November 2020 Aviation Articles

FAA’s Intentional Falsification Settlement Policy: Not Much Of An Offer.

As you might imagine, the FAA has a dim view of intentional falsification cases.  These situations arise when the FAA believes that a certificate holder (whether airman, mechanic, air carrier, repair station etc.) has intentionally falsified a required record.  They range from airmen who have failed to disclose information on their applications for medical certificate to mechanics who have either omitted information or included incorrect information in aircraft maintenance records.

According to the FAA’s Compliance and Enforcement Program, a certificate holder who intentionally falsifies a record lacks the qualifications to hold any certificate.  As a result, FAA’s sanction in these cases is revocation of all certificates, usually by emergency order.  And after revocation, the certificate holder is generally prohibited from re-applying for new certificates for one year following the effective date of the order of revocation.

However, before the FAA issues a revocation order, it conducts an investigation in which it gathers evidence, sends out a letter of investigation, reviews any response, and analyzes all of the evidence to support its case.  This process can take a period of time.  But the certificate holder retains all certificates up until the revocation order is issued.

The New Policy

In the case where an airman has allegedly falsified his or her application for medical certificate in violation of 14 CFR 67.403(a)(1)-(4), the FAA recently announced a new “prompt settlement policy.”  According to the FAA, the new policy will afford an airman “the opportunity to apply for any airman and ground instructor certificate sooner than had the case proceeded in the absence of the policy.”

Under the new policy, the airman would still have to wait one year, but that would happen “sooner than under the current process because much of the investigation and evaluation processes would be abbreviated or eliminated.”  The policy provides the airman with an opportunity to resolve the alleged violation with a settlement agreement in which the airman (1) accepts an order revoking all of the airman’s certificates; (2) immediately surrenders all of his or her certificate; and (3) waives all of his or her appeal rights.

The FAA believes this policy will provide predictability for airmen as to when the revocation order is issued, and accordingly, when the airman would again be able apply for a new certificate.  It is also supposed to “promote better resource allocation.”

Who Is Eligible For This Policy?

The policy would be available to an airman who the FAA believes has violated 14 CFR 67.403(a)(1)-(4).  However, the policy will not be available to an airman if (1) the FAA believes the airman may lack qualification to hold his or her certificate(s) (other than because the airman allegedly violated 14 CFR 67.403(a)(1) through (4)); or (2) he or she has a prior violation of 14 CFR 67.403(a)(1) through (4).

How Does It Work?

When the FAA sends a letter of investigation (“LOI”) to an airman for alleged intentional falsification, the LOI will advise the airman that he or she may request consideration for a prompt settlement of the legal enforcement action.  If the FAA determines the airman is eligible, an FAA attorney will send the airman a settlement agreement with the following terms:

  1. The settlement agreement must be executed by the parties within ten days after the FAA sends the agreement to the airman;

  2. The FAA will issue an emergency order revoking all airman, ground instructor, and unexpired medical certificates the airman holds immediately upon receiving the fully executed settlement  agreement;

  3. The order of revocation will (a) require the immediate surrender of all airman, ground instructor, and unexpired medical certificates the individual holds to enforcement counsel; (b) notify the airman that the failure to immediately surrender these certificates could subject the airman to further legal enforcement action, including a civil penalty; and (c) inform the airman that the FAA will not accept an application for any new airman or ground instructor certificate for a period of one year from the date of the issuance of the order of revocation;

  4. The airman will waive all appeal rights from the order of revocation;

  5. The airman acknowledges that the agreement only concerns the legal enforcement action brought by the FAA and does not affect any actions that might be brought by State or other Federal agencies (whether civil or criminal), and that the agreement does not prevent the FAA from providing information about this matter to State or other Federal agencies;

  6. The parties will agree to bear their own costs and attorney fees, if any, in connection with the matter;

  7. The airman will agree to not initiate any litigation before seeking any costs, damages, or attorney fees, including applications under the Equal Access to Justice Act, incurred as a result of the legal enforcement action; and

  8. The airman will agree to waive any and all causes of action against the FAA and its current and/or former officials and employees relating to the legal enforcement action.

