U.S Representative Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) following a December 9, 1999 crash. A Cessna Citation operated by the College of the Ozarks and carrying the pilot, Joe Brinell, and five passengers crashed near Branson, Mo. Following its investigation into the crash, the NTSB reportindicated that factors contributing to the cause of the crash included pilot stress, pilot fatigue, poor visibility and rainy weather. Apparently two of the local FAA FSDO employees overstepped their bounds in pursuing review of maintenance records from the College of the Ozarks where Brinell was aviation director and also Brinell’s pilot records. Brinell’s wife indicated that Brinell felt the FAA was harassing him, as well as the College and its mechanic.
Rep. Blunt helped launch the investigation into the FAA’s conduct. The DOT Inspector General’s report stated that the FAA had abused its authority and induced stress upon Brinell. In response to the Inspector General’s report, the FAA has supposedly established new policies including the right to a third-party review for complaints about FAA investigations and additional “professionalism” training for FAA inspectors.
Unfortunately, the FAA has not established any timeline for when these new policies will be implemented. Also, it is unclear who will provide the “third-party” review and how independent the reviewing party will be. If this is similar to the current handholding relationship between the FAA and the TSA relating to “security threat” determinations, the proclaimed new policies may simply be lip-service to appease an inquiring U.S. Representative. Time will tell.