Aviation Medical Aviation Articles

Scuba Skies—The Precautions to a Safer Experience

I was talking to a close friend a couple weeks ago and she was telling me all about her scuba diving certificates and the places she has dove. She has gone to the Keys of Florida and even some quarry sites in a few other states! This summer she has decided to take on a whole new course and pursue certifications beyond her Advanced Open Water (AOW) with Professional Diving Instructors (PADI) training. I definitely admire her drive for adventure and bravery to swim with sharks but shipwreck snorkeling might be the deepest I ever desire to go. If you are also someone who loves the thrills of scuba diving yet all things flying, let’s quickly review some safety rules before you mix these two hobbies. 

If you are the pilot or the passenger, both should allow sufficient time before flying after a scuba dive to allow the body enough time to rid itself of excess nitrogen absorbed during a dive. Not taking heed to these rules may result in decompression sickness due to evolving gases during altitude exposure.

Here’s what the regulations say:

Flight altitudes up to 8,000ft:

  • Wait at least 12 hours after diving without a controlled ascent
  • Wait at least 24 hours after diving with a controlled ascent

Flight altitudes above 8,000ft:

  • Wait at least 24 hours after any dive (controlled or uncontrolled ascent)

Let’s dive a little bit deeper into the topic. According to AC 61-107B:

“Scuba diving requires breathing air under high pressure”. There is a considerable increase in the amount of nitrogen dissolved into the body under these conditions. In other words, the body is nitrogen saturated. The greater the depth of the scuba dive, the more the body is saturated in nitrogen. Nitrogen is distributed throughout the body by the circulatory system. The AC continues to state that “as atmospheric pressure is reduced as a result of ascent, the equilibrium is upset. This results in nitrogen leaving the body by passing from the cells, to the blood, and then out through the respiratory system. If the nitrogen is forced to leave too rapidly because of a large partial pressure difference, bubbles may form, causing a variety of signs and symptoms”. These symptoms can include abdominal pain, pain in the ears, toothache, and severe sinuses if the person is unable to equalize the pressure changes. Yikes!

Let’s take the proper precautions for a safer scuba dive experience if you decide to fly soon after. Have you ever gone or plan to go scuba diving? Leave a comment below!

10 Things You Need to Start Your Flight Training

Thinking about starting your flight training soon? That’s awesome! Pursuing your pilot certificates is an exciting and big accomplishment. Here are 10 things I highly suggest getting to kickstart your flight training.

Bose A20s Headset

1) Headset

The most popular headsets I’ve seen so far are David Clark and Bose A20’s. These headsets range from roughly $500 to $1100! I found a cheaper headset for $200 on Amazon and they have worked well for the past 2 years. If you buy from a lesser-known company or brand, look up the reviews and choose wisely. Don’t go too cheap. As they say, you get what you pay for. If you have the funds to go for high quality, do so. I’ve used the Bose A20 once and the quality is definitely worth the price in the long term.

2) Flight Bag

Pilot Flight Bag

What better way to carry your flight things around than a stylish flight bag? There is a wide range of flight bags out there with different compartments to satisfy your item holding needs. I would highly suggest that you start off with a smaller size. The picture of the flight bag above is the first one I bought. Over time you will begin to accumulate many things and it’s best to keep it simple and limit your bag size until you truly need something bigger. 

 

3) Knee Board 

Knee Board

Originally when I started my flight training I wasn’t sure how necessary it would be to get a kneeboard. I waited quite a while to get one but soon learned this is one item you should never forget to bring to every flight lesson. The answer is, VERY necessary! My flight school doesn’t let you start off with an IPad for cross countries, which means you're lugging around Nav logs, weight & Balance sheets, sectionals, chart supplements, etc. Do yourself a favor and get a kneeboard to keep all of your important planning papers organized! I currently use a King School Trifold iPad kneeboard and it’s the best ever! But if you wish to start with the metal single plate board, it’s also a really great one to use.

