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Mon, May 14, 2012

ANN Guest Editorial: What The Hey, FAA??

By ANN Guest Columnist Kristy Graham,

ANN E-I-C Note: Ms. Graham has submitted the following editorial in support of a story we did last week (Stupid Fed Trix? Anonymous Unsubstantiated FAA Hotline Call Gets Pilot Suspended) discussing the issues involved in yet another FAA action against an admittedly innocent pilot victimized by anonymous and unsubstantiated complaints, at least one of which was submitted by Convicted Felon and Criminal Pilot, David G Riggs... whom we fear may be one of the most dangerous men in all of General Aviation -- despite the FAA's inexplicable unwillingness to confront a number of well-documented issues associated with his actions. -- Jim Campbell, ANN Editor-In-Chief

According to the FAA, their mission is to, "provide the safest, most efficient aerospace system in the world".

And their values state that, "excellence is our promise. We seek results that embody professionalism, transparency and accountability".

I beg to differ.

Since starting the website in April of 2011, to fight the dangers we saw, firsthand, from one convicted felon/pilot (David Riggs), I have had the opportunity to watch quite closely how the FAA can operate.

It's not comforting.

I'm not a pilot, so maybe I have a different perspective, but what I see is a group that finds pilots guilty until they prove themselves innocent -- even in the face of piles of evidence to the contrary.

Even that seems to be selective.

I have seen a pilot fly in the face of the FAA, breaking a multitude of regulations, and not be held (truly) accountable. Yet another pilot, with years of experience and no infractions against him, has been pummeled -- based on nothing but unsupported accusations.

The first time it happened, I defended them.

"They are doing their jobs," I thought.

The rules say they have to investigate every report they get. While the letters they sent out were rude and accusatory, again I defended them.

"It's just a standard form letter, poorly written and obviously from the 50s, but I wouldn't take it personally."

They put the entire thing (and all expenses) directly in the lap of the accused pilot.

It's okay, it'll get fixed.

And it did, but not without a lot of argument, a lot of dancing and a lot of assistance from outside forces.

Then it started again.

This time it wasn't so easy to excuse. They already knew there was a vendetta, and that they were being used. They asked for documents they already had, and others that had no relevance. Conversations were had, but apparently the agent in question didn't find it necessary to actually make note of those conversations. The case was apparently 'closed' and the pilot cleared, but on the same day that letter went out, another went out with an "Emergency Suspension Order" from a different department.

Again, I defended the FAA.

"It was a clerical error, someone just forgot to check a box or move a file."

And again, calls were made, another article appeared on Aero-News, lawyers were contacted.

Again it looked as though they were going to fix it.

There was notification that the Emergency Suspension was being lifted -- but there is a second associated action still pending.

The solution? 'You can contact someone' to request a hearing.

At that moment I realized that the feeble hope, in the back of my head for all these months, that there had to be some explanation for the odd actions and inactions of the FAA, had some sort of logic to it somewhere -- You just had to find it...

THAT hope blew up right in my face.

There is no logic. It boils down to this (in my opinion) -- going after a rogue pilot flying around doing illegal acts would take work on the part of the FAA.

They would have to research what regulations were broken. In some cases, they would have to collect the evidence that proves the acts (not hard when it's all over the internet) but it seems beyond their capabilities and willingness to do so.

In the case of criminal actions (vs FAA violations), they would have to actually contact other agencies to get assistance in putting together a criminal case and work towards criminal charges.

That's a lot of work.

I know.

I've been collecting that very evidence for over a year. That's work the FAA doesn't seem to want to do.

I've been told many times that when it comes to the FAA, "It's a risk for them to say yes, but there is no risk in saying no."

I guess that there truly is a risk in actually going after a criminal -- but not in harassing an innocent.

Instead, it's much easier to just wait for someone to call in an unsubstantiated complaint and make an innocent pilot jump through hoops to prove his (or her) innocence. And when that pilot has the audacity to stick up for himself, and his rights, they make sure to make it as difficult and frustrating as possible.

Ii is this way that they now have a pile of paper to justify their jobs and suggest that they're 'doing something.'

For whatever reason that very same FAA continues to hassle an innocent pilot, who has already been cleared of any violations, while continuing to look the other way at a pilot who has been breaking laws and regulations for years.

This FAA has no accountability -- and they seem to project attitude of being untouchable. Unless someone shines the light on their insanity, they run roughshod over hard-working pilots and mechanics -- picking and choosing who they actually decide to go after (no matter how many times they say they have to investigate EVERY report).

This seems to have happened because one department closed a case, and apparently didn't tell another department. And even when it was addressed AGAIN, one of the two departments involved (Legal), still chooses to keep harassing and inconveniencing a pilot who BROKE NO RULES.

Why? For no other reason than... they can.

One has to wonder what kind of nightmare an innocent pilot, who doesn't have someone to call for help, goes through. Spend thousands and thousands of dollars and probably still lose their ticket? Potentially over a fake accusation?

When one person can attack another, and with one anonymous phone call, set into motion months of hassles, threatening letters and, "we don't care" attitudes, the system is obviously broken. When we asked why they didn't stop this latest episode and whether it meant that the harassment could continue forever, the response was "Theoretically, yes".

Theoretically? Ask Randy Shatz... there is no theory here at all... he is living that nightmare right now and we have no idea how many other airmen are doing likewise.

With an answer like that, how can anyone have any faith in this organization? Their very actions seems to offer any attacker rote permission to use them as your personal delivery vehicle for most any vendetta.

Some think that because I'm not a pilot, I don't understand.

They would be wrong.

I think I see that which pilots should be afraid of even better than many of them do.

FMI: ANN Readers... Is The FAA Playing Fair With GA??? ,


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