Answers for Pilots

Busted!

December 1, 2000

The FAA's expunction program can be your friend

Flying his passenger home from a business trip on New Year's Eve five years ago, the corporate pilot deviated from his assigned altitude. At 400 feet from his designated altitude, the controller notified him that he had violated the separation between his airplane and a Delta commuter. Once on the ground, the corporate pilot filed a NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System form and, while he was waived from any further enforcement action, the incident was noted on his record.

Flash forward a few years, and this same corporate pilot now hopes to move on to an airline job. Will his violation still appear on his record? How should he respond to the question on the application, "Have you ever been cited for an FAA violation?" The corporate pilot called the aviation technical specialists at AOPA.

The FAA expunction program was adopted in 1992. Its aim is to purge the FAA's records of old violation histories. It removes from these records anything showing that a pilot was fined or had a certificate suspended more than five years ago. "The program is of great benefit to pilots looking for flying jobs," said Paul Smith, AOPA aviation technical specialist. "However, most companies are still going to ask if a pilot has ever been convicted of violating the FARs, rather than asking if there is a violation currently on their record."

The duration until expunction depends on the penalty.

  • Violations resulting in a suspension of an airman certificate or a civil penalty against an individual: five years.
  • Violations resulting in an administrative action (letter of correction or warning notice): two years.
  • Violation resulting in a revocation of the pilot certificate: These records are not automatically expunged.
  • Cases that are closed without an enforcement action: 90 days.
  • Pending legal enforcement actions will not be expunged.

According to Smith, pilots who are concerned with the status of their records should check up on the FAA. "The expunction program is essentially the FAA telling you 'we will not consider this part of your airman's record.' But there are 650,000 pilots and that many records. The FAA might not have gotten around to expunging your file. If you are concerned about your record, check on it."

The easiest way to request a copy of your repetitive EIS (enforcement information subsystem) and/ or your AID (accident/incident database) file is to fax a request to the FAA (405/954-4655; Attn.: AFS-624). Include your full name, date of birth, certificate number, address, and a statement requesting a copy of your EIS/AID file, added Smith.

Regardless of whether they qualify for an expunction, pilots should always answer questions on employment applications, insurance forms, and others honestly, said Smith.

"I'd like to be able to say that I've never been cited," said the corporate pilot, "but it's better to be truthful and explain what happened and know that the violation has been expunged."

"I recommend that you be forthcoming," agreed Smith. "If your employer finds out, and you falsified your application, you could be worse off than if you admitted it. AOPA has tried since the program began to convince the airlines and insurance companies to ask only if the applicant has a record of a violation - not if one ever occurred. So far we haven't been successful, but we're still trying."

As an AOPA member, you have access to the best resource anywhere for information and answers for pilots. AOPA Online (www.aopa.org) provides members with access to a wealth of information and resources 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The AOPA toll-free Pilot Information Center gives you direct access to specialists in every area of aviation. The center, 800/USA-AOPA (800/872-2672), is available to members from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern time, Monday through Friday.


AOPA Web resources

An article by AOPA counsel John Yodice explaining the origins of the FAA expunction program and an analysis of its effect on pilot records.
www.aopa.org/members/files/pilot/1993/pc9303.html

The AOPA aviation services department prepares detailed subject reports on topics affecting pilots. This report provides in-depth information on the expunction program.
www.aopa.org/members/files/topics/expunc.html

An AOPA subject report titled "An Overview of FAA Enforcement."
www.aopa.org/members/files/guides/enforce.html