March 01, 2013

Aviation Law

Kirk Y. Griffin

Of all the areas of specialty practice in the legal profession, few have as great a variety of component parts as aviation law. From marquee crash litigation to mundane tax issues, the worldwide scope of this field encompasses the broad categories of general, commercial, and military aviation. The major agencies most frequently impacting the practitioner are the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), together with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

Most of my aviation practice involves enforcement actions by the FAA seeking to suspend or revoke a client’s pilot’s license for violations of the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs).

The FAA’s main facilities are in Washington, D.C., and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The agency’s various field offices, each named a Flight Standards District Office (FISDO, pronounced “Fiz-doe”), are in various geographic regions across the country. The FISDOs employ aviation inspectors who oversee general and commercial aviation activities in their respective jurisdictions.

In the typical case, once a potential violation is detected (by inspection or as a result of a complaint from outside the agency), the FISDO inspector will author a letter of investigation (LOI) to the pilot, mechanic, or company implicated to solicit the recipient’s version of events. A response to such inquiry is optional, and I often advise clients of my Three Rules for that occasion: Sit down, shut up, and don’t talk.

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