Addressing Change

A case recently across my desk posed an unusual situation—the unwitting client, an FAA-certificated airman, had been released from employment at a large aviation company for reasons that would soon become apparent. 

According to his employer, the airman’s qualifications could not be verified. In fact, as indicated by his FAA file, he had no qualifications at all.

As I soon learned, the airman had lost his qualifications due to an emergency order (EO) revoking his certificates—an action he knew nothing about. Even more striking is that the EO occurred approximately four years earlier.

Upon further research, it became apparent that the FAA’s Aviation Litigation Division sent the EO via FedEx to the airman’s past residence because he did not update his address promptly. The new residents failed to forward or return the package. Furthermore, an error in the FAA’s processes, combined with pandemic-related disruptions, significantly delayed an update to the FAA’s airman database, thereby critically compounding the problem.

The present case highlights the need for FAA Airmen Certificate holders (pilots, dispatchers, air traffic controllers, mechanics, etc...) to update their addresses with the FAA. In particular, 14 C.F.R. § 61.60 mandates that a pilot, flight instructor, or ground instructor “who has made a change in permanent mailing address may not, after 30 days from that date, exercise the privileges of the certificate unless the holder has notified in writing the FAA, Airman Certification Branch.” The uncompromising legal effect is to remove your flying privileges if you have not notified the FAA within 30 days of the move.

Furthermore, this tale should encourage you not only to comply with the 30-day rule, but to update the FAA as soon as possible after moving. And also to have a plan for forwarding mail/packages following an address change or while away from home.

Let’s return to the unfortunate airman in this tale. Considering the various errors on the part of the FAA, and the honest—albeit careless—oversight by the airman, the agency offered a compromise to resolve the situation and avoid harsh penalties. Had the FAA pursued the standard penalty for failing to return the revoked certificate four years earlier, the cumulative fine would have approached two million dollars.

Airmen can update their address with the FAA either online or by mail using Form AC 8060-55. The Airmen Certification On-Line Services site is the fastest and most accurate means for updating an airman’s contact information. Keep an eye out as the FAA’s Civil Aviation Registry Electronic Services (CARES) will eventually replace the current Airman Certification On-Line Services site.

On a related note, you may want to take the opportunity to opt out of publicly displaying your address. When you receive an airman certificate, the default settings cause a certificate holder’s physical address to appear on the public FAA website, which may be disquieting for some.

Our passion for flight, and careers, as in the case of your author, are of great importance. Do not risk something so important over something so easy to prevent. Because when the mail goes missing—the pilot misses out.

Author – Chris Pezalla, Esq.

Chris Pezalla is a partner at the Law Offices of Robert M. Strumor, LLC, and a professional pilot. His legal practice focuses on general aviation-related matters, including pilot flight and medical certification. He is FAA type-rated in the Boeing 737 and 747 aircraft, in addition to several regional-style aircraft.

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