DOT IG Investigation Prompts House Aviation Subcommittee
The Aircraft Owners and Pilots
Association recently proposed a four-point plan to help the FAA
combat the small number of falsified pilot medical certificates...
and on Wednesday, AOPA President Phil Boyer took that plan to the
highest levels of government.
Boyer told Congress that while the problem was very small, AOPA
was concerned and would work with the FAA to solve it. "Pilots are
law-abiding people, and they don't want to defraud the government,"
said Boyer, testifying before the House aviation subcommittee. "And
they don't want to fly unsafely."
Boyer states only 0.25 percent of all general aviation accidents
were caused by medical incapacitation, and only nine accidents in
nine years were caused by the incapacitation of a pilot flying with
a fraudulent medical certificate. He also reminded the committee
that pilots are required by regulation to "self-certify" that
they're healthy enough to fly before every flight.
"We're dealing with reasonable people who don't want to kill
themselves and their family, very conservative people, who will
ground themselves if they're taking a medication or have a medical
situation that prevent them from flying safely that day," Boyer
A Department of Transportation inspector general's investigation
prompted the hearing. That investigation examined some 40,000 pilot
records in Northern California and discovered that some pilots were
also claiming Social Security disability payments. Those pilots
would not have been issued medical certificates had the disability
been disclosed to the FAA.
The California US attorney successfully prosecuted 45 pilots for
fraud. That led the aviation subcommittee to question if there were
a problem with pilots lying about their medical conditions in order
to obtain a medical certificate.
"AOPA does not condone any kind of falsification of flying
records," Boyer (below) told members of Congress. And while he
reiterated that the vast majority of pilots were honest, he
outlined a cooperative program with the aviation subcommittee and
the FAA that could better guard against medically disqualified
people fraudulently obtaining medical certificates.
First, the FAA should add a statement to the medical
certification application, warning pilots that some medical data
would be shared with other agencies.
Second, a one-year amnesty program to encourage pilots to report
all medical visits and conditions to the FAA. "Pilots sometimes
forget to report a medical visit, particularly if it had nothing to
do with something that would affect their flying."
Third, the FAA should establish a data-sharing program with
other public agencies such as the Social Security Administration
within the limits permitted by the Privacy Act.
And finally, AOPA would work with the subcommittee and the FAA
to educate pilots about properly reporting all pertinent medical
information, and about the severe penalties and safety consequences
of failing to do so.
"We greatly appreciate you and your organization taking this
issue very seriously and coming up with a four-point plan,"
subcommittee Chairman Jerry Costello (D-IL) told Boyer. "It's an
action plan that is workable, makes sense, and is very
Ranking committee member Rep. Tom Petri (R-WI) added, "AOPA is
one of our great partners in the effort to keep the skies