Issue Brief: Emergency Certificate Revocations (Hoover Bill)

On Capitol Hill

Issue Brief

Emergency Certificate Revocations (Hoover Bill)

April 2000


Every pilot must hold a certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration in order to fly an aircraft. The FAA has the authority to revoke this certificate when it suspects there has been a violation of its rules. Under normal circumstances, this certificate action is comparable to an automobile traffic violation. However, if the suspected violation is a threat to safety, the FAA can use an emergency action to revoke the certificate immediately. This is an important and necessary responsibility for the FAA. However, the FAA must be judicious in its use of this extraordinary power.

The impact of an emergency revocation on the pilot is immediate and drastic � that pilot cannot fly an aircraft until the National Transportation Safety Board resolves the issue 60 days later. For people who earn their living by flying, this is a real hardship. In recent years the FAA has significantly increased its use of its emergency authority to immediately suspend or revoke airman, air carrier and air agency certificates. Since 1989, emergency cases, as a total of all enforcement actions heard by NTSB, have more than doubled. In many of these cases, circumstances clearly did not support such drastic action.

In response to this situation, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) developed legislation that would correct this abuse of power by the FAA. This legislation is sometimes called the "Hoover Bill" after Bob Hoover, a well-known aerobatics pilot whose certificate was revoked by the FAA. This legislation establishes an appeal process for emergency certificate actions. Within 48 hours of receiving an emergency revocation order, the pilot can request a hearing before the NTSB on the "emergency" nature of the revocation. The NTSB will then have 48 hours to hear arguments from both sides, and within five days must determine if a true emergency exists. While the NTSB reviews the case to determine whether aviation safety requires immediate action, the revocation remains in effect and the pilot loses his ability to fly. If the NTSB determines that no emergency exists, then the certificate would be returned and the airman could continue flying while the FAA pursued their revocation case against him in an expedited appeal process. If NTSB decides an emergency does exist, then the revocation remains in effect and the pilot cannot fly while the case is adjudicated.

This legislation would protect safety but would prevent abuse of the FAA�s emergency authority. AOPA Legislative Action strongly supports this legislation, along with many other aviation groups representing general aviation, airlines, airline pilots and the NTSB Bar Association. Representatives of nine of these groups signed a letter authored by AOPA in support of Inhofe�s bill sent April 28.

Current Status:

Sen. Inhofe�s bill, S. 722, was introduced on March 25, 1999. It was included as an amendment to the Senate FAA Reauthorization bill (S. 82). This bill, along with the House version known as AIR-21, was passed by the Congress and signed by the President in the spring of this year. It gives the holder of a FAA certificate the right to appeal the immediate nature of an emergency revocation to the NTSB.