In a recent decision, Administrator v. Nyerges, the NTSB affirmed the FAA’s suspension of a mechanic’s certificate. The case first appeared on the FAA’s radar, as many cases do, during the FAA’s investigation of an incident in which a Beechcraft Queen Air’s landing gear collapsed on landing. During a review of the aircraft’s maintenance records, the FAA discovered that the mechanic had performed maintenance on the aircraft after the incident. As a result of its investigation, the FAA subsequently alleged that the mechanic violated FARs 43.13(a) and (b), and 43.9(d), because the mechanic conducted a major repair, as defined by FAR Part 43, Appendix A, § (b)(1)(xxii) and (xiv), and did not submit FAA Form 337 concerning the repair, and the mechanic did not conduct the repair in the manner required by Advisory Circular (AC) 43.13-1B (requires a mechanic to use approved data for repairs). After a hearing, the administrative law judge (“ALJ”) affirmed the FAA’s order and imposed a 120 days suspension of the mechanic’s certificate. The mechanic then appealed the ALJ’s decision to the full board.
On appeal, one of the arguments asserted by the mechanic was that the FAA’s complaint did not include sufficient facts to prove that the mechanic undoubtedly violated the regulations. The Board initially noted that the function of a complaint is to notify the airman of the charges in order to allow the airman to prepare a defense. It then agreed with the ALJ’s determination that the complaint adequately put the mechanic on notice of the charges, and provided sufficient details concerning the allegations contained in the complaint.
The mechanic also argued that the repairs he performed were not “major” because the FAA had classified the gear-up landing as an “incident” rather than an “accident.” However, the Board again agreed with the ALJ’s position that the classification of the gear-up landing as an “incident” was irrelevant to the issue of whether the mechanic violated the regulations. The Board determined that the FAA had provided sufficient evidence to show that the aircraft “was not repaired in accordance with methods, techniques, and practices prescribed in the current manufacturer’s maintenance manual,” and the mechanic “did not repair the parts in a manner equal to their original or properly altered condition.” As a result, the Board affirmed the suspension of the mechanic’s certificate.
I am not surprised by the Board’s decision on these two issues. With respect to the complaint, on occasion a complaint issued by the FAA will omit some necessary facts or allegations such that the airman does not have sufficient notice of a particular charge. However, most of the time a complaint will have sufficient facts to put the airman on notice of the charges against him or her. With respect to the accident/incident argument, the regulation only addresses “major” repair. The classification of the repair dictates whether an accident or incident occurred, not the other way around.
Interestingly, the mechanic in this case did not have an attorney, aviation or otherwise, represent him at the hearing or on his appeal. Whether this had any bearing on the arguments made by the mechanic, I don’t know. However, perhaps the result would have been better with an aviation attorney defending him.