The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the entity that hears and judges appeals of airman certificate enforcement actions taken by the FAA, is taking yet another step to protect pilots’ rights.
The NTSB recently published a final rule that amends portions of the board’s rules of practice regarding certificate enforcement actions. But already the NTSB is concerned the original rule did not go far enough to ensure pilots have a fair appeals process, especially during emergency proceedings. Therefore, a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) was published on Sept. 19 to close the remaining loophole.
The NTSB’s final rule and new NPRM are in response to the Pilot’s Bill of Rights, which was signed into law by President Obama in 2012, and efforts of NBAA’s Regulatory Issues Advisory Group, which approached the NTSB in 2009 regarding more transparency.
Among other changes, the NPRM would require the FAA to disclose its enforcement investigative report (EIR) to each respondent in an aviation certificate enforcement case. The NTSB published an interim final rule (IFR) in lieu of an NPRM in 2012 in order to expedite the implementation of these requirements.
In the NTSB’s earlier issued final rule, the FAA was only required to provide a copy of the EIR to respondents in standard airman certificate enforcement cases and specifically excludes emergency proceedings from this requirement. Comments submitted in regards to the IFR pointed out the potential loophole for the FAA. Conceivably, the FAA could withhold the EIR from an airman if that airman was subject to emergency enforcement action and the agency would still be in compliance with the existing regulation.
As a result of the IFR comments, the NTSB has published an NPRM that would also require the FAA to provide the EIR to the respondent of emergency certificate enforcement action.
“NBAA welcomes this NPRM as it applies a needed level of transparency to emergency certificate actions, which normally grounds FAA certificate holders immediately, pending the outcome of an investigation. This will give pilots who face enforcement action a fair opportunity to defend themselves, even in emergency enforcement action,” said Doug Carr, NBAA’s vice president of safety, security operations & regulation.
“We believe the NTSB is acting within the letter and spirit of the Pilot’s Bill of Rights,” he added.
Comments on the NPRM must be submitted to the NTSB by Oct. 21, 2013, and should be submitted through the Federal Regulations website, referencing Docket ID NTSB-GC-2011-0001.