In a recent decision, Administrator v. Hodges, the NTSB has affirmed the revocation of the airman and certified flight instructor certificates held by an operations supervisor with the St. Louis FSDO. The emergency revocation order was based on a May 2005 incident in which the airman allegedly presented an application, FAA Form 8710-1, Airman Certificate and/or Rating, to an Aviation Safety Inspector in her FSDO who she also happened to supervise at the time. The airman asked the inspector to renew her certified flight instructor certificate (CFI). Although the application was dated February 28, 2005, and the airman’s old certificate had expired on February 28, 2005, the inspector completed the renewal three months after the certificate’s expiration.
Almost a year later, in June 2006, following his retirement from the FAA, the inspector contacted an FAA enforcement attorney and told him that he and the airman had backdated the forms for the CFI renewal package. Based upon the former inspector’s statement and its own investigation, the FAA then issued an emergency order revoking the airman’s flight instructor certificate and airman certificate with commercial pilot privileges, based on the airman’s alleged violation of 14 C.F.R. § 61.59(a)(1)(Falsification, reproduction, or alteration of applications, certificates, logbooks, reports, or records). After a hearing, the NTSB ALJ affirmed the FAA’s order of revocation.
On appeal to the full Board, the airman argued that the ALJ should have dismissed the FAA’s complaint based upon the stale complaint defense. The stale complaint defense provides for dismissal of allegations in a complaint regarding offenses that occurred more than 6 months prior to the FAA’s advising the airman of the reasons for proposed action. However, the stale complaint defense does not apply where lack of qualification is alleged by the FAA. In such cases, the ALJ must first determine whether an issue of lack of qualification would be presented if all of the allegations, stale and timely, are assumed to be true. If lack of qualification is presented, the case proceeds.
In rejecting the airman’s appeal, the Board observed that “[f]alsification of required documents has everything to do with qualification to hold any certificate. It does not matter that the falsification was ‘not directly related to the documents allegedly falsified'”. It then concluded that “[t]his is a lack of qualification because it involves the judgment and responsibility to comply with rules and regulations designed to ensure safe operation and safety in air commerce” and “[w]e rely on airmen to be truthful on documents relating to aviation matters, and especially those airmen upon whom we rely to enforce the regulations.”
Nice to see a case like this dealt with out in the open, rather than simply being swept under the carpet. I think those who enforce the regulations should, at a minimum, be held to the same standard as those to whom the regulations apply, and, perhaps, it makes sense to hold them to an even higher standard. Either way, those who enforce the regulations should be held accountable, and I think this case accomplishes that objective.