When Your Arizona Airman Medical Certificate is Denied
While there are a handful of pilots that do not give going to the aviation medical examiner a second thought, for many of us, there is a nagging feeling of “what if” following us the whole way into the office. For pilots whose livelihood relies on that renewal of their medical, the visit can be even more stressful.
When the Worst Case Scenario Becomes Reality
Let’s say that you have recently been to your aviation medical examiner’s office to renew your first class medical. While you have not had any major health problems in the recent past, the AME notices a few things that concern him and could point to a potentially disqualifying medical condition.
From here, your fate lies in the hands of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Aeromedical Certification Division. Many times, the FAA will err towards the conservative side, and either offer you a special issuance—of which it will be your duty to prove you can safely operate under—or outright deny your certificate.
After you receive the official FAA letter denying your application for a medical certificate, you will have 30 days to respond with a request for the FAA to reconsider the denial. This reconsideration process can take a considerable amount of time, and if they uphold their denial, you will have to move forward with an appeal to the National Transportation Safety Board.
Fighting the Feds: Appealing Your Medical Certificate Denial to the NTSB
To appeal, you will need to request a hearing with an administrative law judge by filing a petition with the NTSB. At this hearing, both you and the FAA will be tasked with presenting evidence for or against your case. While you can present evidence from a slew of medical professionals who are familiar with your medical history, beware: the FAA will typically hold evidence from aviation medical professionals like your AME in higher regard than evidence brought by other physicians and doctors.
Fighting the Good Fight
It is important to everyone that our pilots—especially those who fly for a living—are healthy and safe in the skies. Sometimes, however, it can be difficult to get a complete picture of a person’s health in a quick ten minute visit, resulting in a denial of a medical certificate. Appealing to the NTSB can be a very costly process, but protecting your livelihood is priceless.
If you feel as though your medical certificate has been denied in error, contact the experienced Arizona aviation attorneys at Curry, Pearson & Wooten today at 602-258-1000. We can help you fight to defend your certificate and your career.
Is ADS-B a Threat to General Aviation?
The imminent implementation of ADS-B has divided the aviation community more deeply than many other technologies before it. On one side, the Federal Aviation Administration sings its praises as far as the safety advancements it offers. It also offers the FAA considerable savings if antiquated ground-based navigation is given the boot, so a move to ADS-B may have the Feds seeing dollar signs all around.
On ramps and in hangars around the country, however, many owners are wringing their hands as they watch the clock tick down to the 2020 deadline that the FAA has been promising. For some, the equipment purchase and installation is a costly annoyance. For others, especially owners of older single-engine planes, the installation costs may be enough to drive them to sell before they are forced into pricey modifications required to support the ADS-B system.
AVweb contributor Paul Bertorelli raises another valid point—for a large portion of the average, middle-class people who fly, the ADS-B requirements may turn flying from an affordable indulgence into an unattainable luxury. It is no secret that flying has always been expensive, and fuel prices and maintenance costs have only made it more so. General aviation is already seeing dwindling pilot and owner levels, and the average age of those who remain is climbing quickly. For aircraft owners who are older, the added costs may push them to sell sooner. Younger pilots may be turned off by the higher prices. Either way, much of the traffic ADS-B could alert pilots to may be scared off before it has a chance to spot it.
The Arizona aviation accident attorneys at Curry, Pearson & Wooten are interested to hear what you think about the upcoming ADS-B mandate, so sound off in the comments below! If you have questions or concerns about what the mandate will mean for you and your aircraft, call us at 602-258-1000 today.
FAA Policy Smart Move for Amateur Built Aircraft Pilots
New policy from the Federal Aviation Administration on experimental-amateur built aircraft has the Experimental Aircraft Association and aircraft owners alike excited for a new realm of safety and possibility.
The new policy, known as the Additional Pilot Program and rolled out late last month in an advisory circular (AC 90-116), details new rules surrounding the initial test flight phase of amateur built aircraft. Pilots of amateur built airplanes are now able to take an experienced test pilot along on the aircraft’s first flight, which the EAA states should dramatically reduce the amount of accidents in the experimental-amateur built group.
The EAA has explained that the majority of accidents among the amateur built aircraft occurred within the first eight hours of flight time, and were caused not by equipment failure or malfunction, but rather pilot loss of control. This new program allows for the builder pilot to experience the first airborne hours in his or her own aircraft with the added safety of a more experienced test pilot onboard.
The new program does set qualification minimums for both test pilots and aircraft to be able to participate in the Addition Pilot Program. To meet the requirements, the aircraft must meet the following:
Built from a kit eligible under the “major portion” requirement of Part 21.191(g)
Issued an experimental certificate as an amateur-built aircraft or light-sport aircraft
Have fully functioning dual controls
Installed piston-driven powerplant recommended by the kit manufacturer
Successfully completed powerplant testing in accordance with AC 90-89
The additional pilot must meet several qualifications as well, and a scoring matrix was devised for ease of determining recency of experience. The matrix includes several instant disqualifiers, which include:
Less than 10 landings in the previous 90 days
No flight time in the model family of the test aircraft
Less than 40 hours of flight time in the previous year
Less than 500 hours of total flight time
Recency of conventional gear experience (less than 20 landings in previous year) if applicable
Another scoring matrix is available that rates the qualified second pilot based on whether or not he/she has PIC time in several different makes and models of aircraft, Phase I testing experience, flight ratings achieved, and more.
