by Greg Reigel, AAL
Copyright 2018. All Rights Reserved
Published in Midwest Flyer – April/May 2018 issue
To this day, I am still amazed at the number of pilots and aviation professionals I run into who think it is OK to “pencil whip” a document. Some pilots trying to build time toward their next certificates/ratings may add “pencil whipping time” to their pilot logbooks. A CFI may provide a flight review endorsement when none, or when only some of the flight review, was actually conducted.
Sometimes a mechanic will add an entry to a maintenance record when the item was not yet performed, or backdate the record to show the item was performed at a date/time before the work was actually completed.
Training records may be “doctored” to correct errors. Unfortunately, even when this “pencil whipping” occurs with the best of intentions and when the spirit of the regulation has been met, it is still not the correct way to handle these types of situations.
As many of you may know from my past articles and posts, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for that matter, take a dim view of pencil whipping, which they consider falsification. The FAA will not hesitate to revoke all of an airman’s certificates, or an air carrier’s or repair station’s certificate, when it discovers intentional falsification. Although the majority of falsification cases involve applications for medical certificates, the FAA also pursues legal enforcement action against individuals in the situations I mentioned above. And both the FAA and TSA have authority to assess significant civil penalties in falsification cases.
Although it should go without saying, the easiest way to avoid this risk is to simply be honest and accurate when you are providing information and/or completing documents required by the regulations. And, fortunately, in situations where someone has pencil whipped a document and it is clear that the individual was not trying to intentionally deceive (something the FAA rarely acknowledges), alternatives to pencil whipping usually existed to address the situation without risking certificate or civil penalty actions
So, what should you do? Well, even though the temptation may be great, don’t pencil whip documents. Make sure what you write down to show regulatory compliance is accurate. If you aren’t sure what you should write, then do some more investigation and talk to someone who can help (like an aviation attorney). The risks/liabilities associated with pencil whipping are simply not worth the perceived rewards. It is better business and practice to simply not do it. But if you do, and you find yourself facing a legal enforcement or civil penalty case as a result, let me know and I will be happy to defend you.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or Twitter @ReigelLaw.