Rights Act of 2012 Means to You
If you’ve been
wondering what the Pilot’s Rights Act of 2012 means to you as an airline pilot
and ALPA member, we have an answer for you: Not a lot.
The new federal legislation, signed into law by President Obama on August 3,
2012, is more significant for general aviation pilots than for ALPA members,
says Jim Johnson, ALPA supervising attorney.
In an FAA enforcement case “relating to denial, amendment, modification,
suspension, or revocation of an airman certificate,” the agency’s letter to the
accused (the so-called “10-day letter”) now must include the “releasable”
portions of the FAA’s evidence against the pilot. Johnson explains that, in most
FAA enforcement cases against ALPA members, the union advises the pilot against
responding to the letter, as any such response can be used against the
defendant, and it is not required.
ALPA attorneys then obtain the relevant evidence via a Freedom of Information
Act request. Thus this change, while it will require the FAA to supply the
information earlier, won’t matter much to ALPA members represented by ALPA
The NTSB administrative law judges who hear FAA
enforcement cases no longer will be bound by the FAA’s interpretation of FAA
regulations—and that’s a significant improvement for all pilots.
The Pilots’ Bill of Rights provides a new option for appealing a certificate
action: A pilot has a choice of appealing an NTSB Order to either the U.S.
Circuit Court of Appeals, or to the U.S. District Court in which the pilot
resides or in which the action in question occurred, or to the U.S. District
Court for the District of Columbia. An appeal to the District Court may give the
pilot the opportunity to introduce additional evidence and make additional
arguments. Pilots thus now have “another bite at the apple” if they so choose.
Another improvement for all pilots is that within six months, the FAA must
begin a NOTAM Improvement Program to streamline the NOTAM system, to include a
filtering mechanism similar to that used by the Department of Defense to reduce
the number of NOTAMs pilots receive for a specific flight. The new legislation
mandates that the improvements to the NOTAM system be implemented by August 3,
Also within six months, the FAA must begin a government/industry review of
the FAA airman medical certification process to
• revise the application form for greater clarity
• align medical qualification policies with currently accepted medical judgment
• improve public understanding of the process, and
• ensure fair and consistent application of medical standards.
The FAA will be required to issue a report to Congress based on the
assessment; within one year after issuing the report, the agency will have to
act on the report.