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FAA to Update Application for Medical Certificate

by Greg Reigel 1. June 2008 00:00
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According to a recent article by Dr. Fred Tilton, Federal Air Surgeon, in the Federal Air Surgeon's Medical Bulletin, the FAA is updating FAA Form 8500-8 , Application for Medical Certificate, to include potentially significant changes. Several changes occur in the aftermath of Operation Safe Pilot. The other change, and one which, in my opinion, is more significant and may be more problematic for certain airmen, relates to an airman's disclosure of his or her arrest and criminal conviction history (e.g. license suspension/revocations, driving while intoxicated/under the influence, non-driving, drug-related crimes etc.).

Changes Resulting From Operation Safe Pilot

Form 8500-8 will receive two additions as a direct result of Operation Safe Pilot:

Question 18(y). This new question will ask the airman to answer "yes" or "no" to whether he or she has ever had or has "medical disability benefits." Unfortunately, the question does not define or otherwise specify a source for the disability benefits. As a result, an airman will be required to disclose all sources of disability benefits even though the disclosure may include disability ratings or benefits that would in no way compromise aviation safety and would not disqualify the airman from receiving a medical certificate.

The airman disclosing such non-disqualifying disability benefits will need to fully explain the situation to the airman's aviation medical examiner to make sure that he or she and the FAA will understand and be able to properly issue the medical certificate where appropriate. Failure to disclose all disability benefits, even if the undisclosed benefits would not disqualify the airman from receiving a medical certificate, could expose the applicant to a charge of falsification, which would result in revocation of all airman certificates.

Paragraph (f) in the Privacy Act Statement. A new Paragraph (f) is being added to the Privacy Act Statement to state that the FAA is authorized to disclose information to other Federal agencies for verification of the accuracy or completeness of the information. This new language is intended to preclude a defense that was raised by several of the airmen in the Operation Safe Pilot prosecutions that the FAA violated the Privacy Act of 1975 5 U.S.C. 552a when it obtained the airmen's social security disability information without the airmen's consent. By signing Form 8500-8 with the new language, an airman will be agreeing to allow the FAA to contact the Social Security Administration, as it did in Operation Safe Pilot, the Veteran's Administration, or any other Federal agency. According to the FAA, the addition of Question 18(y) and Paragraph (f) should put airmen on notice that the FAA will be scrutinizing medical applications, and the disclosures airmen make in those applications, more closely.

Criminal History Disclosures

The most significant change to Form 8500-8 will be the addition of the word "arrest" in several key locations within Question 18(v). Currently, Question 18(v) asks an airman to disclose if he or she has a

"History of any conviction(s) involving driving while intoxicated by, while impaired by, or while under the influence of alcohol or a drug; or (2) any history of any conviction(s) or administrative action(s) involving an offense(s) which resulted in the denial, suspension, cancellation, or revocation of driving privileges or which resulted in attendance at an educational or rehabilitation program."

The new Form 8500-8 adds the words "arrest and/or" before each instance of the word "conviction." Although this may not appear significant at first, it is important to understand the distinction between "arrest" and "conviction." Currently, an airman is only required to disclosed a "conviction," which means the airman, presumably, has received full due process that resulted in a conviction by a jury of the airman's peers or by the airman's agreement to enter a plea of guilty. With the addition of the word "arrest" to Form 8500-8, an airman must now disclose an arrest that may or may not have been legitimate or proper and which, ultimately, may not result in either a conviction or a plea of guilty. In other words, the airman must disclose an arrest even though he or she may not have been afforded full due process and may not be guilty of the crime for which he or she was arrested.

The practical effect of the new language on an airman arrested for a "motor vehicle action" (e.g. driving while intoxicated/under the influence of alcohol or drugs) may not be much different than it is currently. As you should know, FAR 61.15 requires an airman to make a written report to the FAA Civil Aviation Security Division if his or her license is administratively suspended as a result of an arrest for a motor vehicle action, and again if the airman is then convicted of driving while intoxicated/under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

In the majority of states, a driver's license is administratively suspended automatically under the applicable implied consent statute when the driver is arrested for driving while intoxicated/under the influence. Thus, when an airman is arrested for driving while intoxicated/under the influence in most states, the resulting administrative implied consent suspension will be a motor vehicle action that must be reported to the FAA even though the arrest has not resulted in a conviction (which is another reportable motor vehicle action). Thus, the FAA will receive information of the "arrest" regardless of whether an airman also disclosed it on a medical application prior to resolution of the driving while intoxicated/under the influence charge.

