In Administrator v. Sugden, the airman was charged with violations of FAR’s 43.3(unauthorized performance of aircraft maintenance), 91.405(b) (required logbook entries for maintenance performed) and 91.407(a)(1)-(2) (operation of aircraft after maintenance). The airman had left his aircraft with a maintenance shop for service. After numerous delays, the airman was told the aircraft would be completed by a certain date. However, when the airman arrived to pick up the aircraft, it was still in an uncompleted, disassembled state.
Over the course of the next two days, the airman worked with the repair station to reassemble the aircraft so he could leave with it. During that time, the airman assisted in the maintenance and installed the aircraft’s radome and the flux gate for the directional gyro. Upon completion of some, but not all, of the repairs, the airman flew the aircraft to his home base without inspecting the aircraft logbooks prior to his flight.
The FAA charged the airman with performing unsupervised maintenance on the aircraft without a mechanic or repairman certificate and with operating an aircraft without the appropriate entries in the aircraft’s logbooks and when the aircraft was not properly returned to service. At the end of the hearing, the ALJ affirmed the violation of FAR 43.3, except for the allegations relating to the installation of the flux gate, and the violations of FAR’s 91.405(b)and 91.407(a)(1)-(2), and imposed a 75 day suspension of the airman’s commercial pilot certificate.
On appeal, and consistent with Board precedent, the NTSB Board affirmed the ALJ’s findings. The Board held that the airman “failed to independently ensure that the required maintenance entries were recorded in the logbook and departed Boeing Field when, in fact, the required entries had not been made.” The Board also noted that the maintenance personnels’ failure to make the required entries highlights the importance of the airman’s function in reviewing the aircraft logbooks and does not excuse the failure to review the logbooks prior to flight. Finally, the Board felt the evidence was also sufficient to support the ALJ’s finding that the airman had installed the radome without the required supervision.
This case is consistent with Board precedent and is important because it illustrates that the FAA will pursue aircraft operators if an aircraft is operated after maintenance and the operator has not ensured that all required logbook entries are present and that the aircraft was properly returned to service. Neither ignorance nor misplaced reliance upon the maintenance provider are defenses. As a result, after an aircraft receives maintenance and before that aircraft is flown, it is incumbent upon the pilot to review the aircraft logbooks to make sure that the maintenance provider made the required logbook entries and properly returned the aircraft to service.