We know you have questions. We have your answers.
*These responses cover most but not every scenario. If you have additional questions or want to discuss your individual case, feel free to contact Curry, Pearson & Wooten P.L.C. We are here to help you.
- Page 1
Last year, I had to defend myself in front of the NTSB because of some unfounded enforcement action from the FAA—can I recover my attorney’s fees?
Like most people who are forced to go to court to defend themselves, you are probably out a lot of time and money thanks to attorney’s fees and other time lost. When you are defending yourself from unsubstantiated claims, however, it can be even more frustrating. Thankfully, you may have some relief, depending on how your hearing went.
Thanks to the Equal Access to Justice Act, or EAJA, certificate holders that prevail against unsubstantiated claims by the Federal Aviation Administration in front of the National Transportation Safety Board may be able to recover attorney’s fees and other expenses. Here is how you can tell if you could be eligible for EAJA fees:
- Have you appealed an FAA order? You can only collect expenses and attorney’s fees incurred from the point that you appealed an order from the FAA.
Were some or all of the charges brought against you by the FAA dismissed or settled? If you successfully defended all or some of the claims brought against you, you are considered the prevailing party.
Were the claims made by the FAA substantially justified? The claims made by the FAA must be based on solid evidence and legal reasoning.
Did you incur attorney’s fees as a result of the enforcement and appeals process? Your attorney’s fees are your own responsibility, and not that of your union or employer.
If you were able to answer “yes” to all four questions above, you may be eligible to receive an EAJA award. This award can cover attorney’s fees, expert witness fees, and other costs associated with defending the FAA’s enforcement action.
In order to receive an EAJA award, you must file an application within 30 days of the enforcement action’s final disposition. If you miss this deadline, the NTSB will not consider your application for an EAJA award.
If you have questions about your eligibility or how to file, contact the Arizona aviation accident attorneys at Curry, Pearson & Wooten today at 602-258-1000.
I have heard that the FAA is forcing overweight pilots to undergo extensive sleep apnea testing before receiving their medical certificates—is that true?
It is true that in late 2013, the Federal Aviation Administration proposed a very invasive policy that would require all pilots with a BMI over 40 to undergo expensive sleep apnea testing with a sleep specialist. Until the pilot completed the testing, he or she would be denied a medical certificate.
Thankfully, after much backlash from pilots and the flying community, the FAA revisited the policy in April and made some small changes that do not blatantly discriminate based on BMI numbers alone. The changes still require aviation medical examiners to ask questions about sleep apnea; pilots who are referred for further sleep apnea evaluation will still be issued a medical certificate if they are otherwise qualified and will have 90 days to get an assessment, during which the pilot will still be allowed to fly.
The new policy draft allows pilots who are referred for sleep apnea testing to see any physician for the assessment, not just a sleep specialist. If the doctor does not think a sleep test is necessary, it is not a required part of the assessment.
The FAA maintains its stance that untreated obstructed sleep apnea (OSA) is a disqualifying medical condition, as it can interfere with restorative sleep. If a pilot is diagnosed, the AME will have to submit all sleep test results medical information, treatments, and other information to the FAA. Luckily, simple treatment methods are available, including commonly-used continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines, which are worn only at night.
If you feel as though you are being unfairly discriminated against in your quest for a medical certificate, your instincts may be right. Call the Phoenix aviation attorneys at Curry, Pearson & Wooten today at 602-258-1000 to discuss your concerns with a lawyer.
I am a pilot here in Scottsdale, and I just received a letter of correction from the FAA—am I in trouble?
As a pilot, it can often feel as though the Federal Aviation Administration goes a little overboard with enforcement actions and inspections. Behind the façade of rules and punishments, however, the FAA’s primary goal is to keep aviation safe for everyone. When pilots commit gross violations and infractions, the system may be safer without that particular pilot flying for a year or more, which is why certificates are suspended or revoked. For smaller mistakes or infractions, however, different action may be more appropriate.
As a Phoenix-area pilot, you know full well how challenging our airspace can be under VFR flight rules. With expansive Class B, restricted airspace, and heavy VFR traffic going into and out of several smaller area airports, nearly everyone has been at risk of making a mistake such as missing a radio call or clipping Class B or D airspace inadvertently. When you have a small violation—or even a near violation—even the FAA understands that legal enforcement actions are too much. This is where administrative actions like warning letters or your letter of correction come into play.
Your letter probably contains information on your alleged violation, as well as steps you will need to take to ensure that you are compliant in the future. Whether it is a training course that you need to take or important logbook updates, you will be given a timeframe in which you need to complete the corrective actions and report back to the FAA. Once you are in compliance, your letter of correction will be kept in your file with the FAA for two years. If you do not comply, the FAA may choose to pursue legal enforcement such as a certificate suspension.
While administrative actions like your letter of correction have less of an impact on your certificate than a legal enforcement action, it holds equal weight and importance with the FAA. Just as with a more serious infraction, you will want to be absolutely sure that you understand what you did to receive the letter and what you will need to do to become compliant. If something is unclear, or you disagree that you committed the alleged violation, it may be wise to discuss the situation with an attorney.