However, the practical effect of the addition of "arrest" to Form 8500-8 is far more significant when an arrest for a non-driving, drug-related crime (e.g. growing, processing, manufacture, sale, disposition, possession, transportation, or importation of drugs) is involved. Since FAR 61.15 does not require any written report to the FAA Civil Aviation Security Division for a non-driving, drug-related conviction, currently an airman has to disclose his or her arrest for a non-driving, drug-related crime to the FAA only if the airman ultimately ends up with a conviction for that crime. This is accomplished on the existing Form 8500-8 and makes sense from an aviation safety perspective.

However, with the inclusion of "arrest" in new Form 8500-8, an airman will have to disclose an arrest for a non-driving, drug-related crime even though he or she may never be convicted of the crime for which he or she was arrested or, in fact, convicted of any non-driving, drug-related crime. This isn't necessarily a bad thing when the arrest actually discloses possible chemical dependency or substance abuse issues that potentially impact aviation safety. However this has the potential to result in unfortunate consequences for an airman who "was in the wrong place at the wrong time" or who made a mistake that does not present a risk for aviation safety.

Why is this a problem, especially in light of the fact that FAR 61.15 does not impose any sanctions against an airman's certificate when he or she is simply "arrested" for a drug-related crime but is not convicted? Well, I would expect that the dislosure of such an arrest on new Form 8500-8 will result in a letter to the airman from the FAA in which the FAA questions the airman's qualification/eligibility for a medical certificate, and possibly other airman certificates, and demands copies of police reports and court records related to the arrest, as well as a narrative explanation of the situation from the airman and, possibly, a chemical dependency assessment indicating that the airman does not have a chemical dependency/substance abuse problem.

Again, these requests may be justified in some circumstances. However, my concern is that the FAA, who is not particularly famous for evaluating cases on an individual basis, will simply invoke this procedure in all cases regardless of the factual explanation provided by the airman to his or her aviation medical examiner. I believe this "cookie-cutter" approach has the potential to adversely and unfairly impact airmen who are otherwise qualified to hold medical certificates, but that, for one reason or another, found themselves in a bad situation that resulted in an arrest, but not a conviction.


The Federal Air Surgeon's article does not provide a date for when the new Form 8500-8 will be available or required. However, the article notes that aviation medical examiners will receive several more notices from the Federal Air Surgeon before this happens. So, your guess about when revised Form 8500-8 will be implemented is as good as mine. However, in the meantime airmen should make sure they understand and are prepared for the new information and questions in revised Form 8500-8. Also, although it should go without saying, airmen are well advised to take the necessary measures to avoid finding themselves in situations that could result in serious consequences for their ability to obtain or maintain their airmen and medical certificates.

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Greg Reigel

Airman Receives 30-Day Suspension for ADIZ Incursion

by Greg Reigel 1. June 2008 00:00
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An airman recently received a 30-day suspension of his private pilot certificate in the aftermath of yet another unauthorized incursion into the Washington D.C. Air Defense Identification Zone ("ADIZ"). Although factual circumstances are not new or unusual (after all, ADIZ incursions occur more frequently than we would like), the fact that the suspended airman was not the pilot-in-command ("PIC") on the flight merits the attention of all certificated airman.

In Administrator v. Blum, the FAA alleged that the airman violated FARs 91.139(c) (compliance with NOTAM), 99.7 (pilots must comply with security instruction issued for ADIZ), 91.131(a)(1) (ATC clearance required prior to entry into Class B airspace), and 91.13(a) (careless and reckless) during a flight in which he was receiving dual instruction from a certified flight instructor.