This new policy is a refreshing step forward for the FAA, and offers a refreshing amount of flexibility for the builder/pilot set. If you have questions regarding this new policy, or have received resistance from the FAA, feel free to contact the Phoenix aviation attorneys at Curry, Pearson & Wooten today for the answers you deserve.
General Aviation Fatalities at All-Time Low
A few weeks ago, the National Transportation Safety Board released its numbers on general aviation safety, and the news was good—almost too good.
For every 100,000 hours flown in general aviation last year, the accident rate was 5.85, while the fatal accident rate was a mind-boggling 1.05, the lowest number ever recorded. Out of the 221 fatal GA crashes, 387 people were killed; this is the lowest number of GA fatalities since World War II.
Many naysayers have argued that the reported number of hours flown are too high, citing quieter skies and emptier ramps as proof that flight hours are decreasing. While it is no surprise that the number of both pilots and aircraft is decreasing steadily, Flying Magazine’s Robert Goyer makes an interesting point—more pilots are using their planes to travel (as opposed to using them for flight training), which has contributes significantly to the number of flight hours being logged.
Other contributing factors to improving safety are the pilots, themselves. With easy access to better equipment that can accurately depict weather, terrain, and other traffic, each flight has the potential to be safer than the last—especially with appropriate training. The improvements to scenario-based flight training that teaches pilots how to handle common, real-world problems in the cockpit has also contributed to the rise in safety, says Goyer.
While general aviation is getting safer, Arizona is still seeing a fair share of crashes. If you or a loved one have been injured in an Arizona aviation accident, call Curry, Pearson & Wooten at 602-258-1000 to discuss your case with an experienced aviation attorney today.
OTC and Illicit Drug Use and Aviation Accidents
When you get the sniffles, what remedy do you reach for first? If you are a pilot, you probably just thought, “Will I be flying any time soon?” Aviators are bound by strict rules that govern how they are able to medicate and treat many ailments, and the National Transportation Safety Board has found that many are not living up the standards set by the Federal Aviation Administration—at the risk of injury and death.
Drug Use in the United States
While most people tend to think of illicit drugs when it comes to dangerous behavior, over-the-counter (OTC) drugs are much more commonly used in the United States, and the use of both have been on the rise in the United States.
Pilots have been at the center of an NTSB study that took place from 1990 to 2012, with investigators performed toxicology tests on pilots involved in fatal accidents. Because of the infrequency of fatal accidents among air carrier pilots, the study focused primarily on general aviation pilots. The findings, released earlier this month, found one very important thing: drug use among fatally injured pilots, both illicit and OTC, is on the rise and likely to increase.
Silent Dangers in Your Medicine Cabinet
More common among fatal accidents than illicit drugs, the real threat among the drugs that were potentially impairing was diphenhydramine, an antihistamine that appears in common sleep aids, allergy medications, and cold medications. The study did not set out to discover if these drugs were contributing factors to the crash, but one thing is for certain—the presence of these drugs in the systems of fatally injured pilots is steadily rising.
Also on the rise in the past decade is the number of pilots flying without a current medical certificate. These pilots were even more likely to be using potentially impairing drugs to treat certain ailments without the input of an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME).
Have You Been Injured by a Pilot That Misused Drugs?
The NTSB study concluded, among other findings, that the FAA’s communication with airmen about the safe and unsafe use of OTC and prescription drugs. This leaves the door open for a lot of confusion among pilots as to what may or may not be safe. One thing is for certain, however, and that is that the ultimate responsibility to determine and maintain flight fitness still lies with the pilot in command.
If you have been injured by a pilot who misused potentially impairing OTC or prescription drugs, you deserve compensation for your damages. Call Curry, Pearson & Wooten’s Arizona aviation attorneys at 602-258-1000 to discuss your case with a lawyer today.
Biennial Flight Reviews Making Arizona Aviation Safer
Can you imagine if pilots were governed by the same rules as those with a Class D driving licenses? When buzz about the new “flying car” started, it generated excitement from the masses; most pilots knew that the idea would thankfully, and quite literally, never get off the ground.
While a majority of people you share the streets with have not received any type of instruction or review for decades (unless they incurred a driving infraction), most of the people buzzing around our Arizona skies have received instruction, check rides, or a flight review within the past two years. While this cannot guarantee that each of these pilots are at peak proficiency, it does make giant strides towards a safer Arizona airspace.
The Biennial Flight Review: What it is, and When You Need It
A flight review for single engine-rated pilot consists of at least one hour of ground instruction and one hour of flight training with an authorized instructor or examiner. The training must consist of a review of FAR Part 91 operating rules as well as flight maneuvers and procedures in a manner that demonstrates the pilot’s ability to safely exercise the privileges of his or her certificate.
