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Responding To An FAA Letter Of Investigation

by Greg Reigel 30. April 2012 13:24
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When the FAA receives notice and evidence to show that a certificate holder (mechanic, repair station, air carrier, pilot etc.) may have violated one or more of the Federal Aviation Regulations ("FARs"), in most cases an FAA aviation safety inspector will send the alleged violator a letter of investigation ("LOI") advising that the FAA is investigating an alleged violation of the FARs. Whether you should respond to an LOI and, if so, how you should respond are two of the most common questions raised by recipients of an LOI.

What The LOI Tells The Recipient

The LOI typically starts out by telling the recipient that the FAA is investigating "an occurrence which involved your operation" or "an incident that occurred" or "maintenance performed on N12345 on such and such a date." In drug and alcohol abatement cases, the LOI will state "we inspected [your facility's] drug and alcohol testing programs to determine compliance with 49 CFR part 40 and 14 CFR part 120. As a result of this inspection, the following apparent violations were discovered…."

After explaining the operation or conduct involved, the LOI advises that the FAA believes the operation or conduct is "contrary to Federal Aviation Regulations." However, the LOI will not tell the recipient what specific FAR(s) the FAA believes the recipient violated. FAA inspectors are specifically advised that the regulations(s) violated should not be listed in the LOI. Since the LOI is intended to advise the recipient of the subject matter of the investigation sufficiently to allow the recipient an opportunity to respond to the facts giving rise to the investigation, the FAA does not want its inspectors citing to specific regulations prematurely.

Next, the LOI specifically states that it is informing the recipient that the matter is under investigation by the FAA and it invites the recipient to discuss the matter with the inspector, submit evidence or statements, or both. For a written statement, the LOI requests that the statement includes all pertinent facts and mitigating circumstances that the recipient believes may have a bearing on the operation or conduct that is under investigation. The LOI requests that the recipient submits any response to the LOI within 10 days of receipt of the LOI. Finally, the LOI usually states that "[i]f we do not hear from you within the specified time, our report will be processed without the benefit of your statement."

The FAA sends the LOI by regular mail and either certified mail, return-receipt requested, or registered mail to the recipient's current address of record in order to establish proof that the recipient was notified of the investigation. If the LOI is returned or undeliverable (because it is addressed incorrectly or the recipient has moved and left no forwarding address), then the FAA inspector is required to correct the address or try to obtain a new address and resend the LOI. An FAA inspector may also deliver the letter in person.

Now, if you are thinking that simply dodging the mail might make the situation go away, unfortunately that isn't the case. If the intended recipient refuses or simply does not pick up the certified letter or registered letter, but the regular mail is not returned, whether the recipient opens it or not, then the FAA presumes, as will the NTSB, that the intended recipient received the LOI. (This is consistent with FARs §§ 61.60 and 65.21 that require airmen to keep the FAA informed of their permanent mailing address by providing the FAA with a new permanent mailing address within 30 days.)

Options For Responding To An LOI

If you receive an LOI, you must determine whether you are going to respond and, if you are, what you should say in your response. Frequently certificate holders believe they have to respond, especially since the LOI seems to imply that a response is required within 10 days. However, that belief isn't correct. No response is actually required. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't respond.

From a basic courtesy standpoint, it seems appropriate to respond to a letter asking for a response. After all, no one likes to have their requests ignored. However, sending a response to an LOI that tries to explain the situation or otherwise "make it go away" very rarely ends well for the certificate holder. Oftentimes the certificate holder's response includes admissions that help the FAA and can later be used against the certificate holder.

Should you send a response to the LOI? Yes, if for no other reason than to acknowledge that you received the LOI and, of course, to show a proper compliance attitude. But, do you say anything more than that in your response? The lawyerly answer to that question is: it depends.

Sometimes it makes sense to simply acknowledge receipt of the letter, advise that you don't have anything to add, and offer to respond to any specific questions or requests the inspector may have. After all, by the time the LOI is sent the inspector has usually conducted some investigation and discovered enough evidence to determine that a violation may have occurred. So why disclose anything that could add to the case?

On the other hand, in some situations it may make sense to provide a more detailed explanation in your response to the LOI. For example, if it is a case of mistaken identity or you have evidence that clearly proves the inspector is wrong, then submitting that information in response to the LOI very well may force the inspector to close the investigation.

