|FAA Enforcement Actions Explained|
|FAA Quarterly Enforcement Actions|
|Friday, 16 November 2007 06:44|
The Federal Aviation Administration is publishing a quarterly compilation of enforcement actions against regulated aviation entities that are closed with a civil penalty or issuance of a certificate suspension or revocation. The compilation is based on data from the agency's Enforcement Information System (EIS). For purposes of this compilation, a regulated aviation entity holds a certificate issued by the FAA, e.g., air carrier operating certificate, repair station certificate, pilot school certificate, airport operating certificate, or is a foreign air carrier or other aviation entity regulated under Part 129 of the Federal Aviation Regulations, 14 CFR part 129.
The FAA has authority to issue orders assessing a civil penalty of up to $50,000 for violations of certain aviation laws and regulations. An air carrier is subject to a penalty of up to $11,000 for a single violation of the aviation law or an FAA regulation; other entities are subject to a penalty of up to $1,100. There is no $50,000 limitation on assessments for violations of the Hazardous Materials Transportation Safety Act or the Hazardous Materials Transportation Regulations, and the penalty for each violation of these requirements ranges from $250 to $27,000.
Before a penalty is assessed, an entity may appeal the notice proposing a civil penalty. A hearing before one of the Department of Transportation's administrative law judges (ALJ) is available. Any decision by an ALJ may be appealed to the FAA Administrator.
For civil penalties in excess of $50,000 (for other than hazardous materials violations), the FAA has authority to compromise a penalty, but not assess it. This type of action is initiated when the FAA sends a civil penalty letter to an entity. The letter advises that the FAA believes the entity has violated a statute or regulation. The letter also states that the FAA is willing to accept a penalty of a specified amount in resolution of the matter. An entity may pay this amount or another agreed-upon amount, including an amount less than $50,000 and no adjudicated finding of violation is made a part of the entity's enforcement record. If an entity does not agree to the compromise, the case is referred to a United States Attorney for prosecution in United States district court. There a penalty is assessed, if appropriate, and findings of violation, which serve as part of a certificate holder's enforcement record, can be made.
Final decisions by the Administrator or the district court may be appealed to a United States court of appeals.
Certificate suspensions of a fixed number of days are issued to discipline an alleged violator and to deter others similarly situated. Suspensions of indefinite duration are issued to prevent a certificate holder from exercising the privileges of a certificate pending demonstration that the certificate holder meets the standards required to hold its certificate. Certificate revocations are issued when the FAA determines that a certificate holder is no longer qualified to hold a certificate. Orders of suspension and revocation issued by the FAA may be appealed to the National Transportation Safety Board, and the Board's decisions may be reviewed by a United States court of appeals.
Informal Procedures and Settlements
There is an opportunity at the beginning of most enforcement cases for informal procedures, including an informal conference with an FAA attorney, to give the alleged violator a chance to bring to the FAA's attention information favorable to it, e.g., exculpatory or mitigating evidence. During these informal procedures an enforcement action can sometimes be resolved to the mutual satisfaction of the parties.
Either during the informal procedures or later in the process, cases are often settled without resort to the full litigation process. Such settlements often result after consideration of the risks and expense of litigation. Settlements may reflect a lower civil penalty amount, sometimes due to charges being dropped, or the payment of a civil penalty without a violation established as a matter of record. In the latter case, the FAA may issue a compromise order. In some situations, multiple cases are resolved at one time, a situation when a consent order, signed by the FAA and the regulated entity, may be issued. Finally, sometimes cases initiated as certificate actions, i.e., suspensions or revocations, are resolved by payment of a civil penalty.
Understanding the Report
At the end of each quarter of the calendar year, the FAA compiles a data run for all enforcement actions against aviation entities that involve safety and security issues and are closed with a civil penalty or issuance of an order of certificate suspension or revocation. For purposes of this report, cases are considered to be closed after an order has been issued that is no longer appealable or when a civil penalty is compromised. For other record-keeping purposes in the Enforcement Information System a case is considered closed only after some other event, e.g., payment of a civil penalty or a determination that the penalty is not collectable or, in the case of suspension or revocation, surrender of the certificate.
Following is an explanation of the terminology used in the report:
Beginning with the reports for calendar year 1999, the case number for each enforcement action will be listed in this column. The case number is the number of the enforcement investigative report for that enforcement action.
The name of the aviation entity is listed in this column. The entity ordinarily holds an FAA-issued certificate and, in those cases, the name in the column is the name of the certificate holder recorded in the FAA's official records.
The following are explanations of the abbreviations that are used in this column of the report:
The date a violation or apparent violation became known to the FAA is listed in this column.
The type of legal enforcement action taken is listed in this column. The following are explanations of the abbreviations used in this column of the report.
This column contains the amount of dollars of a civil penalty or the number of days for a certificate suspension. The column is blank in the case of a certificate revocation.
The final sanction is either "dollars," which indicates that the number in the Final Amount column reflects a civil penalty, or "days," which indicates that the number in the Final Amount column reflects a certificate suspension for the specified number of days. "Indefinite duration" is an entry that reflects that a certificate has been suspended indefinitely pending demonstration that the certificate holder meets the standards required to hold its certificate. "Revocation" is also an entry under the Sanction Type heading, indicating certificate revocation. "Consolidated Case" is another entry in this column. It indicates that the case is one of a number of cases that were closed together. The sanction attributable to the case is part of the sanction amount listed with another, "master" case of the same certificate holder that was closed on the same date. The "master" case is listed above the case(s) labeled as consolidated.
"Sanction waived" indicates that the FAA has agreed not to impose against the aviation entity the corresponding number of days or dollars in the Sanction Amount Column. The FAA's agreement usually is based on the aviation entity's agreement to take steps beyond minimum regulatory requirements to enhance the safety or security of its operation. If the aviation entity does not carry through on its commitment, the FAA will impose the amount of sanction that was to have been waived. In cases where some sanction is waived, the total amount of sanction against the aviation entity equals the amount of sanction waived plus the amount of sanction listed directly above it.
This column lists a category of violation or apparent violation that was primarily involved in the case. Following are explanations of the violation categories used in the report:
The category "Other" could include violations such as a certificate holder's failure to surrender a certificate or an air carrier's allowing a person who appears to be intoxicated to board its aircraft. The field inspector has the discretion to determine the case type or category of the violation.