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FAA Administrator Grants Reprieve in Pilot Defense Case (2016)


You know you really need some pilot defense when you hear, “Experimental N1234A, when you land, call this phone number…”

This is exactly what no pilot wants to hear. It usually means that a sequence of events is about to occur with the Federal Aviation Administration that often brings lots of stress, anxiety, and the possible loss of flying privileges.

Thus was the case for our client who hails from Washington State, but was flying his airplane in Southern California on an IFR flight. The day he flew, it was very windy and he was unfamiliar with the local geography. Initially, he strayed into restricted airspace at Edwards AFB, even for a brief moment, but it definitely caught ATC’s attention. Then enroute, he allegedly failed to maintain his altitude and heading to his destination airport.

About a month later, he received notice of a proposed Administrative Action from the FAA’s Flight Standards District Office warning him to explain his actions or risk a suspension. Fortunately, the client had the forethought to file an Aviation Safety Report with NASA. At this point, he made contact with Lustick, Kaiman & Madrone for legal representation against the FAA.

The FAA was not difficult to work with, however, it was clear that the inspector had made up his mind what had occurred. We worked to recreate every leg of the original flight on paper attempting to determine what went wrong and where. IN the end, the pilot did receive an order to complete IFR and Commercial Pilot retraining, but he did not lose his pilot’s license.

But that wasn’t it. A few months later in a cruel twist, the Western Region Enforcement Team sent a Notice of Proposed Certificate Acton to the client, and he once again found himself facing the FAA’s attempts to permanently ground him. This action, known as an Enforcement Action, was more akin to a prosecution criminally for breaking the Federal Air Regulations – a very serious allegation.


Once again, the pilot hired Lustick, Kaiman & Madrone, who began the fight against the FAA. We raised the issue of administrative double jeopardy, and we used the client’s Aviation Safety Reporting System Report to defend him. Because the client had already accepted his chops under an earlier Administrative Action, he couldn’t legally be punished or prosecuted by the FAA twice. Also, the ASRS report game him immunity from punishment since he filed the report within 10 days from the original incident. The FAA had no choice but to withdraw its enforcement action against the pilot.

Wins like this one against the FAA aren’t rare, but we wanted to highlight this one since it was an outcome that the client could not have obtained without legal counsel by his side.

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