In the simplest interpretation of the rules, a flight review must be completed within the previous twenty-four calendar months of a pilot acting as pilot-in-command of an aircraft with a few exceptions. Student pilots receiving training for a specific certificate with current solo endorsement are not required to undergo a flight review, nor is any pilot who has received a successful check-ride for a rating or certificate within the past twenty-four months. Certified Flight Instructors are exempt from the ground training portion, but must still undergo the hour of flight training.
Why Your Flight Review Currency Matters
Flight reviews on a biennial basis are required by FARs, and if you are involved in an accident or incident, one of the first things the FAA will look as is if you are in compliance with your certificate and currency. For some reason, however, many pilots overlook the flight review and assume that a current medical certificate and regular flight time will suffice. From an administrative perspective, not to mention a safety perspective, nothing can replace the flight review or check ride.
While there is a large amount of flight training that takes place here in Arizona, the majority of pilots here are people who fly for enjoyment. While we might fly on a fairly regular basis, we may not go through the standard maneuvers and emergency procedures as often as we should to maintain a mastery of our aircraft handling skills. With a flight review, we have the opportunity to perfect these maneuvers in a safe environment, and maybe even get the chance to learn something new in the meantime.
If you have any questions about flight review requirements, feel free to reach out to us here on our website or by calling our Arizona aviation attorneys at 602-258-1000. We want to play a role in keeping you safe and legal in the skies!
Arizona Aviation Liability and Service Bulletins
For many Arizona pilots and aircraft owners, service bulletins serve as one of the greatest internal debates they face on a regular basis. While most people have the instinct to choose safety over cost, when it comes to service bulletins, it is not always clear that the action outlined is in any way directly related to safety. For many owners, the choice to comply with a service bulletin does not come down to an issue of safety at all, but rather the avoidance of potential administrative issues should an accident or incident occur.
So…What are Service Bulletins?
Service bulletins are notices sent out to aircraft owners by manufacturers. These bulletins typically address a safety concern, available improvements, or possible defects or errors in parts or manuals, and offer guidance on the appropriate action to take. Sometimes the manufacturer will advise that a certain part be replaced, a certain inspection be performed, or certain operating limitations be put in place.
It all sounds fairly black and white, until we delve a bit deeper. Federal Aviation Regulations do not require that service bulletins are complied with unless they are accompanied by an Airworthiness Directive, or AD. This puts owners and A&Ps alike in a precarious situation—is it better to blindly comply, or is it simply not “worth it?”
When the service bulletin directly addresses a safety issue, it is always prudent to comply. Most pilots, owners, and maintenance personnel will agree—safety is paramount. What remains in a “grey area,” however, is the absence of an AD. If the Federal Aviation Administration has not mandated a service action, is the issue one of concern?
Dissection: Take the Time to Investigate
If it is unclear whether or not the service bulletin is truly related to a relevant safety issue, there is one resource that you need to have a heart-to-heart with—your primary A&P mechanic. While maintenance professionals are just as concerned as manufacturers about possible liability, only they can offer you the true cost/benefit analysis (and not just the financial costs) of complying or not complying with a service bulletin.
If you have questions or concerns about current or potential liability regarding a service bulletin you have received, our experienced Arizona aviation accident lawyers are here to help. Call Curry, Pearson & Wooten today at 602-258-1000 to discuss your case with an attorney.
Arizona Aviation Accidents and Air Shows
Air shows have been a favorite pastime of American adults and children alike for decades. From the acrobatic displays of grace, speed, and power to the important aviation history knowledge to be gained, there is something for everyone to enjoy.
Of course, when there is a high volume of air traffic in a small space (typically at smaller airports that are not used to handling traffic numbers that an airshow brings), and a mix of aircraft ranging from WWII fighters to hot air balloons, the risk associated with such events is exponentially higher than operations as usual. Couple that with large crowds that may not be familiar with aviation safety, and the odds of injury or death start to grow.
Order in the Chaos: Who is Responsible?
Many of you may remember the tragic crash at the 2011 Reno Air Races involving a P-51D Mustang that crashed into box seats near the field, killing 10 spectators and the pilot, and injuring nearly 70 other people. This devastating event only proved how difficult it was to pinpoint liability, and despite a mechanical failure being found as the primary culprit, many other factors came into play.
If you have been injured at an air show—whether you were a pilot or spectator—there are many potentially liable parties, such as:
- Air Show Hosts and Organizers: Air show organizers take on a lot of responsibility in order to host an air show. From hiring on-site first responders to purchasing liability insurance, if the organizer has missed a key detail and you are injured as a result, they will be found liable. In Reno, the event promoters sold highly-priced VIP box seats in front of the grandstands that placed the crowd dangerously close to the racing aircraft.
- Airport Authorities: If the air show is at a public use airfield, airport authorities have a duty to ensure that people using the facility will be safe.
