NTSB Adopts Final Rule for Review of Emergency FAA Certificate Actions

The National Transportation Safety Board has issued its final rule amending provisions of its rules of practice pertaining to the review of FAA emergency certificate actions.  Acting on comments submitted to its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the NTSB modified its rules of practice (49 CFR 821) to require a law judge to permit evidence pertaining to the propriety of the FAA’s decision to proceed against the certificate holder on an emergency basis.  Although the NTSB declined to change its rule requiring its administrative law judges to “assume the truth” of the FAA’s factual allegations in emergency certificate actions, allowing respondents to submit evidence as to the appropriateness of the FAA’s decision to proceed on an emergency basis is encouraging.

In support of its decision not to back down from its “assume the truth” standard of review, the NTSB cited the statutory time constraints applicable to emergency cases, which require it to render decisions on emergent cases within five days.  With only four administrative law judges, the NTSB claims that it cannot effectively hold hearings and render full decisions on the merits within the short time frame required for emergency actions.

Appealing an emergency order of suspension or other adverse certificate action can be an overwhelming process, which should not be undertaken alone.  Contacting an experienced aviation attorney immediately after receiving notice of such an action can make all the difference.  Don’t delay!

NTSB Issues Warning Regarding NextGen Weather Radar

Relying solely on NextGen weather radar (Nexrad) for up-to-the-minute weather information could prove risky according to a June 20, 2012 National Transportation Safety Board safety alert.  According to the alert, “weather conditions depicted on the mosaic image will always be older than the age indicated on the display.”  The NTSB cautions that “in extreme latency and mosaic-creation scenarios, the actual age of the oldest Nexrad data in the mosaic can exceed the age indication in the cockpit by 15 to 20 minutes.”

FAR 91.103 (42 U.S.C. 91.103) requires that for flights under IFR or a flight not in the vicinity of an airport, each pilot in command shall become familiar with “weather reports and forecasts.”  Reliance on in-cockpit Nexrad images alone might not satisfy this legal requirement, and is surely risky if operating a high-performance aircraft in and around significant weather systems.  As the NTSB alert cautions, “get your preflight weather briefing! Having in-cockpit weather capabilities does not circumvent the need for a complete weather briefing before takeoff.”