Forty Pilots Indicted in Fraud Sting

 - April 17, 2007, 11:37 AM

Operation Safe Pilot, an 18-month federal probe into “the misuse of Social Security numbers by pilots,” ended last month with the indictment of 40 pilots–some with commercial or ATP certificates–on fraud charges. During the investigation of 40,000 FAA-licensed pilots in northern California, federal agents identified numerous pilots with current medicals who were receiving disability benefit payments. Officials focused on the “most egregious claims of disabilities,” ranging from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, drug or alcohol addiction, disabling back condition or severe heart condition–all of which would prevent issuance of an FAA medical. According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, the 40 indicted pilots “were also collecting disability benefits from the Social Security Administration, based on serious medical and psychological conditions, which would have prevented them from operating an aircraft.” Further, the FAA has revoked 14 of these pilots’ certificates and has put the other 26 on notice that their pilot and medical certificates could also be suspended. The 40 individuals indicted ranged in age from 25 to 71, with one-quarter over age 60.