All Aviation Articles By Greg Reigel

Why Did The FAA Send Me A Request For Re-Examination?

As you may know, if the FAA discovers evidence that leads it to reasonably question an airman’s qualifications to exercise the privileges of the airman’s certificate, the FAA may issue a "request for re-examination." The "evidence" is usually a situation or circumstances involving the airman and his or her operation of an aircraft. And, unfortunately for airmen, it doesn't take much for the FAA to have a reasonable basis for requesting the re-examination. As long as the FAA can show that an airman's lack of competence or qualification was a factor in causing the situation, then the request will be considered reasonable.

So, what types of situations may result in a request for re-examination? Here are a few, in no particular order:

  1. Running out of fuel.

  2. Landing with the gear up.

  3. Landing or taking off in a manner that results in damage to your aircraft (e.g. prop strike, tail strike, scraping a wingtip on the ground, striking runway lights etc.).

  4. Continuing a VFR flight into IMC.

  5. Getting caught on top of an overcast layer of clouds when you are not instrument rated or equipped.

  6. Taking off or landing on a runway at a tower controlled airport when you have not received take-off or landing clearance.

  7. Taking off from or landing on a taxiway.
  8. Getting into an accident with your aircraft.

  9. Getting caught operating your aircraft over gross.

  10. Landing at the wrong airport.

  11. Entering Class B, C or D airspace without first establishing communications with ATC controlling the airspace.

  12. Colliding with another aircraft in flight, or on the ground.

  13. Operating an aircraft on a flight without appropriate or current charts necessary for that flight.

This is only a partial list of some of the more obvious situations that may trigger a request for re-examination of an airman by the FAA. The list can, and does, go on.

Hopefully this will never happen to you. But if it does, it isn't the end of the world. Pilots survive, and even learn from, requests for re-examination all the time. For more information and tips on responding to requests for re-examination, please read my article: The 709 Ride.

Aircraft Loan Documents: Knowing What To Expect Before You Sign On The Dotted Line

If you are financing the purchase of an aircraft, you know, or at least you should know, that the lender will have a number of documents for you to sign before it advances the funds. The loan documents typically associated with a basic aircraft finance transaction and required by a lender include a promissory note, aircraft security agreement, guaranty/pledge and authorization.

A promissory note contains the terms of the loan (e.g. amount, repayment schedule, interest rate etc.) and the borrower's promise to repay the loan according to those terms. It also provides the lender with remedies if the borrower does not fulfill its obligations under the promissory note or if something else happens that gives the lender a reasonable basis to believe that repayment of the loan may be in jeopardy.

The aircraft security agreement pledges the aircraft as security for the promissory note. If the borrower fails to repay the promissory note, the lender will have the right to take possession of the aircraft. Once it has regained possession, the lender is able to sell or otherwise dispose of the aircraft to recover as much money as it can to offset against the outstanding loan balance. If the lender is able to sell the aircraft for more than is owed, the excess is paid to the borrower. However, after the lender offsets the amount received from sale against the outstanding balance and the lender's costs/fees incurred in repossessing and selling the aircraft, it is unusual for an excess balance to exist.

For transactions in which the loan is being guaranteed by someone other than the borrower, that individual or business will need to execute a guaranty that obligates the guarantor to repay the loan in the event that the borrower defaults. If the borrower or any guarantor is a corporation or limited liability company, the lender will require that an appropriate official of the entity execute an authorization representing that the person executing the documents on behalf of the entity is authorized to sign and bind that entity.

Most lenders will have standard or form documents they use in aircraft finance transactions. However, depending upon the lender, the financial position of the borrower, the relationship of the borrower with the lender, and the amount of the loan, many of the terms in the loan documents may be negotiable. It never hurts to ask.  Similarly, it isn't a bad idea to have an aviation attorney review the documents on your behalf and negotiate any changes that may be required to protect your interests.

Aircraft loan transactions don't have to be complicated.  If you know what to expect and ask for assistance when needed, obtaining financing for your purchase of an aircraft should be as easy as signing on the dotted line.

What Are An Airman's Options After The FAA Denies A Medical Application Based Upon A Disqualifying Condition?

When an airman is denied a medical based upon an admitted disqualifying condition, an appeal will, in almost all cases, be unsuccessful. In that situation, the airman has the burden of proving that the airman is qualified to hold a medical certificate. That's a tough thing to accomplish if the airman has already admitted that he or she has a disqualifying condition.

If an airman is denied based upon a disqualifying condition, but the airman believes he or she is otherwise qualified, the airman should request that the FAA grant a special issuance medical certificate. A special issuance is a medical certificate that has limitations and/or conditions with which the airman must comply in order for the certificate to be valid. The conditions/limitations will often include regular testing or evaluation, test results within acceptable ranges, no changes in medication etc.