- Mechanics: If an aircraft causes injury to others and it was found to be the result of improper maintenance, the mechanic that did the work may be held responsible. In the 2011 Reno crash, the NTSB found that single-use locknuts were reused in the trim tab that eventually loosed and fell off, causing an irrecoverable loss of control.
- Pilots: If a pilot was found to be operating in a reckless manner, injured parties may be able to seek damages from the pilot or the pilot’s estate. Jimmy Leeward’s estate is facing several lawsuits following the crash, as it was found that he had pushed the P-51’s speed about 35 knots above structural limits.
If You Have Been Injured at an Air Show, Call the Attorneys Who Know Aviation
At Curry, Pearson & Wooten, our Phoenix aviation accident attorneys do not just know the law, they are also seasoned aviation professionals. If you or a loved one has suffered injury as a result of negligence at an air show, do not trust your case with just any lawyer. Call us today at 602-258-1000 to discuss your case, and let us get you the compensation that you deserve.
Aircraft Insurance and Arizona Aviation Accidents
Perhaps it is part of our evolution into the modern human, but people love to be insured. Whether it is homeowner’s insurance, auto insurance, or health insurance, we strive to protect ourselves from the unthinkable. While we know we can only do so much to prevent accidents, having insurance helps us feel as though we have everything “under control.”
Aircraft insurance is a fact of life for most aircraft owners, and is a relatively inexpensive way to cover the aircraft, occupants, and potential property damage in the event of an accident or incident. Many Arizona pilots, however, have found that when they have called upon their insurance to cover damage costs after an incident, their insurance company has denied their claim.
Policy Provisions: Are You and Your Aircraft Compliant?
Your aircraft insurance policy likely has several rules and conditions—otherwise known as provisions—that you must follow in order to be covered in the event of an accident. Should you be involved in an accident or incident, your insurance company will do their own sleuthing to determine whether you were abiding by the rules set forth in your policy. Depending on what they find, you may be denied coverage.
One of the most common breaches of policy insurance companies find is that the pilot operating the aircraft during the accident was not covered by the policy. Just like your auto insurance only covers specific drivers, your aircraft policy will also have certain restrictions. Many policies will not force you to name specific pilots, but will require that any pilot operating the plane be current in the conditions that they are flying in and have valid medical and airman certificates. If the pilot was operating your aircraft and did not conform to the above provisions, you may be denied coverage.
Another reason that coverage is often denied is a breach of the airworthiness provision. If an aircraft is involved in a crash and is “out of annual” or has not had the required VFR inspections (or IFR if the plane was operating in IMC), your policy will likely deny your coverage, even if the crash was not caused by something that was missed by a lapse in inspection.
Play by the Policy Rules and Reap the Policy Rewards
In Arizona, it is especially important for aircraft owners to follow their aircraft insurance policy to the letter, as coverage can be denied without a direct relationship between the breach in policy and the accident. If you were in compliance and are still being denied coverage, our Phoenix aviation accident attorneys can help. Call Curry, Pearson & Wooten today at 602-258-1000 to find out how our experience team of aviation lawyers can help you fight for the coverage you deserve.
Phoenix Aviation Law: Emergency Declarations
Following the recent tragic crash of a Socata TBM 900 that killed prominent Rochester, NY couple Larry and Jane Glazer, our Arizona avian accident attorneys at Curry, Pearson & Wooten want to take the time to reach out to Arizona pilots regarding the declaration of emergencies.
Larry Glazer, a seasoned pilot with over 5000 hours of flight time in the TBM, was the chairman of the TBM Owners and Pilot Association (TBMOPA), and the owner of the first newly updated TBM 900. This man was no stranger to the flight deck of this aircraft or flying in general, which is why many are surprised to learn that Mr. Glazer never declared an emergency or deviated from ATC instructions in order to address the pressurization issues he was facing.
Unfortunately, this is a common problem that plagues many pilots. Whether it is the fear of administrative or enforcement action, an investigation, or simply overconfidence in the aircraft or pilot’s ability to “pull it together,” most pilots would rather give their left arm before declaring an emergency and deviating from control. This has unfortunately led to many pilots, like Glazer, facing a potentially dangerous situation without the many resources that could be made available to them.
Setting the Record Straight: What Will Happen After You Declare an Emergency in Flight
While it is true that the FAA will likely investigate your declared emergency, the likelihood of it going beyond a quick chat with an investigator is extremely low.
There is one very important FAR for you to keep in mind when it comes to declaring an emergency: FAR 91.3. It states in no uncertain terms that in “…an in-flight emergency requiring immediate action, the pilot in command may deviate from any rule…to the extent required to meet that emergency.” At worst, you may be asked to submit a report to the FAA following such a deviation, but even “the Feds” make it clear: do what you need to do in an emergency.
On the other side of the mic, controllers are trained to give pilots in distress priority, and any situations deemed uncertain—where the pilot has not declared an emergency but the controller feels the situation may warrant it—the controllers are trained to handle you as such.
