The NTSB recently affirmed a 120-day suspension of a pilot’s airman certificates, including his commercial pilot certificate, after the airman received two driving under the influence (DUI) driver’s license suspensions within three years in violation of FAR 61.15(d). In Administrator v. Kennedy, the FAA issued an Order of Suspension after the airman reported the second DUI related suspension. The airman appealed and the administrative law judge affirmed the Order of Suspension.
On appeal to the full NTSB board, the airman did not argue that the suspension itself was improper (the airman conceded to the administrative law judge that his conduct violated FAR 61.15(d)). Rather, he argued that the suspension was excessive and should have been mitigated by the fact that he timely reported the two DUI related suspensions and that he had voluntarily undertaken alcohol related treatment.
In rejecting this argument, the Board cited a previous case in which it held that “mitigation of sanction depends not on factors such as respondent’s subsequent accomplishments but on the existence, type, and degree of extenuating circumstances in the commission of the violation”. The Board deferred to the FAA’s choice of sanction and noted that it was consistent with other sanctions imposed by the FAA for similar conduct.
The moral of the story is that DUI’s are hazardous and, in some cases fatal, to an airman’s continued use and possession of his or her certificates. Conduct after the fact does not persuade the FAA or the NTSB otherwise. Nothing wrong with having a few drinks after a long day of flying or work. However, in the grand scheme of things, a cab ride is always going to be less expensive and less detrimental than a DUI. Not only should you fly safe and fly smart, but you should take the same approach when it comes to drinking and driving.