It was meant as a "story" to illustrate a point, much like the famous Orson Welles War of the Worlds radio broadcast. And just like that broadcast, it misled many intelligent people. The Fort Lauderdale Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) Web site reported that FAA would soon publish an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking abolishing the biennial flight review and replacing it with a requirement that pilots pass biennial knowledge and flight tests. The story was false, but it wasn't identified as such until the very end.
Alert AOPA members brought the Web article to AOPA's attention at Sun 'n Fun, citing concerns that airmen who didn't pass the new "tests" could face suspension or revocation of their certificates.
AOPA immediately contacted FAA headquarters and confirmed that the Fort Lauderdale FSDO's War of the Worlds-type message had no basis in reality. We also contacted the Fort Lauderdale FSDO manager, and he has promised to remove the story, but as of 3:30 p.m. April 9 the story was still posted.
"We appreciate a joke as much as anyone," said Andy Cebula, AOPA senior vice president of government and technical affairs, "but placing misleading information on a government Web site under the guise of humor strikes us as inappropriate and begging for trouble." Readers had to scroll through three pages of text before discovering the "joke."
"The story's point, if not its style, was valid," Cebula continued. "Pilots should take recurrent training and safety refresher courses seriously. And we applaud some of the other innovative efforts by the Fort Lauderdale FSDO to convey this message. But whether you're flying or writing, putting out false information to make a point is never acceptable."