Conclusion

Whether, and how, you respond to an LOI are strategic decisions. Since you are already in the FAA's sights, consult with an aviation attorney before sending a response that tries to explain or address the allegations in the LOI. With the assistance of an aviation attorney you can prepare a response that may mitigate damage, minimize investigation, and that will avoid providing admissions or other evidence that could later be used against you. And, at a minimum, an aviation attorney can run interference between you and the FAA.

The LOI is just the beginning of the enforcement process. And although your response to an LOI may not prevent the FAA from pursuing an enforcement action, how you respond to the LOI can potentially have a significant impact on the outcome of the case. Make sure you respond wisely.

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Greg Reigel

General Aviation Airport Coalition launches petition against $100 fee

by GlobalAir.com 27. April 2012 09:52
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By Janice Wood of General Aviation News

The General Aviation Airport Coalition has initiated a petition on the White House website that, if signed by 25,000 people or more by May 16, 2012, will elicit an official response by the administration about how they determined that the proposed $100 fee for general aviation aircraft is fair.

“Even if we don’t get the 25,000 signatures, a significant showing on this petition will help us continue to make noise on this issue that just won’t go away,” say officials with the GA organization.

The proposed fee would impose a $100 per flight fee for aircraft that use ATC services. Piston aircraft and GA recreational flights are exempt from the fee.

The new petition asks the Obama administration to explain in detail, its continued push for a $100 per segment aviation user fee.

“In the interest of transparency and in order to maintain a healthy aviation industry, we request that the White House explain how it calculated that a $100 per flight segment user fee is a fair contribution to fund FAA,” the petition states. “We further request an explanation of how the White House determined that the most effective method of collecting this user fee should be through a new, yet-to-be-developed taxing system, rather than the successful aviation fuel tax currently in place.”

You can see the petition here.

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News

Sierra Industries receives Mexican government DGAC approval for aircraft inspections, service and modifications

by GlobalAir.com 23. April 2012 09:40
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UVALDE, TX – April 20, 2012 – Joining a select group of approved aircraft service centers in the United States, Sierra Industries has been certified by the Mexican government aviation agency to service Mexican-registered aircraft. The Dirección General de Aeronáutica Civil (DGAC) presented certificate no. CO-038/12 to Sierra Industries representatives on April 4, permitting the company to inspect, repair and modify a wide variety of aircraft from piston singles to cabin-class business jets.

In May, the Mexican government is expected to issue a ruling restricting maintenance services for Mexican-registered aircraft to facilities located within Mexico, with the exception of a limited number of DGAC-certified facilities outside the country’s borders. Located some 50 miles from the Mexico-Texas border and less than 250 miles from Monterrey, Sierra’s Uvalde facility is ideally positioned to allow convenient access to Mexican-based aircraft.

Enjoying nearly 30 years of aircraft service and modification experience, Sierra Industries’ location at Uvalde’s Garner Field Airport offers true “one-stop shop” capabilities including PMA parts manufacturing. in-house avionics support and on-field paint and interior specialists. Numerous Sierra employees are bilingual in Spanish and English, helping to facilitate communications with south-of-the-border aircraft owners and operators.

A number of Mexican-registered aircraft already enjoy one or more of Sierra’s well-known Citation performance modifications, such as FJ44 re-engining and Eagle/Longwing airframe upgrades. The DGAC certification ensures that those owners can continue to utilize Sierra’s expert service for their upgraded aircraft and new modification clients can count on after-the-sale support without undue regulatory restrictions.

For more information, please contact me at your convenience.

   Jim Gerrish
   Manager of Creative Marketing
   Sierra Industries, Ltd.
   830-278-4481 ext. 226

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Maintenance | News | Press Release

Crop dusting - not for the faint of heart

by GlobalAir.com 10. April 2012 08:50
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Crop Dusting
J.D. Scarborough, a crop duster for 41 years, says that
although the profession is not as dangerous as it used to be,
he sometimes wonders why some of those he’s known have
been killed rather than him.
Story by: By Jim West
Albanyhearld.com




DAWSON -- American agriculture took a positive turn in August, 1921, when Lt. John A Macready sailed over an Ohio catalpa grove to dump a load of powdered lead arsenate on invading Catalpa Sphinx Moths.

By the end of his six-acre journey, Macready had become the world's first crop duster -- sometime know in modern times as aerial applicators. Among the early followers in this pioneer's dust trail would be a company called the Delta Dusters in Louisiana, later to become Delta Airlines.
The profession has come a long way since the early days of flight, as evidenced by larger, more powerful and efficient aircraft and computerized delivery systems. Despite the technical advancements, though, the planes continue to be flown by human pilots.

