Be prepared in case of accident or incident
Most pilots don’t know reporting procedure
AOPA Counsel Kathy Yodice wants AOPA members to remember that even the most judicious pilots can have an accident or incident involving their airplane.
“It’s not that unusual to have a ground mishap—a hard landing, a taxi incident, a mechanic drops a tool, hangar rash. Or, your aircraft can have a mechanical malfunction. These may have little or nothing to do with the member’s skill in operation of an aircraft. Still, they couldfall under the category of accidents triggering legal obligations to report the matter to the proper authorities,” she said.
According to Yodice, many pilots don’t know that any reportable accident or incident is to the NTSB, not the FAA. She said, “That is so often misunderstood. Pilots call the FAA, but that’s wrong, and making the wrong call could unnecessarily cause you more trouble. Generally, you have no reporting obligation to the FAA (unless ATC gave you priority handling or you declared an emergency), but a written report by the pilot and/or the operator of the aircraft may be required to the NTSB.”
Yodice says that “accident” is narrowly defined in the NTSB's rules. An accident includes any death, a serious injury which is defined in the regulations, or substantial damage to the aircraft which is also defined. Yodice says that when in doubt, seek competent assistance to help determine what does, and does not, need to be reported.
Here’s where it gets tricky, though. Since the NTSB is a relatively small organization, and the FAA a large one, the NTSB will often delegate investigation to an FAA representative. That person is acting on behalf of the NTSB, but actually works for the FAA. So a pilot could be talking to someone with the authority to suspend his or her license. Yodice says, “There’s much debate about this, but it can be difficult for a member who could inadvertently say the wrong thing to an investigator who may use it against you. You need to understand who you are speaking to, or otherwise you could get into an unnecessary enforcement action.”
That’s why the AOPA Legal Services Plan can be invaluable to an AOPA member. One call can put you in touch with an experienced aviation counselor who can guide you step by step through the reporting process. Now is the time to enroll in AOPA’s Legal Services Plan online or by calling 800/USA-AOPA (800/872-2672).
July 21, 2010