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Mon, May 07, 2012

Stupid Fed Trix? Anonymous Unsubstantiated FAA Hotline Call Gets Pilot Suspended

Pilot Targeted By Convicted Criminal/Pilot Gets License Suspended... With No Evidence

Over the last few years, ANN has written about the spate of dangerous and disturbing events that have transpired in connection with the name of Pilot/Conman/Felon David G Riggs.

There is now another... and its a doozy. ANN has learned that the FAA Hotline has been used once again as a tool for harassment, defamation and intimidation... and Convicted Felon David Riggs (or someone acting on his behalf) may be behind this mess, as well. 

Riggs, as you may recall from our previous narratives, is a pilot who -- in the last few years -- served jail time (among other penalties) for a dangerous public buzz job that terrified hundreds (and made pilots look like asses in coverage seen or read all over the world) as he flew an L39 in VERY close proximity to the Santa Monica Pier, and was also stopped by the FAA from pulling off a poorly conceived and demonstrably dangerous air race promotion/scam this past summer that could have endangered many attendees at the 2011 Camarillo Airshow -- and that's but two of the many scams, frauds or other issues associated with a guy who may ultimately turn out to be one of the most dangerous people in GA.

Riggs's exploits have embarrassed the aviation world time and time again... while a web blog, 'Aviation Criminal', researched and published by Kristy Graham has been tenacious, well-detailed, and instrumental in making sure that as many people as possible knew about the legitimate hazards posed by a man with an extraordinarily dangerous history of endangering others... physically and financially. Riggs has threatened and harassed Graham (and others) a number of times... but because of the manner in which Graham lives her life, his threats have had minimal effect -- although a recent law suit filed against Graham, out of state, seems to be a desperate attempt to shut her up.

Still... Riggs was not done and has turned his attention to one of her friends who happened to be yet another of his growing enemies list...

Earlier in the year, we told the tale of a (then) unnamed airman who had incurred the wrath of Riggs and found himself in a world of hurt via an anonymous call to the FAA hotline suggesting that he had Kidney Stones. Then known as "Pilot X", we now have the Pilot's permission to reveal that his name is Randy Shatz.

Randy Shatz

Previously, Shatz was implicated, first anonymously and then 'on the record' (in a statement with readily demonstrable 'errors' of fact) by David Riggs, as being afflicted with kidney stones. The FAA, despite extensive knowledge of Riggs' criminal past, the bad blood between Riggs and Shatz, the unsubstantiated nature of the complaints, and Riggs' propensity for fraudulent actions, went ahead and started an investigation process targeting Shatz. While Shatz ultimately prevailed, the process was convoluted, needlessly circuitous and pretty much unnecessary had common sense and not bureaucratic procedure been put in play. Still... the FAA was now fully aware that their Hotline had been used for illicit purposes and as a tool of harassment and intimidation.   

Several weeks ago, Shatz sued and won a judgement against Riggs for a number of issues that Riggs allegedly perpetrated -- it was a nasty battle in which Riggs attempted to assert all manner of misdeeds and improper actions on Shatz's part... including the submission of altered documents that were ultimately given little or no credibility by the court. After several days of testimony and what were reportedly some pretty outrageous assertions by Riggs, a California jury found against him. The jury's conclusions established that Riggs defamed Shatz and damaged him... the jury also threw out a number of accusations made by Riggs and when all was said and done, Shatz was awarded nearly $30K in damages and Riggs' desperate cross-complaint recovered nothing.

As this case was getting ready to go to trial, yet another complaint was called into the FAA Hotline... yes, again, against Randy Shatz. This time, yet another anonymous party alleged that Private Pilot Shatz had flown for hire in China... in concert with an event that Riggs was involved with. Again, no significant evidence was submitted, no one stepped forward to back up the complaint himself and the FAA sent yet another letter of investigation to an exasperated and justifiably concerned Shatz.

A March 1st 2012 Letter, sent by FAA Inspector in Charge, VNY FSDO's Sean T. Kaveney, demanded Shatz produce his license, his medical and his logbooks -- or face a possible FAA violation. The FAA letter gave no reason for the demand and was ridiculously bereft of substantive detail... only intoning that, "This office is in receipt of an allegation that you operated a Lancair 360 aircraft, N360DW, contrary to Federal Aviation Regulations. Pursuant to Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR), Part 61.51 (i)(1)(i), this is a formal request that you present your pilot certificate, medical certificate, and logbook{s) to personnel of this office for our inspection within 10 days of receipt of this letter."

Shatz did not know what the FAA was up to and demanded clarification... which followed in a March 6th letter, again from Sean Kaveney. The second letter stated that, "Personnel of this office are investigating the operation of a Lancair 360, N360DW, flown in exhibition aviation events at Liangping Air Base in Liangping, Chongqing, China and Neifu Airport in Xi'an, Shaanxi, China from September 30,2010 to October 17, 2010. It is alleged that these flights were conducted in a manner requiring a Commercial Pilot Certificate and that you were compensated for these flights without being properly qualified. Operations of this type are contrary to Federal Aviation Regulations. This letter is to inform you that this matter is under investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). We would appreciate receiving any statements you might care to make regarding this matter within 10 days of receipt of this letter. Any discussion or written statements furnished by you will assist in our investigation. If we do not hear from you within the specified time, our report will be processed without the benefit of your statement."

