FAA Will Bust Pilots for Model Airplane Infractions

Earlier this month, the FAA released a National Policy Compliance and Enforcement Bulletin containing language that takes a harsh stance against pilots who operate unmanned aircraft. As a result of this new policy, pilots who operate UAS against FAA regulations or model aircraft in a manner that endangers aircraft in the National Airspace System (NAS) risk their ability to fly manned aircraft.

According to the bulletin, a civil penalty will be warranted for cases in which the FAA determines the violation imposed a medium or high risk to other aircraft in the NAS. However, the FAA takes disciplinary action further for pilot certificate holders who fly drones.

UAS operators who the FAA finds conducted a "deliberate and egregious violation" risk certificate action in addition to the civil penalty "regardless of whether the certificate holder is exercising the privileges of the certificate in connection with the violations associated with the UAS operation." This means pilots could lose their ability to fly manned airplanes for a period of time or have their certificates revoked.

Not only do pilot certificate holders risk their flying privileges if they fly UAS or model aircraft; they may also receive a greater penalty than individuals who are not pilots would. The FAA bulletin states that certificate holders are more likely to be slapped with a civil penalty "above the moderate range for a single, first-time, inadvertent violation" because they "should appreciate the potential for endangerment that operating a UAS contrary to the FAA's safety regulations may cause."

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Pia Bergqvist joined FLYING in December 2010. A passionate aviator, Pia started flying in 1999 and quickly obtained her single- and multi-engine commercial, instrument and instructor ratings. After a decade of working in general aviation, Pia has accumulated almost 3,000 hours of flight time in nearly 40 different types of aircraft.

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