Legal 101: For students

June 12, 2013

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Kathy Yodice

Kathy Yodice

  • Attorney, Counsel to AOPA 
  • Former FAA attorney 
  • Has assisted AOPA members for more than 13 years 
  • Pilot since 1994, owns a Cherokee 180 

As students embark on the journey of learning how to fly, they quickly learn that it involves more than knowing how to manipulate the controls to make the aircraft fly and navigate the sky. Sooner or later, students come to understand that there is a myriad of rules and regulations that must be learned and memorized. From experience, I can tell you that those rules and regulations can be very complicated and some are subject to interpretation and robust debate. Don’t be discouraged. Your flight and ground instructors will help you, the books and articles that are available to you will help you, and there are many seminars, courses, and organizations that can help you refresh what you’ve learned and build upon it as you move through your flying career. As a member of AOPA’s Legal Services Plan within the Pilot Protection Services program, you can call legal counselors to get answers to questions that can guide you against engaging in conduct that you might have otherwise thought to be in compliance with the regulations.

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The FAA is also there to help you. Heard that yet? Many at the FAA are helpful and take care to help you with any questions that you may have. Still, having a conversation with someone who is also policing you can be intimidating—especially if it is the FAA that initiates the conversation with you, after something has happened that has caught their attention. Yes, it can happen to student pilots, and it does. Whether it has to do with how you may have flown the aircraft during a solo flight, or with the way you completed a medical application form, or you’re being asked questions about your CFI or the examiner who conducted your checkride, knowing if and how to respond could make the difference in how the matter may be resolved. It’s best to get advice from competent counsel before calling or writing a letter back to the FAA inspector. Again, as a member of AOPA’s Legal Services Plan within the Pilot Protection Services program, you can get legal advice from counselors about your rights, your options, and the possible consequences of the FAA’s inquiry and the plan will pay for an attorney to represent you if the matter progresses to that point.

Know your personal limits, stay proficient, always be open to learning, and exercise good judgment—good tools to keeping safe.

Learn more about the Pilot Protection Services program.

Kathy Yodice is an aviation attorney for AOPA’s Pilot Protection Services and Legal Services Plan. She’s assisted AOPA members for more than 13 years and is a former FAA attorney. Kathy owns a Cherokee 180 and has been a pilot since 1994.

Kathy Yodice