Is The Policy A Good Deal For An Airman?

From my perspective, this policy provides little real benefit to an airman, other than an airman who simply wants to roll over on his or her sword and start the clock ticking on his or her punishment.  Here are some of the problems I have with the policy:

  • An airman gives up all of his or her rights to have the FAA prove its case. The FAA has the burden of proof in these cases.  If the case involves factual issues as to whether the airman intentionally falsified rather than simply made a false statement, forcing the FAA to prove its case could be the difference between revocation of all certificates for intentional falsification versus revocation of just the airman’s medical certificate for making a false statement.

  • The policy does not protect the airman from criminal prosecution. An airman who the FAA believes committed intentional falsification could still be referred out to local or federal authorities for prosecution.  And the order of revocation and the facts upon which it was based would make it very easy for the prosecution to prove its case.  And since the FAA has, in fact, referred these cases out for prosecution, this is not a risk to be taken lightly.

  • The airman gives up his or her right to negotiate a reduction in the one-year prohibition on reapplication. If an airman appeals an order of revocation alleging intentional falsification, it is not uncommon for the FAA to agree to a 10 month, or in unusual circumstances a 9 month, prohibition in order avoid having to litigate its case against the airman before an NTSB administrative law judge.

  • The airman must surrender his or her certificates immediately. In the absence of surrender, the airman could have retained his or her certificates while the FAA completes its investigation and until it issues the revocation order.  This could be several months when the airman could continue to exercise the privileges of his or her certificates.

Conclusion

If you find yourself facing an allegation of intentional falsification, you know you made a mistake, and you just want to put the matter behind you, then the new policy may be worth considering.  However, you should also consider what you will give up.  In most situations it will likely make more sense to work through the enforcement process to obtain a more favorable resolution.

Commercial Add-On: Transitioning From Fixed-Wing to Rotary Ratings

One of the most common commercial rotary transitions is helicopter pilots wanting a fixed-wing add-on. This is seen pretty often with military helicopter pilots such as former Apache or Blackhawk crews. 

But, does anyone ever get an add-on from previous fixed-wing to rotary? It's not common but it's out there. Some do it for fun and some do it to add to their resume and expand their job opportunities. 

A good resource that can help with this type of transition is Veracity Aviation. I went here about a month ago at the Pearland, TX location to talk with some of the instructors, and here's a briefing of what I got:

The general requirements for a commercial add-on through a 141 program would be to 

  • Already hold a fixed wing commercial pilot certificate
  • Current FAA Medical Certificate
  • Helicopter Instrument Rating not required
  • No FAA Written Exam
  • Pass an FAA Oral and Practical Flight Test
  • 30 dual flight hours
  • 5 solo flight hours
  • 10 hours instrument hours

If you're looking to do a CFI add-on as a way to build rotary hours then you would be required to 

  • Hold a Commercial Pilot Helicopter Certificate
  • Must Read, Write, Understand, and Speak English
  • Hold a Current FAA Medical Certificate
  • Pass an FAA Oral and Practical Flight Test
  • Fixed wing CFI license
  • Complete 25 hours of flight time

as with any CFI rating as well, you must be 18 years old.

However, this posted above is for a part 141 program. Here's what the regs require for a part 61 program:

at least 150 hours of flight time as a pilot that consists of at least: 100 hours in powered aircraft, of which 50 hours must be in helicopters.

  • 100 hours of PIC, which includes at least - 35 hours in helicopters, 10 hours in cross-country flight in helicopters.
  • 20 hours of training on the areas of operation listed in 61.127 (b)(3) that includes at least -
  • 5 hours of helicopter hood time/instrument maneuvers
  • One 2-hour cross country flight in a helicopter in daytime conditions that consists of a total straight-line distance of more than 50 nautical miles from the original point of departure
  • One 2-hour cross country flight in a helicopter in nighttime conditions that consists of a total straight-line distance of more than 50 nautical miles from the original point of departure; and
  • 3 hours in a helicopter with a CFI in preparation for the check ride within the preceding 2 calendar months from the month of the test.
  • Ten hours of solo flight time in a helicopter or 10 hours of flight time performing the duties of PIC in a helicopter with an authorized CFI on board
  • 1 cross-country flight with landings at a minimum of three points, with one segment consisting of a straight-line distance of at least 50 nautical miles from the original point of departure; and 5 hours in night VFR conditions with 10 takeoffs and 10 landings (with each landing involving a flight in the traffic pattern).

