In a October 4, 2004 decision, the NTSB Board upheld a dismissal of a charge that a certificate holder made a false or fraudulent entry in an aircraft logbook in the absence of any proof that a logbook entry was made for maintenance performed. In Administrator v. Tarascio, the FAA issued an emergency order of revocation alleging that the certificate holder violated FAR’s 43.12(a), 91.13(a) and 91.7(a) for operating aircraft that allegedly had maintenance discrepancies even though the aircraft logbooks contained no entries detailing the alleged discrepancies.
At the hearing, the FAA was unable to show that the certificate holder operated any specific aircraft when it had a maintenance discrepancy rendering the aircraft un-airworthy. Rather, the FAA simply argued that an aircraft must be deemed un-airworthy whenever it is operated when maintenance work has not been recorded in the aircraft’s logbook. The FAA suspected that the aircraft were un-airworthy despite the return to service certifications logged for each aircraft. However, the FAA failed to submit any evidence regarding the un-airworthiness of any of the specific aircraft.
Based upon the lack of evidence, the administrative law judge dismissed the FAA’s complaint against the certificate holder holding that “a failure to make an entry would not support a charge under section 43.12(a), as that regulation only forbids intentionally false or fraudulent entries.” In affirming the dismissal, the Board noted that the FAA charged the certificate holder in effect with a failure to honestly record maintenance or allow it to be recorded by others, when the FAA’s charges more appropriately should have been that the certificate holder breached his maintenance logging obligations such as those required under FAR 43.9.
As this case shows, to prove a violation of FAR 43.12(a), the aircraft logbook must contain an actual entry that is false or fraudulent. The absence of entries in the aircraft logbook will not support a charge of violation of this FAR. However, this case should not be viewed as an incentive not to make logbook entries. As the Board noted, other FAR’s dictate maintenance logging duties and obligations. It appears in this case that the FAA simply failed to charge violations of the appropriate FAR’s. The FAA will likely be more careful to avoid such errors in the future.