Pilots who log Flight Time they did not fly may have effectively ended their Aviation Career


Many of us know, logging hours you did not fly is considered falsification of records by the FAA and is penalized with a revocation of all held certificates for up to one year.  What isn’t as widely known is, such a pilot may be permanently banned from ever holding an Airline Transport Pilot Certificate.
For aspiring commercial pilots, the time between receiving a commercial pilot’s certificate (a minimum of 250 hours) and the time when a pilot builds sufficient flight hours to be hired as a pilot making much more than minimum wage, (about 1000 - 2000 hours) can be a difficult time.  It generally takes such pilots years to build this time.  During this time, these pilots are generally building time as a flight instructor or flying introductory or scenic flights – generally low paying jobs.  The desire to build time quickly is understandable.
It is a common story - a young, aspiring, impatient pilot at some point gets the urge to add a few hours to their log book.  It might be after eight, one-hour segments of take-offs and landings as a flight instructor, or it might be two years into trying to build time. Or it might be both.  At some point some aspiring pilots are tempted to add a flight or two to their logbook.  Then, a month or two later, when building time is going frustratingly slow, a few more.  And on and on. 
If the FAA discovers these false logbook entries they will pursue a certificate action against the pilot for falsifying these hours.  14 CFR 61.59 states:
§ 61.59 Falsification, reproduction, or alteration of applications, certificates, logbooks, reports, or records.
(a) No person may make or cause to be made:
(1) Any fraudulent or intentionally false statement on any application for a certificate, rating, authorization, or duplicate thereof, issued under this part;
(2) Any fraudulent or intentionally false entry in any logbook, record, or report that is required to be kept, made, or used to show compliance with any requirement for the issuance or exercise of the privileges of any certificate, rating, or authorization under this part;
(3) Any reproduction for fraudulent purpose of any certificate, rating, or authorization, under this part; or
(4) Any alteration of any certificate, rating, or authorization under this part.
The penalty for such violation is almost always a full revocation of all airman certificates for up to one year.  When determining what penalty is appropriate the FAA refers to its own sanction guidance table.[1]  The FAA sanction guidance table calls for certificate revocation in falsification and fraud matters.  The FAA will occasionally agree to a lesser length of the airman certificate revocation period (i.e. 6 - 9 months) but they will rarely if ever negotiate to a suspension rather than a revocation.  The difference between an airman certificate suspension and a certificate revocation is, after an airman serves the certificate suspension period, a pilot’s certificates are returned to the pilot.  A pilot whose license has been revoked keeps their legitimate hours but are required to requalify for all ratings after the revocation period.
Practically speaking, the penalty then, for such violations is 1) loss of ability to fly, 2) loss of ability to receive income, 3) loss of the benefit of the tens of thousands of dollars spent on training, and 4) potential loss of credibility/reputation.  But wait, there’s more.
If the FAA states in the final order of revocation the pilot lacks good moral character as a result of the falsification, that pilot will likely be banned from holding an ATP (Airline Transport Pilot) Certificate for life.  14 CFR 61.159 states, [t]o be eligible for an airline transport pilot certificate a person must . . . be of good moral character[2].  Often, but not always, the FAA will include the good moral character language in a final order.
As a pilot myself I have in the past argued that this punishment does not fit this crime.  When I have discussed this with fellow pilots they agree.  When I discuss it with non-pilots their response is different.  The reason for the rule is clear - we as a society want to know that the pilots who are flying us and our families are qualified to do so.  As a result, The FAA has no sympathy for pilots who lie about their experience.  So, if you are a pilot, pay your dues - you will get there soon enough.
The author of this article is Jim Waldon.  Jim is an experienced aviation attorney and commercial pilot.  He can be reached at www.paramountlawgroup.com or at 206.612.7938.  


[1] The FAA Sanction Guidance Table is contained in FAA Order 2150.3B - FAA Compliance and Enforcement Program.

[2] 14 CFR 61.153(c)

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