4) Logbooks

Logbook

Once you start logging flight time you need somewhere to put it! There are several different types of logbooks but the main purpose is to keep track of your flight time, sim time, endorsements, etc. Stay in FAR 61.51 (Pilot logbooks) compliance!

5) Red Flashlight

Red Flashlight

According to FAR 61.109 Aeronautical experience, “a person who applies for a private pilot certificate with an airplane category and single-engine class rating must log at least... 3 hours of night flight training in a single-engine airplane...” Night flying is so wonderful but takes a minute to adjust to. Certain procedures change a little but a major must-have is a red flashlight to equip you for successful night operations. A red light is used to preserve your night vision far better than white light. My personal suggestion is to buy at least two in the event one is damaged or stops working.

6) Foggles

Foggles

If we look back at FAR 61.109 it also states “ 3 hours of flight training in a single-engine airplane on the control and maneuvering of an airplane solely by reference to instruments.” In order to comply with this requirement, you're going to need a view limiting device such as a hood or Foggles. These simulate instrument conditions and direct your view to your instruments only instead of looking outside the flight deck.

7) Books, Charts, and Maps

Books Charts Maps

Here are a few books I would highly recommend looking into getting:

  • Private pilot Jeppesen
  • FAR/AIM
  • FAA Airplane Flying Handbook (digital or hard copy)
  • FAA Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge (digital or hard copy)
  • Gleim Test Prep – Private Pilot
  • VFR Sectional
  • Your aircraft Information Manual
  • Valid Chart Supplement

8) E6B or electronic E6B flight computer

E6B Flight Computer

An E6B is a flight computer used for flight planning to help you calculate fuel burn, wind correction, time en route, and other critical items. While you are airborne, your E6B can be used to estimate fuel burn, calculate ground speed, and update the estimated time of arrival. 

9) FAA Medical

FAA Medical Certificate

An FAA medical is a must-have to start your flight training. There are three types of medicals you can get. 

1. First Class

2. Second Class

3. Third Class

Each class permits different operation privileges that you will soon learn in your training. Look for an AME (Aviation-Medical Examiner) in your area. I recommend that when you go to get a medical, get the highest class (1st class) medical to see the requirements the AME will expect to receive that medical.

10) Flight School for your needs!

Flight School Students

Are you ready to kick your flight training off? The flight school you pick will structure the foundation of your flight career. They will be your connections into the inner industry and your foundation for fundamental flight operations. You can go Part 61 or Part 141, they both have their advantages and disadvantages but it all depends on your learning needs.

Before you pick a flight school, look up the price of attendance/rentals, success rate if available, credentials of the school's instructional staff, aircraft fleet/on-site maintenance, and talk to current students (if permitted). These are all important steps to picking the best school for you.

Always remember that when you pick a flight school and flight instructor, the majority of the time their values on safety, checklist usage, and skill development will become your structure as a pilot. This can be a stressful decision to make but do your research and you will be just fine!

Best of luck starting your flight training! 

 

 

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.

Avoiding Drug And Alcohol Testing "Gotchas"

Avioding Drug and Alcohol Testing Gotchas in Aviation Law
Image courtesy of Urine Drug Test HQ

The drug and alcohol testing requirements of 14 C.F.R. Part 120 and 49 C.F.R. Part 40 continue to cause issues for aviation employers. An initial decision in a recent civil penalty action, In the Matter of Regency Air, LLC, highlights two areas of potential confusion and risk faced by an aviation employer.

In Regency the FAA assessed a civil penalty of $17,400 against the employer for alleged violations of drug and alcohol testing regulations in connection with its hiring and use of mechanics. As you may know, aircraft maintenance is a “safety-sensitive function” that may only be performed by an employee who is included in the employer’s drug and alcohol testing program. Regency appealed the FAA’s order and a hearing was held before a Department of Transportation Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) which highlighted several drug and alcohol testing “gotchas.”

