Tuesday, November 18th – The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released its ruling on the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) appeal of the decisional order of Administrative Law Judge Patrick Geraghty in the FAA v. Pirker case, a case in which Raphael Pirker was fined $10,000 for operating his unmanned aircraft in a careless and reckless manner. Although Mr. Pirker professed to be operating a “model aircraft”, he was not operating within the Academy of Model Aeronautics’ (AMA) Safety Program, nor in a manner consistent with AMA’s safety principles and guidelines.
The NTSB ruling held that unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), including model aircraft, meet the legal definition of “aircraft” for purposes of 14 C.F.R. § 91.13(a), which prohibits the operation of any aircraft in a careless and reckless manner. However, the NTSB declined to address issues beyond the question of whether or not Pirker’s remote control Zephyr met the definition of “aircraft” for the purposes of § 91.13(a).
The NTSB concluded that nothing in Advisory Circular 91-57 reflects an intent on the part of the FAA to exempt operators of model aircraft from the prohibition on careless and reckless operation. However, the Board did discern that the advisory circular signaled FAA’s recognition that certain provisions of the Federal Aviation Regulations may not be logically applicable to model aircraft flown for recreational purposes.
The Academy of Model Aeronautics shares FAA’s concern regarding the unsafe and irresponsible behavior of some UAS operators and stands ready to assist the FAA in its efforts towards maintaining the safety of the national airspace. AMA’s Safety Program has proven to be an effective means of educating and managing the recreational and personal use UAS community and has been highly successful in achieving compliance with its safety guidelines. The U.S. Congress recognized the efficacy of AMA’s Safety Program in the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 and demonstrated its confidence in such programming by specifying the use of community-based programming as means of overseeing and managing the aeromodeling activity in the national airspace.
WASHINGTON – The National Transportation Safety Board announced today that it has served the FAA and respondent Raphael Pirker with its opinion and order regarding Mr. Pirker’s appeal in case CP-217, regarding the regulation of unmanned aircraft. In the opinion, the Board remanded the case to the administrative law judge to collect evidence and issue a finding concerning whether Pirker’s operation of his unmanned aircraft over the campus of the University of Virginia in 2011 was careless or reckless.
The FAA appealed an NTSB administrative law judge’s decision after the judge dismissed the FAA’s order requiring Pirker to pay a civil penalty of $10,000 for allegedly operating an unmanned aircraft in a careless or reckless manner. In his decision, the judge compared Pirker’s unmanned aircraft to a model aircraft, and found the FAA had not enacted an enforceable regulation regarding such aircraft.
In reaching its decision, the Board determined the FAA may apply the regulation that prohibits operation of an aircraft in a careless or reckless manner to unmanned aircraft. To determine whether Pirker violated this regulation, however, the Board stated an administrative law judge would need to review evidence showing the operation was careless or reckless.