After a hearing, the administrative law judge ("ALJ") affirmed the FAA's order imposing a 30-day suspension of the airman's private pilot certificate. The ALJ also rejected the airman's defense that he was eligible for a waiver of sanction based on his filing of an Aviation Safety Reporting Program ("ASRP") report, since the ALJ determined that the violations were not inadvertent. On appeal, the airman argued that the FAA did not meet its burden of proving that he was the PIC on the flight and that the ALJ erred when he refused to accept the ASRP report. However, the Board rejected both arguments.

The Board observed that the FAA only needed to show that the airman operated or flew the aircraft in the Washington D.C. Class B and ADIZ airspace. Since the airman admitted that he did, in fact, operate and fly the aircraft, the Board held that the FAA had proven the violation. (Although the FAA also tried to prove that the airman was the PIC, the Board's precedent that an instructor is the PIC on an instructional flight, even though the instructor is not necessarily the pilot who operates the controls or directs the course of a flight, precluded a finding that the airman was the PIC).

With respect to the airman's ASRP affirmative defense, the Board concluded that the airman had not met his burden of proving both the factual basis for the defense and the legal justification. In order to qualify for the ASRP waiver of sanction, a violation must be both "not deliberate" and "inadvertent." The Board observed that "whether he intended to violate the FAR, respondent was not unaware that he was flying into restricted airspace. That he chose not to ensure that he was complying with the restrictions and limitations of that airspace does not transform his actions from deliberate or advertent to not deliberate or inadvertent."

Finally, even though the airman did not raise an affirmative defense of reasonable reliance, and the Board does not ordinarily entertain arguments not presented to it, the Board determined that the airman did not meet the conditions of the reasonable reliance defense. (The airman's violation may be excused if the airman proves that he or she had no independent obligation or ability to ascertain whether the flight was cleared to enter the ADIZ, and no reason to question the performance of the CFI). It concluded that "as a qualified certificated pilot and, here, the flying pilot, respondent had an independent duty to comply with the requirements of the airspace in which he operated."

This case should be a reminder to certificated airmen that they must be vigilant at all times. If you are manipulating the controls of an aircraft or operating the aircraft, you can be held responsible for the conduct of the flight even if you are not technically the PIC. That is, unless you can present a stronger reasonable reliance defense than was discussed here.

If you are strictly a passenger on a flight with another airman (e.g. not manipulating the controls or operating the aircraft), then you should not be at risk if an FAR violation occurs during that flight. However, to the extent that you may be participating in the flight (e.g. handling the radio, manipulating the controls or operating the aircraft) you would be wise to maintain the situational awareness you otherwise would if you were the sole pilot on board and to act accordingly.

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Greg Reigel

Measuring the Cost of Operating an Aircraft

by David Wyndham 1. June 2008 00:00
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Fuel accounts for about 70% of the hourly operating costs of a turbine aircraft. Sounds plausible, but what are the hourly operating costs? Maintenance? Hangar? Insurance? It depends on how you measure the costs. What you need for your own operation is different from others' needs, but I hope the below gives you some "fuel" for thought.

Measuring costs involves knowing how they behave. Then you can allocate costs to appropriate categories. This will help in understanding and thus, controlling costs. Cost behavior is typically referred to as either "variable" or "fixed."

Variable Costs

A variable cost will vary in proportion to the level of activity. As activity increases, the total cost will increase but the cost per unit will remain constant. An example of this can be fuel. An increase in utilization will have a corresponding increase in fuel consumed. However, the cost per unit (gallon of fuel) will not be affected by a change in utilization. Here is a list of some variable costs:

  • Engine - Overhaul
  • Fuel
  • Landing & Parking Fees
  • Maintenance - Component Overhauls
  • Maintenance - Labor
  • Maintenance - Parts
  • Propellers - Overhaul

Fixed Costs

A fixed cost as the name implies, remains essentially constant for a given period or level of activity. Hangar and insurance are fixed costs. Whether I fly today or not, I need to pay my hangar and insurance costs. Here is a list of some fixed costs:

  • Aircraft Lease or Loan Payments (or Interest)
  • Aircraft Modernization/Upgrades
  • Aircraft Property Tax, Registration or User Fees
  • Computerized Maintenance Tracking
  • Hangar Rent/Lease
  • Insurance
  • Navigation Chart Service
  • Recurrent Training

Your situation will dictate what cost categories you need. If you are interested in seeing a general set up of aviation cost accounts, e-mail me and I'll forward one example to you. Once you collect and understand these costs, then maybe my statement above makes more sense.