If the FAA refuses to grant an airman's request for a special issuance, the airman may appeal that denial to the NTSB. However, since the Board defers to the FAA's discretion in denying a special issuance, the only way to be successful is to show that the FAA's denial is arbitrary or capricious. For example, if a denied airman can prove that the FAA has granted a special issuance in circumstances that are very similar to or identical with those of the airman, then an ALJ may be convinced that the FAA's denial in the airman's case is arbitrary or capricious. As a practical matter, however, this can be a very difficult task.

If you have a medical condition that may disqualify you from obtaining a medical certificate, get help before you apply for your medical certificate. Talk to an aviation attorney or the medical certification professionals at AOPA or NBAA. By taking a pro-active approach and getting help, you will be able to "pick your battles" wisely to maximize your chances of successfully obtaining a medical certificate.

Slander of Title: The Risk of Filing an Invalid Aircraft Mechanic's Lien

An individual recently called me and told me he wanted to file a mechanic's lien against an aircraft. When I asked him what type of work he had performed he indicated that he had performed some maintenance on the aircraft and also provided pilot services to the owner in the aircraft. Unfortunately, in this individual's state, as is the case in most other states, pilot services are not the type of work upon which an aircraft mechanic's lien may be based. When I told him that, he asked why he couldn't just file the lien for the full amount and then worry about whether he could collect for the pilot services component of the lien down the road. I answered that this was not a good idea. Here's why.

One defense an aircraft owner may assert in response to a lien claimant's attempt to enforce a mechanic's lien against an aircraft is that the lien is invalid because the lien claimant is knowingly demanding an amount in excess of what is justly due. This defense is very common in situations where the aircraft owner initially disputed the amount being charged by the lien claimant. It is also common where the lien claimant is trying to get paid for work that is not lienable work, such as the pilot services in the above-situation. Although this defense usually requires that the aircraft owner show bad faith on the part of the lien claimant or that the lien claimant knew the lien statement was overstated, that isn't necessarily hard to do when the lien is for work that is not allowed under the applicable mechanic lien statute.

And here is the risk a lien claimant may be exposed to if his or her mechanic lien is invalid: If the aircraft owner is successful in defending against the foreclosure proceeding, the aircraft owner will also probably succeed in a slander of title claim against the lien claimant. An aircraft owner asserting a slander of title claim alleges that the lien claimant improperly encumbered the aircraft with an invalid lien. A slander of title claim could have serious and expensive implications for the lien claimant if the improper lien prevented a sale of the aircraft or forced the aircraft owner to accept less in a sale than he or she would have in the absence of a lien.

The moral of the story? Perfecting and enforcing an aircraft mechanic's lien can be tricky. In addition to the federal filing requirement, each state has its own specific requirements governing aircraft mechanic's liens. Lien claimants should understand what their particular state laws allow and require in order to assert an aircraft mechanic's lien. When in doubt, contact an aviation attorney familiar with your state's aircraft mechanic's lien laws to analyze your situation and help you choose the best course of action.

What Are An Airman's Options After The FAA Denies A Medical Application Based Upon A Disqualifying Condition?

When the FAA denies an airman's application for a medical certificate based upon an admitted condition that is disqualifying under 14 C.F.R. Part 67 (e.g. heart disease, epilepsy, bipolar disorder, diabetes requiring insulin, etc.), an appeal will, in almost all cases, be unsuccessful. In that situation, the airman has the burden of proving that the airman is qualified to hold a medical certificate. That's a tough thing to accomplish if the airman has already admitted that he or she has a condition that is specifically identified as disqualifying under the regulations.

If an airman is denied based upon a disqualifying condition, but the airman believes he or she is otherwise qualified, the airman should request that the FAA grant a special issuance medical certificate pursuant to 14 C.F.R. §§ 67.115, 67.215 or 67.315 (depending upon the class of medical for which the airman is applying). A special issuance is a medical certificate that has limitations and/or conditions with which the airman must comply in order for the certificate to be valid. The conditions/limitations will often include regular testing or evaluation, test results within acceptable ranges, no changes in medication etc.

If the FAA refuses to grant an airman's request for a special issuance, the airman may appeal that denial to the NTSB. However, since the Board defers to the FAA's discretion in denying a special issuance, the only way to be successful is to show that the FAA's denial is arbitrary or capricious. For example, if a denied airman can prove that the FAA has granted a special issuance in circumstances that are very similar to or identical with those of the airman, then an ALJ may be convinced that the FAA's denial in the airman's case is arbitrary or capricious. As a practical matter, however, this can be a very difficult task.

If you have a medical condition that may disqualify you from obtaining a medical certificate, get help before you apply for your medical certificate. Talk to an aviation attorney or the medical certification professionals at AOPA or NBAA. By taking a pro-active approach and getting help, you will be able to "pick your battles" wisely to maximize your chances of successfully obtaining a medical certificate.

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