If the FAA believes you have violated a Federal Aviation Regulation, you will be given at least three opportunities to hang yourself. You will most likely receive a telephone call from the investigating inspector, who will encourage you to discuss the facts surrounding whatever happened. He/she may even assure you that if you admit to a violation, everything will be okay. In reality, everything will not be okay if you admit to a violation of regulations. If an accident is involved, the FAA inspector will be wearing two hats, which arguably results in a conflict of interest: He/she will be investigating the accident under authority delegated by the NTSB, and you are required to file a report as well as to answer all questions. But he/she will also be acting in behalf of the FAA to determine if there was a violation of regulations which justifies commencement of an enforcement action to suspend or revoke your certificates. Be careful when answering questions. Anything you say can and will be used against you. Call us before you speak to the inspector.

The second opportunity to hang yourself will be a letter you will receive from the investigating inspector. It is a form letter, known as a Letter of Investigation, that will describe in very general terms what is being investigated, and will seek your written response within 10 days of receipt. It concludes with an ominous warning, advising you that if you do not respond, the investigation will proceed without the benefit of your input. There is no law or regulation that requires you to respond. Anything you say can and will be used against you. Again, be very careful. In most cases, the FAA has already decided it has enough information to bring an enforcement action against you when the letter is sent.

The third opportunity to hang yourself will be a Notice of Proposed Certificate Action you will receive from the FAA attorney prosecuting the alleged violation. You will be given the choice of several alternative responses: Answer in writing (bad choice); Surrender your certificates to the FAA (bad choice); Request immediate issuance of an Order suspending your certificates so that you may appeal to an NTSB Administrative Law Judge (bad choice most of the time); Use an ASRS Report if you filed one (not a good choice at this point in the proceedings); Request an Informal Conference with the FAA attorney prosecuting the case (usually the best choice). The best choice for you will be based upon the facts of the alleged violation.

In most cases involving a suspension, you can use your certificates pending the final outcome of your case. Additionally, the burden of proof is on the Administrator of the FAA to establish by a preponderance of the evidence that a violation of regulations has occurred. However, if the FAA believes that you are a threat to air safety and/or do not possess the qualifications to hold your certificates, an Emergency Order of Revocation may be issued. If an Emergency Order is issued, it is effective immediately. Additionally, there are extremely short time limits within which to challenge the nature of the emergency if that is appropriate, and within which any appeal to the Order must be heard and finalized. If an Emergency Order is issued, do not wait even a day to act or seek legal counsel.



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