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!
California-based Weco Aeropace Systems Inc. has been charged with using unapproved parts, including paper clips, to repair aircraft. On September 29, 2012, federal prosecutors in the Eastern District of California indicted former executives of Weco on a wide range of fraud counts. The indictment alleges that the defendants allowed technicians to use unapproved parts in repairs, and that Weco Aerospace lacked the requisite equipment to properly install and test major aircraft components, including converters and generators.
Specific allegations include the fabrication of end bell locator pins from a drill bit and a paper clip, and the installation of those fabricated pins into motors which were then installed on aircraft in violation of FAR Part 43. The defendants are also charged with falsifying aircraft records by certifying airworthiness approval tags (FAA Form 8130-3) for components which were not overhauled properly.
This case highlights the importance of ensuring that aircraft repairs and system overhauls are performed by qualified shops using authorized parts. While no aircraft owners were implicated in the indictment, aircraft owners and pilots conducting preventative maintenance pursuant to FAR 43.3(g) (as specified in Part 43, Appendix A) should ensure that they are using only approved parts and procedures. As this case points out, overlooking any required testing procedure is also illegal and problematic. For this reason, those performing preventative maintenance should have their work checked and tested by qualified individuals. Navigating the complex regulations governing aircraft repair and maintenance is fraught with legal pitfalls. Any questions regarding the legality of maintenance, repairs, or airworthiness checks should be referred to an experienced aviation attorney.