If you think you may be interested in a career as an aerial applicator look for a thrill park featuring rides imposing up to six intermittent "G's," or multiples of your own weight. There should be alternating short runs across uncertain terrain, eight to ten feet from the ground at speeds of 150 miles per hour. No tracks, no suspension cables. If you enjoy the ride, make sure your pilot's license is up to date then ask for an application.

J.D. Scarborough, 66, the sole aerial applicator for Ronnie Lee's RCL Flying Service in Dawson, has managed to survive his profession for 41 years, describing the work as "long periods of total boredom, sprinkled with periods of absolute terror." He was 25 when he started, he said, convinced by his uncle that flying was the way to go.

"I was a crane operator in Brunswick at the time," Scarborough said, "and I told (my uncle) I wasn't interested in flying. He finally got me to go out with him over the water to see some whales that were out there. I though that was just the coolest thing and it wasn't long before I was taking lessons."

It was about a year after that Scarborough's uncle was killed in a crop dusting accident," Scarborough said. There were others.

"This boy that was working with me -- I saw him when he went down," Scarborough said. "I got in the truck and ran over as quick as I could get there but he was completely burned up. It made me a lot more careful. It sure did."

Scarborough himself has crashed -- or nearly so "a few times," he said, from running out of gas (just once), engine failure or snagging power lines.

"I flipped a Cessna upside-down in a creek one time," said Scarborough, chuckling, "I couldn't get over the trees so I hit the dump lever to drop my chemicals, but I still couldn't get over. When I put myself on the ground and hit the brakes I flipped over into the water."

Scarborough was able to disengage his harness and free himself from the plane, but he had to walk back to the airport. He said that during his adventure his friend flew over the same spot several times but never noticed him. Despite a cavalier attitude, Scarborough thinks about his own death or injury.

"All that's in the back of your mind the whole time," Scarborough said. "When things have happened to other people and not to you, you have to wonder 'why them and not me."

While the loss of life is possible on any given day, Scarborough says it's not as dangerous as it used to be. He flies a near $1 million turbo-jet aircraft made in Albany by Thrush Aircraft.

According to Scarborough, the plane does a lot the work for him. An advanced GPS system, coupled with computer programing gives latitude and longitude of fields. In the interest of efficiency, the pilot is guided swath by swath which path to take over a field.

Applied chemicals are much safer now, said Scarborough, who has worked with some really toxic substances, including the infamous "agent orange," because they're designed to "do what they're going to do" in the first few hours of application, before becoming perfectly safe with exposure to sunlight.

A computer controls how many gallons of insecticide are applied to each swath or acre, even in the presence of a headwind or tailwind. At any given moment Scarborough knows heading, speed and altitude above sea level. When the application is finished he can provide the client with most of the same information, accounting for every second of the job.

"I enjoy working and I got no day set to retire," Scarborough said. "As long as I can do a good job I'll be right here."

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GlobalAir.com | News

Sensenich Celebrates 80 years - with 80% off

by GlobalAir.com 5. April 2012 14:45
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Sensenich Celebrates 80 years – with 80% off

Sensenich Celebrates 80 Years in business with 80% off

Sensenich Propeller will be celebrating 80 years in business at the Airventure Oshkosh 2012 fly-in this year, by giving one of its next 80 customers an 80% discount on his or her new prop.

"I hate gimmicks," says company President Don Rowell, "but hey, this is a birthday celebration; and who wouldn't want 80% off?"

To be eligible, a private customer (not an airframe manufacturer or OEM) must be one of the first 80 to buy and pay for a Sensenich prop between the close of Sun 'n Fun and the opening of Oshkosh. Any new or rebuilt Sensenich prop purchased from the factory -- wood, metal, or composite -- is eligible. The winner will be drawn at Sensenich's Press Conference at Airventure (date to be confirmed soon, and will be seen in the official show schedule); the winner need not be present to win.

Sensenich has manufactured props for the industry since 1932, and its lineup now encompasses propellers for airboats and UAVs, along with traditional aviation, in classic wood, metal, and industry-leading ground-adjustable composite props in two- or three-blade configurations, for engines including many experimental powerplants, plus Rotax, Jabiru, Continental, and Lycoming engines up to 320 cubic inches -- with more on the way.

What does Sensenich plan for its 90th celebration? Rowell says, "We'll have to wait and see."

More: www.sensenich.com
 

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