As Long As You Hold An Airman Certificate, You Must Report Motor Vehicle Actions To The FAA

by Gregory J. Reigel
Attorney At Law
Copyright 2016. All Rights Reserved
Published in Midwest Flyer – Dec 2016/Jan 2017

If you hold an airman certificate, you know, or at least you should know, that you are subject to the reporting requirements of 14 C.F.R. §61.15. That is, Section 61.15(e) requires an airman to report a motor vehicle action (“MVA”) to the FAA Civil Aviation Security Division within 60 days. The written report must include: “(1) The person’s name, address, date of birth, and airman certificate number; (2) The type of violation that resulted in the conviction or the administrative action; (3) The date of the conviction or administrative action; (4) The State that holds the record of conviction or administrative action; and (5) A statement of whether the motor vehicle action resulted from the same incident or arose out of the same factual circumstances related to a previously reported motor vehicle action.”

What is an MVA? According to the regulation, an MVA is (1) a violation of any Federal or State statute relating to the operation of a motor vehicle while intoxicated by alcohol or a drug, while impaired by alcohol or a drug, or while under the influence of alcohol or a drug; (2) the cancellation, suspension, or revocation of a license to operate a motor vehicle, for a cause related to the operation of a motor vehicle while intoxicated by alcohol or a drug, while impaired by alcohol or a drug, or while under the influence of alcohol or a drug; or (3) the denial of an application for a license to operate a motor vehicle for a cause related to the operation of a motor vehicle while intoxicated by alcohol or a drug, while impaired by alcohol or a drug, or while under the influence of alcohol or a drug.

It is important to realize that this definition includes more than just being arrested for or convicted of Driving While Intoxicated (“DWI”), Operating While Intoxicated (“OWI”), etc. A civil action that often accompanies a DWI arrest in most states, and that results in suspension of the driver’s license, is also considered an MVA. Thus, an arrest for DWI could create the obligation for an airman to provide multiple reports to the FAA depending upon how the civil and criminal cases proceed. And if an airman fails to report an MVA, Section 61.15(f) states that he or she could be subject to (1) Denial of an application for any certificate or rating for a period of up to 1 year after the date of the arrest; or (2) Suspension or revocation of any certificate or rating.

But what happens if you hold an airman certificate, but you no longer hold a medical certificate, or you have “retired” from flying? Are you still subject to this reporting requirement? The short answer is “yes,” as a recent National Transportation Safety Board (“NTSB”) decision explains. In Administrator v. Street, the airman was an experienced airline pilot who failed to report four MVAs arising from two DWIs. When the FAA found out, it issued an order suspending the airman’s Airline Transport Pilot (“ATP”) Certificate for 240 days. On appeal, the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) agreed that the airman had violated sections 61.15(d) and (e), but determined that the sanction should only be a 30-day suspension.

Not surprisingly, the FAA was unhappy with that decision and appealed to the full Board. The FAA argued that the 240 days should stick and, of course, the airman argued that the ALJ’s decision should stand. Specifically, the airman argued that at the time of the violations, he did not have a medical certificate and was not actively flying, which should serve as mitigating factors in support of the lower sanction. However, the Board rejected that argument stating the reporting requirements of §61.15(e) are applicable to an airman who temporarily “retires” from flying, and upheld the FAA’s original 240-day suspension.

The Board explained that “[w]hile respondent testified that he did not plan to return to flying, his obligation to comply with the FARs continued regardless of whether he was actively flying at the time the MVAs occurred. Sections 61.15(d) and (e) are exclusively concerned with conduct outside the scope of an airman’s certificate. It is immaterial whether respondent was actively flying or had a medical certificate at the time the MVAs occurred because his status as an ATP certificate holder rendered the requirements of §§ 61.15(d) and (e) applicable to him.”

So, the moral of the story is: If you hold an airman certificate, you need to be familiar with, and comply with, the requirements of §61.15. Until you no longer hold your airman certificate (whether the certificate has been surrendered, suspended or revoked), you will need to report any MVA to the FAA.

NOTE: The FAA issues orders of suspension/revocation and then NTSB (either an Administrative Law Judge or the full Board) decides appeals of those orders/decisions. An airman may also appeal an NTSB Board decision to either the U.S. Court of Appeals or to U.S. District Court.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Greg Reigel is an attorney with Shackelford, Melton, McKinley & Norton, LLP, and represents clients throughout the country in aviation and business law matters. For assistance, call 214-780-1482, email greigel@shackelfordlaw.net, or Twitter @ReigelLaw.

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