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FAA Files Notice To Appeal Decision By An NTSB Administrative In Drone Case

March 7, 2014 - The Federal Aviation Administration today issued a notice appealing a decision by an NTSB Administrative Law Judge in the civil penalty case, Huerta v. Pirker (Michael P. Huerta, Administrator, Federal Aviation Administration v. Raphael Pirker).

“The FAA is appealing the decision of an NTSB Administrative Law Judge to the full National Transportation Safety Board, which has the effect of staying the decision until the Board rules. The agency is concerned that this decision could impact the safe operation of the national airspace system and the safety of people and property on the ground.” 


The FAA alleged that Pirker acted on October 17, 2011, as pilot in command of Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS), a Ritewing Zephyr powered, glider aircraft, at the University of Virginia’s medical school, Charlottesville, Virginia while filming a commercial for the University and that Pirker was compensated, in that payment was received for video and photographs taken during that flight.  

The FAA fined Pirker $10,000 for violation of the provisions of Part 91, Section 91.13(a), Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs). Pirker appealed his case before the National Transportation Safety Board office of Administrative Law Judges. 

On Thursday, NTSB Administrative Judge Patrick G. Geraghty ruled that the policy notices the FAA issued were not enforceable because they hadn’t been written as part of a formal rulemaking process. That neither Part 1, Section. 1.1, or the 49 U.S.C. Section 40102(a)(6) definitions of "aircraft" are applicable to, or include a model aircraft within their respective definition. The model aircraft operation by Pirker was subject only to the FAA's requested voluntary compliance with, the Safety Guidelines stated in AC 91-57. 

At the time of Pirker's model aircraft operation, there was no enforceable FAA rule or FAR Regulation, applicable to model aircraft or for classifying model aircraft as an UAS,2s. Upon the findings Judge Geraghty dismissed the case against Pirker. The Judge ordered the FAA case against Pirker be dismissed, Order of Assessment be vacated and the case be terminated.



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