Bizav Groups Urge NTSB To Back Pilot in Drug-test Case

 - December 9, 2019, 11:16 AM

NBAA, AOPA, and NATA are jointly urging a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) administrative law judge to reject an FAA appeal for full certificate revocations of a pilot, saying the appeal fails to recognize due process.

The three associations jointly filed an amicus brief in defense of the charter pilot, James Knight, who had his certificate revoked after testing positive for drugs. Knight, who had spent an evening with his child in the emergency room, had said that at the time he had inadvertently taken a single dose of his child’s prescription for ADHD, Vyvanse, instead of his own prescription for cholesterol medication. Knight a few days later was subjected to a random drug test and failed. He subsequently faced certificate revocations.

In September, NTSB administrative law judge John Schumacher reduced the revocation to a 90-day suspension, citing the mitigating circumstance. The judge also found his testimony that the incident was accidental, along with that of a corroborating witness, to be credible. But the FAA is appealing the decision, pushing for full revocation.

The FAA is arguing that its decision to sanction through certificate revocation is not reviewable by the NTSB and that the NTSB should determine that any violation of the drug testing requirement automatically demonstrates a lack of qualifications, according to the brief filed by the three associations.

However, the associations argue that the FAA’s arguments “would stretch its authority to preclude NTSB review in cases of inadvertent ingestion, essentially eliminating inadvertent ingestion as an affirmative defense. This goes too far.”

The FAA’s own guidance permits less punitive sanctions, they added, noting guidance says revocation is “generally” not “automatically” warranted.

“Fortunately, the complete discretion argued for by the FAA is not the accepted standard under case law or Board precedent,” they said. “Similarly, the FAA’s disregard of its own guidance is arbitrary and unreasonable.”