Whether you as the pilot or your controller declared the emergency, the FSDO is going to hear about it, and shortly after, you will hear from an inspector to follow up on the incident. A brief report will be written and sent to your file, but generally speaking, that will be the last you will hear of it.
Flying Safely Without Fear of Retribution
The FAA encourages the declaration of emergencies where the situation warrants, and will typically applaud a sound decision to do so. If you were forced to deviate from ATC clearance in order to handle an emergency and are facing more than a simple meeting with investigators, Curry, Pearson & Wooten’s experienced aviation attorneys can help you ensure that your certificate and record are safe from enforcement—call us at 602-258-1000 to discuss your case today.
Phoenix Aviation Accidents: Declaring an Emergency
At our Arizona aviation accident law firm, we most commonly deal with two kinds of cases—injuries and death from aircraft crashes, and enforcement action cases. Today, we would like to take a moment to share some thoughts with our Arizona pilots in light of a recent accident.
On Friday, September 5, a Socata TBM 900 crashed into the ocean off the coast of Jamaica around 2:15 in the afternoon. The plane, a small turbo-prop owned by Buckingham Properties in Rochester, NY, was piloted by Larry Glazer. Glazer was a licensed and experienced pilot and aviation enthusiast, and was known throughout the Rochester community as a brilliant and optimistic real estate developer, whose latest goals included a vision for the city’s deserted midtown area.
Early reports on the crash show a scene eerily similar to the 1999 crash of a Learjet that killed golfer Payne Stewart. Nearly every new pilot in the skies today was introduced to hypoxia by learning about the Stewart incident, in which the jet departed from Orlando, suffered a rapid decompression, and flew until fuel was depleted near Aberdeen, SD.
Larry and his wife, Jane, departed from Rochester Friday morning and were expected to land in Naples, FL just before noon. Instead, when the aircraft was over North Carolina, Mr. Glazer informed air traffic control that he would like to descend to FL180 because he had an incorrect indication. Controllers told him to stand by and proceed to FL250; Mr. Glazer remained unclear in his transmissions, and after approximately four minutes, controllers cleared him to FL200. Shortly after, communication with the plane was lost and the plane flew on for four hours. Larry Glazer never declared an emergency.
While every pilot wants to keep their aircraft, their occupants, and themselves safe, many pilots—especially less experienced pilots—hesitate to declare an emergency. Many airmen worry that unless it turns out to be a very serious emergency, they will face some kind of enforcement action from the FAA.
If you suspect that there is something wrong with your aircraft or your safety and time is of the essence, declare an emergency. If you need to deviate from control instructions to keep you and your aircraft safe, do what you need to do and keep ATC advised as your workload allows. The FAA will investigate the incident, but the most you are likely to hear from them is a phone call with a few questions.
Do not let the fear of a possible deviation prohibit you from doing what is necessary to stay safe—as pilot-in-command, you have ultimate emergency authority, and FAR 91.3 serves solely to support your authority. If you have any questions about an air crash investigation into a recent emergency deviation, feel free to call us today at 602-258-1000.
A New Approach to TFR Violations for Phoenix Airmen
Many pilots here in Arizona have a tenuous relationship with the Federal Aviation Administration. While everyone knows that the FAA is here to keep our airports and skies safe, sometimes it can seem as though they cause more grief than good. From ramp checks to administrative actions, most pilots will spend their career trying to figuratively “fly under the radar” of the Administration, following rules and minding their business until they chock in for the last time.
It is because of this all-too-common tension that a recent policy change by the FAA caused shock among the flying community. The change, which dealt with how the Administration handled temporary flight restriction (TFR) violations, took a pleasantly constructive approach to dealing with first-time violators, and the FAA hopes that the new enforcement guidelines will reduce the amount of violations through remedial training instead of certificate action.
Previously, the FAA took swift action on those who violated TFRs, immediately sending a Notice of Proposed Certificate Action and almost always following up with a 30 day certificate suspension. This method presented a few problems, but the most worrisome was that most infractions in TFR airspace were inadvertent, first-time violators that only stood to suffer more from a certificate suspension that—in the end—taught the pilot nothing about the mistake that occurred.
The new proposal is a promising start for the FAA, looking to educate and inform rather than punish. In the amended version, the FAA will still suspend the certificate of an airman who inadvertently violates a TFR for the first time for 30 days, unless the violation was the result of either:
- Intruding one mile or less into the security airspace and exiting as soon as able, without causing problems for other air traffic or ATC
- Squawking a 1200 or incorrect discrete assigned code for a brief time (under two minutes) in a security airspace without causing complications for other traffic or ATC
In either of these situations the airman would receive a warning letter and remedial training, with no violations in his or her record. If the airman has previous TFR violations, however, certificate suspensions or even revocations will occur.
Hopefully, this policy change marks the start of a new FAA that aims to create safety through education rather than punishment. As always, it pays to get a detailed briefing from flight service and check TFR NOTAMs before you embark on a flight. If you feel as though you have been wrongly accused of violating a TFR and are facing certificate suspension or revocation, call Curry, Pearson & Wooten’s Phoenix aviation lawyers at 602-258-1000 today to see what you can do to protect your flying privileges.