The Arizona aviation attorneys at Curry, Pearson & Wooten are experienced pilots and veteran FAA employees familiar with what is required to stay safe and compliant. If you have a question regarding an administrative action taken against you, call us now at 602-258-1000 to discuss your situation with a lawyer.
My friend recently got ramp checked by the FAA over at Falcon Field, and found that he was out of compliance with several things. What can I expect if I am ever ramp checked?
The Federal Aviation Administration has a bad reputation of trying to make pilots’ and aircraft owners’ lives miserable for the sake of misery. While most people are seldom overjoyed to see an FAA inspector out on their ramp, it is important to remember one thing: the FAA wants to keep you safe. Making sure that you are compliant is mostly to ensure that you and your aircraft are not a risk to anyone or anything.
Generally speaking, a ramp check is a fairly quick and painless process for a pilot who does not operate commercially. The inspector is basically “checking” two entities, you and your plane. The inspector will want to be sure that you have the following items with you:
- Your airman certificate;
- Your medical certificate;
- Government-issued photo ID, and
- If you are a student pilot, your logbook and proper endorsements.
As far as the plane goes, remember back to your early piloting days with endless acronyms and memory aids for everything, like ARROW? That is precisely what the inspector will look for, with the addition of a few other things:
- Airworthiness certificate;
- Aircraft registration;
- Operating handbook/flight manual;
- Weight and balance information;
- Current TAC and sectional charts for your route of flight, and
- Current AFD
Having all of your required items is not the only thing you need for a successful ramp check—you will also need a good attitude. Many pilots see an FAA inspector and immediately go on the defense, creating more tension and problems than necessary. Remember, the end goal is to make sure that you are contributing to and part of a safe aviation environment.
If you are facing an enforcement action following a ramp check and do not agree with the inspector’s findings, talk to a Phoenix aviation attorney from Curry, Pearson & Wooten today at 602-258-1000 to find out what your next move should be.
I was recently coming in to land at Deer Valley Airport when I was told to call Phoenix TRACON because of a possible pilot deviation—what should I do?
While the Phoenix area does offer pilots an outstanding environment to fly thanks to unbeatable weather and airfield availability, it is also an extremely challenging place to fly in its own right. With numerous Class D and C airports and several restricted areas, as well as a very complex Class B airspace surrounding Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, it is no wonder that pilots are often informed of possible deviations.
The infamous “phone number” transmission from an air traffic controller is never one a pilot wants to receive. This is usually the very first step the FAA takes to determine if a pilot has committed an infraction that is serious enough to warrant an enforcement action on their certificate. While you are not legally required to call the number provided, if the event in question was a relatively minor one, a quick phone call may be all you need to set things straight. If you are concerned that you may have violated something more serious, you may want to hold off on calling until you speak to an aviation lawyer so that you do not further incriminate yourself.
As long as your deviation was unintentional and did not include an accident or incident, you can file a NASA Form ARC 277B. This form can provide you with immunity from enforcement action as long as you have not been found guilty of violating a FAR within the past five years. Available both online and in a print-out/mail in version, you must submit the form within 10 days of the event in question. To err on the side of caution, you may still want to have an attorney read over your report before you hit “submit” or mail it in—it can never hurt to be sure that your bases are covered.
If you have received a "number" to call and would like to discuss your options, the Phoenix aviation attorneys at Curry, Pearson & Wooten can help guide you through the self-reporting process—call us today at 602-258-1000.
I was just involved in an aircraft incident in Phoenix, but there were only minor injuries and minimal damage to my small aircraft. Will I need to report this to the NTSB, or will I need a lawyer?
Arizona aviation incidents can be a tricky, grey area. With a full-fledged accident (remembering back to your private pilot exam, an accident results in death or serious injury and substantial aircraft damage), it is very clear that you must always immediately notify the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). What should you do if the event in question is, by definition, only an incident?
While many pilots want to err on the side of caution and report everything, it is incredibly important that you carefully evaluate what happened before discussing the event with the NTSB or Federal Aviation Administration. While we would all like to think that the FAA is “on our side” as pilots, its job is also to enforce rules and safety—sometimes at the cost of your hard-earned certifications.
The need to send a report to the NTSB depends on what exactly was involved in your incident. If the event in question involved one of the following, you will need to submit a report immediately:
- Failure or malfunction of a flight control system;
- Inability of a required flight crewmember to perform his or her normal flight duties because of illness or injury;
- In-flight fire;
- Mid-air collision with another aircraft;
- Damage to property exceeding $25,000,
- Or, if your aircraft is a turbine engine, engine component failure not involving the compressor or blades.
If your Phoenix aviation incident involved one of the above factors, you will need to speak with the NTSB, which will likely involve a follow-up conversation with an FAA inspector to make sure that the incident did not involve any FAR violations. At Curry, Pearson & Wooten, our experienced Arizona aviation accident attorneys can help prepare you for your possible investigation. Call us today at 602-258-1000 to discuss your plan of action with a knowledgeable aviation lawyer now.