Stupid or Just a Liar? NTSB Properly Denies Pilot for Omitting DUI
Though the NTSB may be getting a bum rap for the way it handled the Asiana Flight 214 investigation, it still knows when to slap down a pilot who is misbehaving.
In Taylor v. Huerta, the D.C. Circuit Court approved of the National Transportation and Safety Board (NTSB) doing just that, denying a petition to review a pilot's case where he lied or, at best recklessly omitted, a prior DUI arrest when applying for a medical certification.
The complaining pilot blamed the buttons on the application's online form, but the Taylor Court had some gripes of their own.
D.C. Circuit Does Housekeeping
For starters, the D.C. Circuit opined that they wouldn't have even published the review of this case, but apparently they're so lousy with similar complaints for review from pilots situated like Stephen Taylor (or worse), they decided this was a good place to set the records straight.
Taylor claims the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was incorrect in finding that he falsified a statement when he omitted a 2008 California arrest for DUI on an application for a medical certification, claiming that he didn't intend to make the omission (he thought the form was asking about "convictions").
Review of NTSB's Review
Like almost all review of agency decisions, the D.C. Circuit reviews the findings of the NTSB's decision under an "arbitrary and capricious" standard requiring some substantial evidence to support the claim.
Unfortunately for Taylor, there is a case almost exactly on point where a pilot omitted a DUI arrest on the same medical application that Taylor was using, and in Cooper v. NTSB the Court found, not shockingly, that not paying attention to what a form is asking does not undo attesting by signature that the information is true.
It Wasn't Me, It Was The Button
Not to be so easily trapped by a trifle like case precedent, Taylor tried to distinguish his case from Cooper's, claiming that his form was online, and the system contained a button which allowed an applicant to automatically answer "No" to the relevant question without fully reading its contents.
The D.C. Circuit tells Taylor to stop being so melodramatic about the button, -- we at FindLaw are very sensible about buttons -- and dismisses his unrealistic argument by affirming that electronic convenience does not abrogate an applicant's obligation to truthfully answer the questions to the best of his knowledge.
Just For Fun -- Due Process
Although claims of denial of procedural due process are meritorious in many cases, here it appears that Taylor is seizing on the complexity of the interaction between the FAA and the NTSB, claiming that a prior version of the federal law allowed for a NSTB "rubber stamp" of lower decisions.
The Taylor Court doesn't give him the opportunity though, as it opines that Congress was well within its power to structure reviews and interaction between the two administrations, and that despite the law's recent change, Taylor was offered sufficient due process under the old system.
If you're a pilot, or anyone, don't lie on federal forms. It will come back to haunt you, and saying "I didn't read the form carefully" won't save you.
- FAA Application Omission Penalty Not Arbitrary or Capricious (FindLaw's D.C. Circuit Blog)
- Court Upholds Pilot's Conviction for Flying Under the Influence (FindLaw's U.S. 10th Circuit Blog)
- DUI Defenders: NTSB Recommends Lower BAC Limit, Other Changes (FindLaw's Strategist)
- 4 of 5 Circuits Agree: Federal Common Law Controls in FAA (FindLaw's In House)
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