Phoenix Aviation Law: Who Can Determine Airworthiness?
Unlike cars in parking lots, aircraft here in Arizona do not typically get many dents or dings while out taxiing around the airfield thanks to skilled pilots, careful air traffic controllers, and specific taxiway demarcations that prevent incursions. Aircraft are far more likely to encounter problems during ground handling or in the hangar, where dings and dents are common enough to have earned the nickname “hangar rash.”
While most pilots cringe at the thought of any damage to their aircraft, many would not think to have a plane inspected after a minor dent or scratch. If there was not significant structural damage, and the flaw appears to only be cosmetic, what would the point of an inspection be, and who is capable of deciding what is acceptable?
Here is where the matter goes from simple to slightly more complex. In the cases of Administrator v. Smith and Administrator v. Scuderi, two airmen were operating their own aircraft too closely to parked aircraft, each striking a wingtip against a portion of the parked plane and causing damage to both.
In the case of James W. Smith, following the collision he noticed a paint scratch on his wingtip tank but, claiming that he believed it to still be airworthy, took off for his next destination anyway. The investigation found that Mr. Smith later took his Cessna 210 to an A&P mechanic to ensure that it was, in fact, airworthy, and to repair the scratches.
The Federal Aviation Administration learned of the incident and suspended Mr. Smith’s pilot certificate for 60 days, finding him in violation of 14 C.F.R. Part 91.7(a). After an appeal from Mr. Smith, the National Transportation Safety Board’s administrative law judge (ALJ) determined that the FAA’s actions were appropriate, and that Mr. Smith should have known that the aircraft would need an inspection prior to further operation.
Even a fairly simple case like Administrator v. Smith has an abundance of grey area, but one thing is very clear—no one disputed the fact that Mr. Smith should have known that a collision resulting in visible damage to his aircraft would require an inspection of airworthiness prior to flying it again.
While it may seem like overkill, hangar rash and other dents and dings may very well mean the difference between an airworthy aircraft and a non-airworthy aircraft. After an incident that leaves your aircraft with visible damage, play it safe and have an A&P inspect the damage and give you a proper sign-off. While it may seem like a hassle, if you knowingly operate the aircraft with damage, you may face serious enforcement and/or administrative actions on your certificate.
If you have been involved in a ground handling incident where another pilot or individual caused damage to your aircraft, or if you played by all of the rules and the FAA is still taking action on your certificate, you have the right to stand up for yourself. The Arizona aviation attorneys at Curry, Pearson & Wooten are available to discuss your case with you today, and can help you defend your certificate or collect damages—call us now at 602-258-1000 to speak with an experienced aviation lawyer.
Operator’s Liability in Phoenix Aviation Accidents
We talk a lot about pilot error when it comes to Arizona aviation accidents, and truthfully speaking, that is because a majority of accidents are caused by pilot error. Whether it was a performance miscalculation, getting into weather that he or she is ill-equipped to fly into, or controlled flight into terrain, the odds are that when a plane crashes, investigators will find that the pilot is to blame for at least a portion of the accident.
What does not get discussed as frequently is a different kind of pilot error that occurs before the plane even takes off. As the pilot in command of an aircraft, it is that individual’s responsibility to ensure that the plane is in airworthy condition, and that all logbook entries pertaining to maintenance have been properly documented. Even if nothing bad were to happen during the flight, if a Federal Aviation Administration inspector were to ramp check that pilot after a flight and discovered that something was amiss, that pilot may face serious enforcement actions against his or her certificate.
Pilot in Command: The Burden of Responsibility
Most pilots—in fact, most people—have enough self-preservation tendencies that they would not knowingly fly an aircraft that was not airworthy. Even if something unexpected happens during a flight or away from the aircraft’s “base,” special ferry permits are fairly simple to obtain, and allow the plane to be flown back to a maintenance facility. Typically, keeping a plane “in annual” and having it serviced regularly and responsibly will prevent any AD- or condition-related mishaps, so there is usually little excuse when a pilot is found to be in violation.
Logbook entries, on the other hand, tend to be a very grey area. While it is true that the A&P responsible for the work is just as responsible to provide quality logbook entries, it is ultimately the pilot’s responsibility to ensure that such entries exist before operating the aircraft. If, following maintenance actions, the logbook entry does not clearly state that the plane is returned to service, the pilot should follow up with the A&P to determine whether or not the plane is indeed airworthy.
When Honest Mistakes or Negligence Affect You
Whether you were a passenger in a plane that was not airworthy, or your plane was damaged because of a pilot’s misjudgment, you should not have to pay the price for someone else’s mistake. If you have suffered damages because of a pilot’s negligence, call the Phoenix aviation accident lawyers at Curry, Pearson & Wooten today to discuss your case with an experienced professional.