Comparing Costs

When comparing costs between different aircraft, there's even more work to do. Let's compare a twin turboprop and a light jet. Keeping life easy, assume both operators collected and allocated their costs in the same way. The turboprop has a total cost (variable and fixed) of $1,350 per hour and the light jet operator reports $1,950 per hour. There you have it; the jet costs $600 per hour more! What's missing?

Cost per Nautical Mile. Neither operator simply files their aircraft around for an hour or two and then lands. They are used to transport persons from one location to another, and back again. The aircraft's job isn't to fly hours, it's to fly miles. When you compare costs, you need to look at what the job is. Aircraft costs should be compared using at least a cost per mile basis.

If the above turboprop averages 250 nautical miles each hour, its total cost per mile is $5.40. If the light jet averages 370 nautical miles each hour, its total cost per mile is $5.27 per mile. A 475 NM trip in the turboprop will cost $2,565. The same trip in the light jet is $2,503, $62 less. So while the light jet has a higher cost per hour, it is really 2.4% less costly per mile, or per trip compared to the turboprop. Some aircraft take longer than others to do the job, so even if they are less costly per hour; the cost to do the job may be wind up being more. If you were hauling passengers, you might even look at cost per passenger-mile. Cargo haulers use cost per ton-mile. Helicopters may use cost per trip on short trips, or cost per "lift" on heli-lift operations.

So when comparing aircraft costs, remember, not only do you need to know what the costs include and exclude, and when those costs occurred, don't forget the last step is to compare cost per mile, i.e. the cost to get the job done. Otherwise, you end up with incomplete or inaccurate information. If you don't understand that, you can end up making decisions based on the wrong set of information.

Document for Download:
Benchmarking Cost Categories - Corporate Aviation

Aircraft Ownership: Saving Money by Controlling Your Costs

by David Wyndham 1. June 2008 00:00
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What if your total annual budget has no room for the rapidly increasing cost of fuel? What if you needed to cut your budget 20%? Been there before or are you there now?

How do you keep flying and not spend more?

One thing is to look at your current flying schedule. Can you combine multiple trips into one? Flying a lot of deadhead? Empty trips may be a necessity, but there are alternatives.

Can the tomorrow's trip to Austin be combined with the trip to Houston? The goal is to maintain productivity while combining trips. The users, whether you or your management, need to work together to make this work.

Choose your fuel stop wisely. All operators have a choice in where they purchase fuel. While choosing an FBO based solely on fuel price (or any other single requirement) isn't necessarily the best, work with the FBO's you frequent most often to negotiate the best prices.

Use the GlobalAir.com Fuel Locator to check out prices. A stop enroute solely for fuel may pay for itself if the price is right!

Get a couple of fuel cards - there are probably a dozen or more out there. A recent survey my company did found out many operators have three or four fuel cards. Do some research and find out what ones are accepted at the destinations you frequent most. Join the Corporate Aviation Association, even if only for their fuel discount card!

Fuel saving and speed mods for your aircraft. Winglets, speeds packages, and engine retrofits can offer improved performance, and enhanced aircraft value. Some can also provide reduced fuel consumption at equivalent airspeeds. Do the research and talk to other operators about what ones work, what they cost, and what the payback is in terms of performance. A 3% fuel savings at today's cost of fuel can be significant.

Inventory management. Have some spare parts for an aircraft you no longer own? Even at twenty cents on the dollar in liquidation, that is cash readily available. As a rule, inventory will cost 15% to 25% of its value in carrying costs - storage, insurance, loss, etc. How much inventory do you really need for your current aircraft? What are your most frequently replaced parts? How good is the manufacturer's AOG dispatch? Careful management of your inventory can save thousands.

Also speaking of spare parts, what about warranty? On a new aircraft, we all keep very careful track of warranty. Aircraft at any age have many new parts installed. Those parts typically carry some sort of warranty. Track their ages/hours/cycles. Should they need replacement during the warranty, you may get a pro-rated reduction in the cost.

What are you doing to fly more on the same or smaller budget? Click reply and share it with us.

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David Wyndham


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