News

New Enforcement Panel Emphasizes Importance of Seeking Counsel When in Doubt
Announces Changes in Medical Certification Procedures

ORLANDO, FL, October 8, 2008 – Formed in light of multiple high-visibility enforcement actions by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the past two years, NBAA’s “Aviation Enforcement Actions Panel: What to Expect, How to Prepare,” was held yesterday for the first time, with experienced aviation lawyers providing NBAA2008 Attendees with critical advice and information.

Any certificated person or entity can be impacted by recent intensification of investigations, including pilots, mechanics, air carriers and Part 145 repair stations. Both airmen’s certificates and medical certificates are at stake under the FAA’s heightened scrutiny.

Presented by NBAA’s Mike Nichols, vice president, operations, education & economics, the panel consisted of aviation lawyers Mike Dworkin of Michael L. Dworkin & Associates and Lori Edwards and Kent Jackson of Jackson, Wade & Blanck LLC.

The panel advised that anyone subject to FAA regulations be extremely vigilant about internal oversight, because in recent years, the FAA has become less flexible, citing a high number of emergency license and certificate revocation cases. Contemporaneous note-taking of any and all interactions with FAA inspectors or investigators was cited as one of the single most important things that people can do to provide defence against FAA allegations. In any case of actual or potential FAA investigation, or self-identified regulatory oversight, the panel strongly advised that the concerned party seek legal counsel as soon as possible to best protect themselves. Because of the highly subjective semantics of grounds for certificate revocation being a “lack of qualifications,” a lawyer’s advice can be indispensable.

Employees Encouraged to Report Safety Concerns

The panel also discussed the FAA’s Self-Disclosure Program, which, if observed, may preclude FAA regulatory action as long as the oversight is not intentional and is immediately addressed. In order to have timely self-disclosure of oversights to the FAA, departments and companies need to have a working internal system for self-disclosure as well. Dworkin set forth “When to begin self-investigation?” procedures, emphasizing that employers foster an environment that encourages employees to report any safety concerns as soon as they are suspected, even if the employee has committed the oversight. It is important that employers ensure that there is no fear of retaliation or arbitrary reprisals for this policy to be effective. On the subject of ramp inspections, the panel advised Attendees on what they are required to disclose, and recommended courteous but taciturn conversation with inspectors.

Medical certificate fraud was another key topic of discussion during the session, as in the coming month the FAA is explicitly changing the form for medical certificate applications so that pilots will now be giving the FAA permission to crosscheck other government databases. If a pilot has not been completely forthcoming, he or she is encouraged to seek legal counsel.

This session, and several others from NBAA2008, will be offered via NBAA’s On-Demand Education Program. For more information and to place an order, visit http://nbaa.impactlearning.org.

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