All of these requirements can be found in the FAR AIM under 61.129 helicopter rating. A 141 program can cut down testing requirements however to make the add-on even easier.

Who knows, the add-on may lead you to new career opportunities flying something like an Airbus H130. I'd say it's worth your time to get through those requirements and learn to fly a new aircraft. Join the "dark side" and comment below how it goes!

How to Pay for Flight Training

It's no doubt, flight training is expensive and a big challenge to get through. 

As a CFI, the biggest complaints I get from students are having to pay for lessons. How to save money on them, how to get through training faster etc. I'm here to say paying for flight training is not impossible, but is in fact very possible. I started flight training as soon as I turned 19 and got through it in 2.5 years while being a poor college student. Here's how:

1) Scholarships

Over $15,000 dollars of my flight training was paid for by scholarships. Rule number one: don't only apply for all the big scholarships that offer a lot of money. Those have the most competition! The ones that are around $1,000 have less applicants, and if you apply for multiple ones of those you're likely to get some of them.

When applying for scholarships, there's so many tips that I could give from being a successful applicant and now scholarship curator. Take your time on your application, but get it in as soon as possible. And make sure everything that was asked for is there! You may be a great applicant but if you forget even one thing you're disqualified. Do email the scholarship committee/organization with any questions you have and ask what they look for in picking recipients because they're likely glad to help, DON'T email or contact saying only how much you need the money. Financial need is not the only thing that creates a worthy recipient. 

2) Be Smart With Your Money

THIS. This is a good tip for flight training and LIFE. Don't be the student that goes out every weekend, buys a BRAND NEW car, walks in with a Bose headset....(the list goes on) and then complain about not being able to pay for lessons. Try to work it to where almost all of your money is put towards training. It's okay to be the person eating lunch from home, only getting water to drink at restaurants, using coupons at the grocery store and so on. If it helps you reach your dreams you do what you need to do. 

If you need to buy a headset, buy like a DC brand from Sporty's Pilot Shop or even something used on Amazon or Ebay. There is a ton of options where you can find something quality less than $300 that will last without breaking. As far as a logbook if you don't even want to spend money on a paper one then use an online one that meets FAA requirements. Even the logbook on Globalair.com will get the job done!

If you can help it, as in if a school does not require you to buy a certain kit, get your study materials online for free. Remember the Airplane Flying Handbook and Pilot's Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge are free for PDF download from the FAA, just Google it. 

3) Study at Home

Don't rely on your instructor to teach you everything on ground lessons or in flight. Ask them to help guide you to what to study, but read it all at home and make it to where lessons with them are just building on what you don't understand. Especially steps for maneuvers as well. This can literally save you THOUSANDS of dollars. 

When I say to study maneuvers, do what's called chair flying. Let an instructor demonstrate a maneuver for you the first time, then write down the steps during your debrief with them, and go home and imagine sitting in the cockpit and practice flying those steps. Manuevers like power off stalls, slow flight, and approach checklists that have a lot of steps are much better mastered this way. This all pays off on your check ride too, you'll have it down better because you established a better foundation for your skills. 

4) Fly Often

Don't take a break from flying to pay for each lesson if you can help it. Save up as much as you can and THEN go into training. If you fly 2 times a month versus two times a week, it costs more in the long run because you have to redo each lesson. You're staying at the same spot rather than truly moving forward. 

There's so many tips I could give on how to save money and pay for flight training, but these are the biggest ones. Be smart and make wise decisions, you work hard for your money so do your best to put it to good use. It doesn't matter if you come from a poor family, if no one around you is a pilot to give you advice, or even if it takes you a little longer than other students around you to learn. If you're really dedicated and cut out to learn to fly, there will be a way. Pave it for yourself. 

Until next time, happy landings!

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