September 26, 2013
By Elizabeth A Tennyson
A little more than a year after the Pilot’s Bill of Rights took effect, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has issued a final rule implementing many of the provisions of that law.
Under the rule issued Sept. 20, the NTSB adopted a series of changes to its Rules of Practice. The changes are designed to ensure that pilots facing enforcement actions are treated fairly and have timely access to information about their cases.
The NTSB will now be required to apply the same rules of evidence and procedure used in federal courts as a way to ensure the fairness of proceedings, including appeals. Another rule change makes it possible for the NTSB to sanction the FAA by dismissing cases or taking other appropriate action if the agency doesn’t provide a pilot with the FAA Enforcement Investigative Report after the pilot has requested the information. The rules also give pilots the right to appeal NTSB final orders in either a federal district court or a federal court of appeals.
Many of the changes in the final rule draw directly from comments and recommendations submitted by AOPA.
“The Pilot’s Bill of Rights was created to ensure that pilots facing certificate enforcement actions are treated fairly, and these NTSB rule changes will help make that a reality,” said AOPA Vice President of Regulatory Affairs Rob Hackman.
At the same time the NTSB issued its final rule, the panel proposed a new rule that would extend some of the protections of the Pilot’s Bill of Rights to emergency cases. Under the proposal, the FAA would be required to provide a copy of its Enforcement Investigative Report at the same time it serves an Emergency Order of Revocation or Suspension. Comments on that proposal must be filed by Oct. 21.
Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) has proposed legislation designed to ensure pilots fairer treatment and more access to information in FAA enforcement actions, reform the appellate process, and create advisory boards to help improve the notices to airmen and medical certification processes.
AOPA commends President Barack Obama for signing into law the Pilot's Bill of Rights on Aug. 3. The legislation guarantees pilots under investigation by the FAA expanded protection against enforcement actions via access to investigative reports, air traffic control and flight service recordings, and it also requires the FAA to provide the evidence being used as the basis of enforcement at least 30 days in advance of action.
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