DUIs and Arizona Pilots
As this summer draws to a close, we say goodbye to days at the lake, camping trips, and weekend parties. No matter how old we get, the fun of having a few beers with our buddies will never get old. Hopefully, we have learned enough to line up a designated driver before the fun even begins, but occasionally, we slip up and misjudge our ability to get behind the wheel. When you have made a huge mistake and gotten arrested for a DUI, do you know how to proceed with the Federal Aviation Administration?
I’ve been arrested for my first DUI…do I need to tell the Federal Aviation Administration?
For this mishap, the answers can be found inside your FAR/AIM in FAR 61.15. The new FAA requirements state that any pilot involved in any motor vehicle action involving the use of drugs or alcohol must submit a detailed report.
You will have to send a written report within 60 days of the motor vehicle action to the FAA’s Civil Aviation Security Division in Oklahoma City. Your report will need to include all of the following information:
- Your name, date of birth, telephone number, address, and airman certificate number;
- The type and nature of violation that resulted in your conviction;
- The date of your motor vehicle action;
- The State holding the record of your conviction, and
- Whether this motor vehicle action resulted from this particular incident or a previously reported one (this is important because civil and criminal actions are often separated by a significant portion of time, and both must be reported to the FAA).
While it can seem daunting to explain every detail of this to the FAA, it is incredibly important that you do so—failure to submit this report can automatically result in the suspension or revocation of your certificate, or denial of an application for new ratings or certificates.
Will the report to satisfy FAR 61.15 be enough?
In addition to the FAR 61.15 report, you will also need to provide your aviation medical examiner (AME) with court documents related to your offense at your next medical. The AME will likely review the documents and interview you to determine if you have a substance abuse problem. If you refused to give a blood sample or you were convicted of an extreme DUI, your information will be passed on to the Aeromedical Certification Division for further review.
Generally speaking, if this was your first offense and you have reported everything on-time and correctly, you will likely see no further action from the FAA. If you have more questions about the process, or feel as though you need further advice before disclosing the details of the event to the FAA, call the Phoenix aviation attorneys of Curry, Pearson & Wooten today at 602-258-1000 or toll free at 888-929-5292.
Arizona Aircraft Purchases: Getting it Right the First Time
Congratulations, you have decided to purchase your very first plane right here in Arizona! Now comes the tricky part—the buying process. Unlike buying a car, which has become so commonplace that it is no longer considered a “big deal” by purchasers, lenders, and sellers alike, purchasing an aircraft comes with a lot of hidden pitfalls that even the most seasoned pilot can fall victim to, putting their finances and even safety at risk.
One of the primary differences between buying a car and buying a plane in Arizona is that while a majority of cars are sold at dealerships, most planes are bought and sold privately. While some people may be looking to buy a new aircraft from a dealer, an overwhelming percentage of general aviation planes will be several years old. Because of this—and the paramount role that safety plays in aviation—it is absolutely critical that you know the plane that you are buying inside and out.
The Golden Rule: Find an Impartial and Thorough A&P
While many may argue that the golden rule in aircraft purchasing is not to get emotionally attached to a plane, even if you do slip up and fall for a particular bird, having an impartial and honest A&P for your pre-buy inspection can save you—literally. Many aircraft with seemingly clean and up-to-date logbooks are out of compliance with critical ADs or have other hidden mechanical problems that could cost you money or your safety further down the road.
Many first-time buyers balk at the cost of a truly thorough pre-buy inspection, but finding out about any “gremlins” the aircraft may be hiding before you commit can help give you all of the information you need to make an informed purchase that you will not regret later. And while it may be tempting to use an A&P that the seller recommends—especially if you are unfamiliar with mechanics or inspectors in the area—be aware that he or she could be biased, and trying to help the seller move an aircraft.
Fly Before You Buy
Just like you would never buy a car you did not test drive, be sure that you have an opportunity to take the plane up for a quick turn in the pattern to see how it behaves. The owner may request to be the pilot in command and have you simply observe, since they do not know your flying ability and their insurance may not cover damage for pilots other than themselves, but even being in the plane for a test flight can reveal a lot about a plane’s characteristics and performance. Just make sure before you buckle in that a mechanic has given the plane the “OK.”
Why We Care
Just like you, we want your first aircraft buying experience to go as smoothly as possible, but we also want to help you ensure that you are purchasing a plane that is airworthy and safe. Most general aviation planes that are bought and sold around the Phoenix valley are between 30 and 60 years old; even with careful care and maintenance over the years, planes can deteriorate and weaken in critical areas.
If you have been injured in an aircraft that you have recently purchased and feel as though the previous owner may have kept crucial information from you that may have prevented your accident, give the Arizona aviation attorneys at Curry, Pearson & Wooten a call today at 602-258-1000 to discuss your case.
GARA’s Effect on Arizona General Aviation A&P Mechanics
The Phoenix area is a hotbed of flight training activity, so it also plays host to a large number of training aircraft. If you take a walk down the tie-down line at any of our area airports you will see dozens of training aircraft, many of which were built in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Because of low operating costs, reliable and patient performance, and overall simplicity, these aircraft are both flight school and first-time owner favorites, and they remain popular with aviation fanatics throughout the world.
