As disciplined and meticulous pilots, we’re always striving to achieve that perfect flight from engine startup to shut down. However, even the most experienced pilot can get distracted by a passenger or have a momentary bout of information overload while trying to copy an amended clearance on climb out, resulting in an inadvertent deviation from an ATC instruction that ultimately gets the attention of the FAA.
AOPA’s Pilot Protection Services knows that your pilot and medical certificates mean everything to you, and that’s why our trusted Legal Services Plan attorneys and Medical Certification Specialists are here to help protect them when things don’t go as planned.
With an average of nearly 4,500 aviation-related legal matters and over 1,000 medical certification-related cases per year, the variety of calls we receive from plan participants on a daily basis run the gamut. To give you an example of the most common, here are the Top 5 Type of Matters that members need assistance with.
Although BasicMed is the hot topic these days, the majority of legal-related medical certification calls relate to the FAA requiring a pilot to provide additional medical information or seeking the pilot’s surrender of his or her airman medical certificate. There is usually a short window of time to respond to these types of FAA letters, so if you happen to receive one, plan participants should contact our office as soon as possible to speak with an attorney so you understand your options prior to responding to the FAA.
It’s common for pilots to call our office asking for clarification on topics such as general operating and flight rules, airman certification questions, Part 43 maintenance issues, special use airspace, aircraft registration, or to refresh their understanding of ferry permits or what constitutes a flight for compensation or hire.
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This category includes everything from a runway incursion, off airport landing, the FBO towing your airplane into a light pole, to ground loops and hard landings. These also tend to be the most challenging cases because the pilot may be coping with a traumatic experience while simultaneously facing an NTSB investigation, possible FAA action, or other serious legal issues arising from injuries or damage to property.
By a wide margin, the most common type of call we get from airmen has to do with some sort of pilot deviation. These are the type of matters that typically begin with Air Traffic Control asking a pilot to call a telephone number after landing, and could be the result of a pilot not complying with ATC instructions, inadvertently flying into controlled airspace, penetrating a TFR, or not flying the published departure procedure.
I hope that this list of Top 5 Type of Matters provides some insight on the wide array of topics the Legal Services Plan attorneys and Medical Certification Specialists handle daily. Pilot Protection Services is an AOPA members-only benefit, and one that we’re proud to provide to thousands of pilots like you.
Scot Shealer, Senior Director Pilot Protection Services
Legal Services Plan & Medical Certification Services
(Scot is a third generation pilot who holds an instrument rating with high performance and complex endorsements.)