The Rogue Inspector
Sometimes our government lets us down |
About Congested Areas
see 2009 July 25 Confidence Restored in FAA
see 2010 July 13: Problem moved
Flight Service District Offices are where the day-to-day FAA
operations are conducted. If you run afoul of aviation law, it's one of
their operational Aviation Safety Inspectors who will be the face of
your woe. Most of the time they're busy with airlines or general
aviation issues and have little interest in ultralights unless a
complaint comes in. Most of the time.
A July 21 exception from Michigan pilot John Nichols bears mention
for its incredible abuse of power.
John was flying along a sparsely populated beach, a place he's
allowed to do so. Some sections of this beach allow vehicles while
others don't but foot-launched paramotors are OK.
Sometime into the flight he noticed an SUV following him on the beach,
a stretch where vehicles are not allowed no less,
and flashing his headlights. When John came around to see what was up, the
driver motioned him to land, flashing his badge in the process. John,
not wanting to violate the park regulation of landing there, flew back
to his vehicle.
The inspector met him and proceeded to dole out a drubbing over
purported violations of the FAR's, starting by asking if John was
familiar with FAR part 103. The inspector was quite rude and, here's the
clincher, told John that he was violating the congested rule by virtue
of flying within a mile of a house.
Now if you drew a mile radius radius around any point in my state, Illinois, you'd be hard pressed to find
any place to fly. This preposterous statement is obviously poppycock
with no support either in the regulation or in case law (see
According to long-time Galveston Beach pilot Beery Miller, the park's
ranger had no issue with John's flight path endangering anybody, and
further felt that the FAA inspector overstepped his bounds.
It would be nice if John filed a complaint on the inspector but few
of us are willing to take on such a seemingly gargantuan and impersonal
organization. But I have to say that, the vast majority of FAA people
I've come into contact with are quite approachable and really don't want
to "throw their weight around." In fact, I have personally not come
across one, in dozens of checkrides and many dealings with them on the
So if you find an inspector who has overstepped his bounds by this
amount, he's likely a rogue. I'd recommend consulting with other pilots,
making sure you know the law 100 percent, and filing a complaint to the
Enforcement is one thing--a necessary function of civil society, but
abuse of power at this level is utterly unacceptable and should be
reported. If we still have "government for the people" than the
supervisor will deal with it accordingly. Of course if you're in the
wrong, it may not be pretty, so make darn sure you're doing everything
according to the law.
July 25 Update
Thanks to Beery Miller and John Fetz
Beery Miller tells us the Park Ranger was interviewed by FAA
management and conveyed his thought that the FAA inspector "Bryan" was
overstepping his bounds, creating additional risk as well as generally
The paramotor pilot has had a pleasantly surprising conclusion of the
incident. He writes:
Re: FAA issues on GLS on 7-19-09
I have a pleasant update to share with
all. The FAA detective that investigated my alleged
violation of FAR part 103 regs, called me today and let me
know that he has concluded his investigation and determined
that I have not conducted any violations as previously
accused by Bryan Novickis. He told me over the phone that he
will be mailing me a written statement to this fact and I
have been given permission to continue flying. I intend to
continue writing a formal complaint on Bryan Novickis, so
the FAA can continue their internal investigation as to his
conduct while representing the FAA.
I really wish that Mr. Novickis had
not chosen to act the way he did but it is done and we may
all fly on Galveston as before without any fear of an FAA
official overstepping his/her bounds as a peace officer. My
faith in the FAA has been restored and hope they do the
right thing with MR. Novickis as they continue their
internal investigation on him. I want to also thank Jeff
Winchester for his honesty and his time as a key witness in
this situation. I fear this would have had a much less
favorable outcome had I not been blessed with a Texas
Wildlife Ranger being a witness to my conduct while flying
my PPG that fateful day.
If any of you are waved at by a
Texas Park Ranger while flying on a beach on Galveston
Island, please send him my courtesy and thank him for his
service!! I do have more faith in the FAA after seeing how
quickly they have concluded this investigation in a timely
and professional manner and thank the FAA for thier thorough
and complete investigation. I most likely will continue with
my Private pilot license training after this.
There is still more to do on behalf
on Bryan Novickis. I hope everyone will keep an eye out for
him and do NOT let any rogue agent flash his badge at you
and convince you to land in an unsafe place or situation.
The badge that FAA officials carry are not to be shown
except at airports for security and in a situation where a
citizen asks them for their FAA Identification. (ONLY) FAA
agents are trained to WAIT until you land on your own and
then present themselves to you as such. They are NOT allowed
to suggest you to land or try to force you to land. In the
case where someone represents themselves to you as an FAA
official and asks you for your I.D. , DO NOT show it to them
unless they can call their boss and have him ask you for
your I.D. Do not let anyone intimidate you into doing
something you don't feel is right. Watch for any witnesses
on your behalf and record as much as possible. Carry a
camera, video, have pen and paper ready. Call a friend and
ask them to write down what they
hear from your phone......anything can help you. I
personally will be wearing a helmet cam from this point on
during each flight and be ready to touch the record button.
Please remember to fly safely, know the laws and regulations
which pertain to you. IF, you aren't sure, please call your
local FSDO office and they will explain it so you can
understand. They really are there to help you. We all want
to go home to our families at the end of the day.
I want to also thank everyone for
thier support and responses during this fiasco. I try to do
the right thing and make the best decisions I can as the
situations come my way. My main priority was to make the
local flyers aware of the situation, and to not get any
flying sites shut down because of something I did directly.
I'm happy with the outcome so far but there is still a lot
more to do. I will be contacting several congressman's in a
tri-state area as well as my local congressman to let them
be aware of the practice of a certain rogue agent within the
FAA as well as following up with sending out a full
statement to the numerous people within the FAA I have been
recently in contact with. My record has been wiped clean of
this incident which is important to me as I still want to
continue my pilot training but also we need to make sure
this guy doesn't harass any other ultralight pilots anymore.
I welcome any further comments and
questions from everyone. I enjoy reading how everyone here
has stepped up to the plate and offered help, suggestions,
and also your comments. You all are a great bunch of guys
and am glad our PPG community is a strong bunch and tight
Enjoy your legal, trouble-free flight.
July 13, 2010 update: Rogue
An email came in that shows "problem
children" are sometimes just moved around. Bob Stovall (announcerBob.com)
from Colorado shared the following about FAA inspector Bryan Novikas,
possibly the one who made such a name for himself above. Even without
that name-making the story is worthy of telling. Mind you, these are
second hand accounts but my own experience suggests they're accurate.
"I was announcing an air show in
Angel Fire New Mexico several years ago. Bryan was one of the
inspectors, and he went after people with a vengeance – using his
highlighted copy of the FARs. He even threatened to ground an Air
Force plane because the pilot, an Air Force Full-bird Colonel did
not have a commercial pilots license at a civilian show and the
plane, a twin Otter designated by the Air Force as a UV-18 did not
have the appropriate civilian certificates. He delayed the show for
an hour so the Air Force could create a civilian placard for the
plane and cited another pilot because he covered his experimental
placard with his acro script.
We reported Bryan to the FAA and complained to the local
congressmen. When I talked to the FAA supervisor, he told me the
Bryan had already been a problem elsewhere and had quite a
Apparently the FAA just tries to move its problems around."
Thanks for the update. While my experience with the FAA is actually
mostly good, there are, as with every organization, a few bad apples.
Watch out for worms.