FAA Certificate Action Response 101 - ABA YLD 101 Practice Series

By Chris Fortier

A pilot, mechanic, airman, or other person with an FAA issued certificate comes in and shows you a proposed action against them for a violation of an aviation safety law. This proposed action might be a fine or a license revocation which signals the end of his or her career in the aviation field. Of course, their question will be, "what will I do now?"

Options to respond
According to the FAA Rules of Practice, your client has the following options to resolve his or her conflict:

  1. Admit the charges and surrender the license
  2. Answer the charges 1
  3. Request an informal conference with an FAA counsel where your client has a chance to be heard 2
    You also have the option of requesting an administrative hearing from the FAA after the conference with FAA counsel (as long as the action concerns Title V of the Federal Aviation Act). You must request the hearing by mail, postmarked by ten (10) days after the end of the conference. 3
  4. For proposed actions that are either an Order of Revocation, Order of Suspension, Order of Assessment, or the Denial of Issuance of Airman Certificate, lay the groundwork to appeal to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) 4
    You will need to request that the proposed order be issued so that you have an order to appeal. Unless the FAA can demonstrate an emergency, the order is stayed up to 60 days once you file the appeal with the NTSB. 5
  5. If the proposed action is for a violation of Title V of the Federal Aviation Act, you can request an administrative hearing from the FAA. Your response must be postmarked within fifteen(15) days or the proposed order from the FAA administrator will be deemed issued. 6

Request an administrative hearing
Should you choose to request an administrative hearing, you will need to file your answer along with your request for an administrative hearing. Make sure you answer all allegations or the administrative court will deem unanswered allegations as "admitted." 7 Mail your answer, motions, and your request for a hearing to 8:

Federal Aviation Administration
800 Independence Avenue, SW.
Washington, DC 20591
Attention: Hearing Docket Clerk, AGC - 430,
Wilbur Wright Building - Suite 2W1000.

Federal Aviation Administration
600 Independence Avenue, SW.
Wilbur Wright Building - Suite 2W1000
Washington, DC 20591
Attention: Hearing Docket Clerk, AGC - 430.

Make objections
You also have the option of filing these objection motions in lieu of filing an answer.

  1. Motion to dismiss for insufficiency
    You can use this motion to allege that the facts in the proposed action fail to show a violation of the particular act alleged. 9
  2. Motion for a more definite statement
    You can use this motion in lieu of answer to ask the court to order the FAA to make more "definite and certain" the allegations in the notice. 10
  3. Motion to strike
    You can make this motion asking the court to remove "any insufficient allegation or defense, or any immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter." The FAA counsel also has this motion available at their disposal. 11

Note that 14 CFR 13.49(g) consolidates available objection motions for a party. If you do not make all objection motions available to you at the particular time, your particular objection will be waived 12. If your objections are overruled by the ALJ, you have ten additional days to provide an answer to the proposed order. 13

After the initial pleadings
Once the pleadings are in, both you and the FAA have the option of filing a motion for judgment on the pleadings. Here, you state that based on everything on the face of the pleadings that you should have your case dismissed in your favor. 14 Should the case not be dismissed, you will move into the discovery and eventually the trial phase. You are able to amend pleadings up to ten (10) days before the hearing. If you amend the initial pleading, the other side has a right to respond to your amendment. 15

Appeal to the NTSB
All cases related to 14 CFR 13 except for Aircraft Certificate Revocation cases can be appealed to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). At that point, the FAA Administrator's order is stayed, unless "an emergency exists and safety in air commerce requires that the order become effective immediately." 16 In that case, the appeal must be heard and a verdict must be issued within sixty (60) days. 17

You can find resources for practice at the NTSB here: http://www.ntsb.gov/alj/o_alj.htm. The site provides direction and links to the relevant rules of practice as related to answers and appeals. Also included on the site are the forms needed to file motions with the NTSB properly. As the NTSB looks at Marine incidents in addition to aviation, make sure you are looking at forms and pages for "airmen."

1 14 CFR 13.19(c)(2)
2 14 CFR 13.19(c)(4)
3 14 CFR 13.19(c)
4 14 CFR 13.19(c)(3)
5 14 CFR 13.19(d)
6 14 CFR 13.19(c)
7 14 CFR 13.35(b), (c)
8 14 CFR 13.35(a)

9 14 CFR 13.49(a)
14 CFR 13.49(c)
11 14 CFR 13.49(e)
12 14 CFR 13.49(g)
13 14 CFR 13.49(a), (c)
14 14 CFR 13.49(d)
15 14 CFR 13.45
16 14 CFR 13.19(d)
17 14 CFR 13.19(d)


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About the Author

Chris Fortier is Chair of the ABA Young Lawyers Division's Public Utilities, Telecommunications, and Transportation Committee for the bar year 2006-2007 and Young Lawyer Liaison to the Section of Public Utilities, Communications, and Transportation Law. He is admitted to the Virginia and Washington, DC bars.

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