In 1994, an amendment to the Federal Aviation Act of 1958 called the General Aviation Revitalization Act (GARA) was drafted to help protect the manufacturers of these aircraft (along with the parts and components manufacturers) from civil action following an accident involving a plane or parts made over 18 years ago.
Are You an Arizona A&P Mechanic That Works on GA Aircraft? Keep Reading!
Aircraft mechanics are always under a microscope, whether from the Federal Aviation Administration or aircraft owners themselves. As a general aviation mechanic, you are probably all too familiar with the visits you get from the local FSDO’s maintenance inspectors. Since you do your work “by the books,” however, you usually do not worry much.
With GARA’s presence, however, the pressure on mechanics in the wake of an aircraft accident is even greater. Litigation against mechanics that have worked on GA aircraft involved in crashes is increasing in frequency, despite a majority of these crashes being caused by pilot error. Suddenly, legal things like putting off a service bulletin or letting an owner continue flying an engine in good condition beyond its TBO becomes a very risky undertaking, even if the owner insists.
Even when you have crossed and dotted every proverbial T and I, if you are ever accused of negligence in an accident or incident your liability does not need to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, only on the "preponderance of the evidence." This is an incredibly uncomfortable position to be placed in as a business owner and A&P/IA, and to combat the risks, many mechanics have erred on the side of caution and been very conservative when deciding how to proceed with repairs and inspections.
Have You Been Wrongly Accused of Negligence?
At the center of many cases against A&P GA mechanics, there are maintenance decisions made at the request of the owner that are completely safe and legal, but could leave the mechanic in a tight spot if something goes wrong. Despite the owner having the ultimate authority to run an engine over time or ignore a service bulletin, if the aircraft in question is in an accident (even a pilot error-caused accident) maintenance records could point back to you.
If you are being wrongly accused of negligence connected to an accident, you need an experienced and aggressive aviation attorney to defend you. At Curry, Pearson & Wooten, you will find Phoenix aviation attorneys that will work hard to keep your certificate and business safe. Speak with a lawyer about your case today—call us at 602-258-1000 for a free consultation.
Phoenix Flight Training Accidents: Finding Fault
Each year, thousands of people from around the world flock to the Phoenix metro area to learn how to fly. Because of the Valley’s excellent weather and wide availability of airports, flight training is a big business, from large flight schools and universities to small private operations. Unfortunately, because of the high density of flight training occurring from Tucson to Prescott, this also means that aircraft incidents and accidents are a fairly common occurrence.
Flight Training: Who is in Control?
Much like when you learned to drive a car, a beginning is given a learner’s permit of sorts known as a student pilot certificate. While this certificate does entitle the holder to be at the controls of an aircraft, just like a learner’s permit, it also requires that a certified pilot be present.
During flight training, it is not enough simply to have any licensed pilot accompany a student. The instructor pilot must be a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI), a rating that requires many flight hours and highly refined piloting skills. Like driving, the licensed operator is responsible for any incidents that occur during the student’s operation; if an accident occurs, it would be on the CFI’s record.
It Takes a Village: Jake’s Mesa Plane Crash
There are many stakeholders that may play a part in a Phoenix aircraft incident. Let’s take a hypothetical flight student, Jake. Jake is pursuing his private pilot’s license at a small flight school in Mesa. Jake and his instructor Scott have spent about 15 hours flying together, and Jake is preparing for his first solo flight next week.
Prior to their flight, Jake and Scott do a preflight check on the aircraft that they will be flying. At this point, Jake has progressed to doing the check without Scott’s help, but Scott must supervise the process. The plane seems fine, and they taxi out to the runway and prepare to take off.
As the plane ascends, though, the engine begins to sputter and quits. Scott takes control of the plane, but cannot restart the engine in time. He is able to land it in a field relatively gently, but both he and Jake suffer a few minor bone breaks, and the plane is significantly damaged.
Jake’s family would like to receive compensation for his injuries, but first, the cause of the crash must be determined, which requires a lot of investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board. Was Jake’s input on the flight controls incorrect? Did he forget to check the plane’s fuel or oil for contamination during the preflight check? If so, Scott may held accountable. If the problem was purely mechanical, the aircraft’s maintenance technicians could be at fault. If the plane was not insured and kept in good operating condition, the owner could be found liable.
Hire an Experienced Phoenix Aviation Accident Attorney to Protect Your Rights
Even in a simple case like Jake’s hypothetical accident, there are several stakeholders involved when it comes to flight training accidents in Phoenix. Choosing an attorney with a solid background in aviation will help you ensure that you will receive the best representation for you and your loved ones. Phoenix aviation attorney Michael Pearson of Curry, Pearson & Wooten has successfully represented aviation accident victims for decades, as well as worked with the Federal Aviation Administration for over 26 years. If you are seeking justice for damages sustained in an Arizona flight training accident, contact him today at 602-258-1000 for a free consultation.