Shatz called the VNY FSDO and left a message for the FAA Inspector. Kaveney, thereafter, returned the call from Shatz and a substantive March 18th discussion ensued.

According to Shatz, "Sean T. Kaveney returned my call to discuss the letter he sent me concerning a complaint that I was flying for hire in Sep 2010 in China. I told him to contact Ian Gregor (Western Region FAA PAO -- ANN) and Dr. Stephen Goodman (Western Region AME -- ANN) about Riggs calling in and filling false complaints about me, and the history of Riggs with the FAA. I also told Kaveney that I was the plaintiff in a civil trial that had just ended, that I prevailed and Riggs had produced an altered 'temporary airman's mechanics certificate' with my name on it. During the discussion I stated that I didn't have a commercial rating and that I never claimed to have a commercial rating, that my medical was current (as per the Dr. Goodman) and that my log books for Sep 2010 showed a few hours of flying in China. I stated that I was paid to rent my plane and that I was paid as a licensed A&P. Kaveney said all he would want to see was the log, I again told him there was nothing in the log. Kaveney said ok then. That was it. I emailed Kaveney that Statement to Mach One and the Altered document entered to the court. He emailed back the next day on March 19, 2012 thanking me for the documents and who to contact about Riggs. That was the last I heard from the FAA."

Shatz seemed satisfied that the previous extensive record of harassment as well as the discussion with Kaveney was all he needed to resolve the latest mess... but also backed that up with the submission of the altered FAA documents that Riggs had submitted in civil court to impugn his credibility and asked that these "obvious violations" be investigated. This task also, eventually, fell to Kaveney. Kaveney was already not thrilled with the attention paid him after an ANN story had previously noted his attempts to target Shatz due to the Hotline, and a call to the VNY FSDO revealed that the office was not happy that Shatz had spoken to the media and were particularly unhappy with the ANN story... though no counterpoint was offered to any of the details revealed in our editorial product.

Shatz was under the impression that his discussion with Kaveney ended the matter for the moment and no follow-up or other requests from the FAA disturbed that impression.

David Riggs

Until last Friday...

On the same day, Randy Shatz received two pieces of correspondence from the FAA... one suspending his airman's certificates... the other stating that the FAA would not be investigating the forged documents that Riggs submitted to a civil court. Both letters came from Sean Kaveney.

The most important Doc contained the REALLY bad news.. and was entitled "EMERGENCY ORDER OF SUSPENSION PENDING COMPLIANCE."

The letter stated that, "Pursuant to Title 49, Sections 44709 and 46l05(c) of the United States Code, the Acting Administrator has determined that an emergency exists related to safety in air commerce and that immediate action to suspend your private pilot certificate is required. The reasons for this determination are set forth in the paragraph below entitled 'Determination of Emergency.'

Based on an investigation and all evidence presently before the Acting Administrator, he finds that:

1. You are now, and at all times mentioned herein were, the holder of Private Pilot Certificate No. 3530963.

2. On or about March 1, 2012, Inspector Sean Kaveney of the FAA's Van Nuys Flight Standards District Office sent you a letter. requesting that you present your pilot certificate, medical certificate, and logbook(s) for inspection.

3. You received the March 1, 2012, letter.

4. To date, you have failed to present the requested airman records.

The letter does not mention the conversations that took place between Shatz and Kaveney and the rationale for an "Emergency" suspension of a Private Pilot that allegedly flew for compensation nearly two years before -- not to mention the fact that he has been (well) documented to have been the target of a number of efforts at harassment and intimidation. Therefore, the need for an "Emergency" suspension seems painfully lacking and somewhat suspect.

Worse, the second missive attributed to Kaveney simply stated that, "The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has investigated an alleged violation that reportedly occurred on Wednesday, August 18, 2010. This letter is to inform you that the investigation did not establish a violation of the Federal Aviation Regulations, and you may consider the matter closed."

Based on the documents that we've seen from the civil case and a number of other details that have emerged since then, there seems to be substantial reason to be concerned that forged documents were indeed submitted during the case that Riggs pursued against Shatz in an attempt to defame and impugn his integrity... and if false docs "did not establish a violation of the Federal Aviation Regulations," then one wanders, in this day and age... what does?

Further; ANN is aware of a number of strong and serious complaints involving substantial air safety issues where David Riggs is concerned... and outside of the Santa Monica Pier incident a few years ago, nothing else appears to be happening... leaving one to wonder what the FAA is doing pursuing obvious suspect and unsubstantiated complaints against harassed pilots and not making sure that Riggs and his efforts are not involved in YET ANOTHER incident in which there is the potential for harm to others.

Analysis: Say what you will... but the FAA's priorities seem way out of kilter here... and if this isn't yet another reason for a substantive "Pilot's Bill Of Rights" (even above and beyond what Senator Inhofe proposed last year and more in line with what we've been advocating for TWO DECADES), NOTHING is.

More info to follow..

FMI: OK... What Do You Think Of The FAA's Willingness To Pursue Anonymous and Unsubstantiated Complaints Called Into The Hotline?,,


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