In one instance, Regency argued that the mechanic performed his work as a favor to Regency and since Regency did not compensate the mechanic for the work, the mechanic was thus not an employee subject to drug and alcohol testing. However, the ALJ rejected that defense stating that an "employee is an individual who is hired, either directly or by contract, to perform a safety-sensitive function for an employer”, and an individual is “hired” for a safety-sensitive function when he or she is retained “as a paid employee, as a volunteer, or through barter or other form of compensation.” Thus, even though the mechanic was a volunteer working without compensation, he was still considered an employee when he was performing safety-sensitive functions on behalf of Regency.

Another issue in the case arose from a mechanic’s employment by two separate employers. Although the mechanic was included in the first employer’s drug and alcohol testing program, Regency had not added the mechanic to its program. In analyzing the issue, the ALJ initially observed that “an employer may use a contract employee without including the contract employee in its own drug and alcohol testing program if: (1) the contract employee is subject to testing under the contractor’s drug and alcohol testing program, and (2) the work is performed on behalf of that contractor. The ALJ then determined that the mechanic performed the work in question it was performed on behalf of the first employer as a contractor for Regency, and as a result, the mechanic did not need to be included in Regency’s drug and alcohol testing program.

Drug and alcohol testing regulations can be tricky and complicated. However, misunderstandings and/or non-compliance with the regulations are serious and potentially very expensive. If you have questions about the regulations or whether you are complying with the regulations please contact me and I will be happy to help or any professional aviation law attorney, but don't wait until it is too late.

Greg Reigel
Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton, LLP
9201 N. Central Expressway, 4th Floor, Dallas, Texas 75231
Direct: (214) 780-1482 - Fax: (214) 780-1401
E-mail:  [email protected]
Website:  www.shackelford.law
Twitter:  @ReigelLaw

BasicMed: A Big Deal?

Several months ago, I wrote about the 3rd Class Medical Reform and what it meant for pilots.  Recently, the FAA published a new rule called BasicMed which is the latest in the medical reform issue. 

In a Nut Shell

In the wake of the 3rd Class Medical Reform ruling, BasicMed comes as a relief for pilots that have held a valid medical certificate within the last 10 years – this look-back period starts July 15, 2016 and applies to regular and special issuance medical certificates.  However, you cannot just go back to flying if you had a medical certificate revoked in that period.

First, pilots must find a state-licensed physician and complete the associated checklist for the BasicMed.  Next, an online aeromedical course must be taken and passed.  These tasks must be done in that order as the information will need to be transmitted on successful completion.  The online course has to be taken every two years and pilots must visit their primary physician every four years at least.

As we saw in the 3rd Class Reform ruling, the pilots that complete the prerequisites for BasicMed will be able to fly aircraft with up to six passengers and weighing up to 6,000 pounds, in IFR or VFR, day or night, up to 18,000 feet and 250 knots in the United Sates.  However, BasicMed prohibits flying for compensation or hire.  While not being able to exercise the privilege of a full commercial license, it is important to note that some preexisting medical conditions make flying for hire inherently dangerous.

Currently, there is not an online aeromedical course, but AOPA.org is currently working to have the FAA approve their course “Fit to Fly”.

What This Means for General Aviation

This particular ruling is a big deal for those in general aviation.  This means that many pilots that were precluded under the old 3rd Class Medical rules now have the chance to take to the skies again at a reduced cost with almost all of their previous privileges, excluding flying for hire.  While the ruling is but days old at this point, it will be interesting to see if this will revitalize the general aviation population and perhaps to encourage younger generations to fly. 

Is this rule a big deal?  Of course!  As a proponent of general aviation, anything that gets people out there back flying is a good thing.  As someone who has seen friends lose their medicals for innocuous reasons, I hope BasicMed allows them to get back to the skies where they belong.

Have comments? Leave them below!

For more on this rule, check out these articles:

EAA & AOPA

 

Images courtesy of Google.com

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