FAA Dos and Don’ts – Legal and Medical Services (PPS)
Therefore, pilots should always seek specific legal advice tailored to their particular situation. Nonetheless, a few general principles can be applied in most situations and will help pilots be briefed in preparation for an FAA inspector or contact with air traffic personnel.
The following “dos and don’ts” highlight a few different situations, intended for general aviation pilots operating under Part 91 rules (air carriers and other commercial operators may have obligations different) to help you avoid issues that have caused problems for other drivers. in the past:
Contact the AOPA Legal Services Plan at the first indication of a problem by calling (800) 872-2672, ext.4.
Be professional and courteous when interacting with FAA personnel.
Remember your rights under the Pilot’s Bill of Rights and that you are rarely required to report to an FAA inspector. Anything you say can be used against you.
ATC informs you of a possible pilot deviation and requests a phone call:
Do call the AOPA legal services plan before deciding to call ATC on the phone.
Do be aware that if you decide to call ATC, you will likely be asked to provide your name, pilot certificate number, and telephone number. This information identifies you as the PIC of the flight.
Do not provide ATC with any substantive oral statement or offer an explanation. Keep in mind that the phone call is likely to be recorded and will be considered during any investigation, and anything you say can be used against you.
Do not feel obligated to call ATC, especially if you already know the nature of the possible pilot deviation.
Do not discuss the flight; you can politely inform them that you have not called ready to answer questions and called to inquire about the nature of the notice and obtain information from them.
Do drop a NASA-ASRS regardless of how friendly the ATC controller is on the phone, as long as the event is in the frame of the ASRS program.
Ramp checks according to part 91:
See Dos and Don’ts Be Prepared: Ramp Checks and What You Need to Know
Pilot logbook inspection:
In general practice, do do not record more information than what is obligatory in your logbook.
Do Remember that some pilots (students, recreational, sports and flight instructors with sport pilot qualifications) must have their logbook on certain flights. 14 CFR 61.51 (i) (2) – (5).
Do do not ignore or deny a request for an inspection of your logbook made to you by the FAA, an authorized representative of the NTSB, or any federal, state, or local law enforcement officer without first consulting an attorney.
Do Read this series of articles from AOPA on the issues surrounding logbook inspections:
Do remember that while 14 CFR 61.51 requires you to present your logbook for inspection upon reasonable request, it does not require you to make any declaration regarding your logbook.
Do ask if you can meet the request by providing copies of relevant pages or logbook entries via email.
Do Carefully review the logbook entries before providing the logbook for inspection.
Do not falsify all entries in the logbook.
FAA phone call regarding possible pilot deviation:
Do not feel obligated to answer the phone if you suspect it is the FAA. While you don’t want to ignore the problem, checking a voicemail message before responding can give you valuable time to gather information or seek advice.
Do not make statements. You can inform the inspector that you wish to review the Pilot’s Bill of Rights before making any statements.
Do ask the inspector to send you all air traffic data (like ATC records or radar data) for you to review before discussing the matter.
Do Consider asking the inspector to email you after the call that lists the information the FAA is asking for.
Do Call the AOPA Legal Services Plan as soon as possible after being contacted by the FAA.
Do understand that some unintentional violations can be resolved through the FAA Compliance program, but that it probably requires the aviator to share information and cooperate with the FAA.
Do examine if proactive measures should be taken, such as:
- The verification of your qualifications (for example, flight test or medical certificate) was up to date during the flight in question.
- Make sure your address is up to date with the FAA, which can be done online.
- Take any education or training (such as a WINGS course) that can be relevant and used to help demonstrate that you have a proactive attitude towards safety.
- If airspace, altitude, or adherence to ATC instructions are involved, examining your EFB, GPS track logs, or flight tracks can provide useful data.
Aircraft accident / incident:
Do read the AOPA Pilot Protection Services quick reference guide and call the AOPA Legal Services Plan as soon as possible.
Do Remember that “accidents” and “serious incidents” are reported to the NTSB, not the FAA.
Do determine if your event meets the NTSB definition of an “accident” or a “serious incident” as defined in 49 CFR part 830 before reporting it to the NTSB. Read it item to help assess whether your event requires notification to the NTSB.
If notification is required under NTSB rules, do contact the NTSB Response Operations Center at 844-373-9922 or 202-214-6290 and remember that 49 CFR 830.6 only requires the following information to be provided, if available:
(a) Aircraft type, nationality and registration marks;
(b) the name of the owner and operator of the aircraft;
(c) Name of the pilot-in-command;
(d) Date and time of the accident;
(e) Last point of departure and intended point of landing of the aircraft;
(f) Position of the aircraft relative to an easily defined geographical point;
(g) Number of persons on board, number of fatalities and number of serious injuries;
(h) The nature of the accident, the weather conditions and the extent of the damage to the aircraft, to the best of our knowledge; and
(i) A description of the explosives, radioactive materials or other dangerous articles being transported.
Do not make substantive statements at the scene. If asked, consider politely explaining that now is not a good time for you, but that you can provide your contact details to follow up.
Do remember that the operator of an aircraft involved in an accident or serious reportable incident is responsible for preserving any aircraft wreckage to the extent possible (see 49 CFR 830.10) and that it may only be disturbed or moved to the extent necessary:
(1) To ward off injured or trapped persons;
(2) To protect the wreckage from further damage; or
(3) To protect the public from injury.
the NTSB rule also requires that “when it is necessary to move an aircraft wreckage, mail or cargo, sketches, descriptive notes and photographs should be made, if possible, of the original positions and condition the wreckage and any significant impact marks. “
Do work with your lawyer to complete all required written reports, such as NTSB Form 6120.1 or statements requested by the FAA, your insurance company or any other third party.
Do review your insurance policy and comply with all notification requirements regarding a potential claim.
If you find yourself in any of these situations, one of the most important tips is to remember that you don’t need to solve it on your own. AOPA members with Pilot Protection Services should call the Legal Services Plan at the first sign of a problem.