What are my Legal Rights and Obligations if the FAA Comes Knocking – PART 3
Our series on The FAA and Drones answers your questions about your legal rights as a pilot and as a business owner with subcontractor or employee pilots. We reached out to aviation attorneys Kathy Yodice and Loretta Alkalay for their perspectives to your questions. We will feature Kathy and Loretta’s responses in a ongoing series to help you understand the FAA and your rights as a pilot and/or business owner.
Will the FAA notify me when I’m under investigation for possible violation of their regulations and what can I do to protect myself? What are my rights as a drone operator during an FAA investigation? Do I have to answer all their questions and turn over all the information that they request, or can I choose to say nothing and turn over nothing?
The Pilot’s Bill of Rights is a law that was passed in 2012 to bring back an element of fairness in the FAA’s investigative and enforcement process that had gotten lost over time. Prior to 2012, when the FAA conducted an investigation of an individual, that individual was not told that they did not have to respond to the FAA inquiries and did not know that they would be entitled to review the information that the FAA was gathering against them, and they would therefore often act against their own best interests in believing there was a requirement to provide all information to the FAA immediately, even without knowing what information the FAA already possessed. The Pilot’s Bill Of Rights Notification is information that the FAA is required to provide to you before speaking with you about their investigation. Among other things, this written notification will advise you that you are under no legal obligation to discuss the matter with the FAA, and that if you do, anything you provide can be used by the FAA in taking an action against you.
For now, the FAA will most likely be focused on drone operations that appear careless or reckless, that drop objects toward the ground, that fail to give right of way to manned aircraft, and that violate airspace boundaries and restrictions. In addition, the FAA will be monitoring commercial drone operators to make sure that the requirements of Part 107 or the conditions and limitations in a Section 333 exemption or Certificate of Waiver or Authorization are being followed.
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Kathleen A. Yodice is an aviation lawyer practicing in the Washington, DC area representing the interests of drone operators, pilots, mechanics, commercial entities, airports, and aircraft owners in aviation law and corporate matters nationwide. Ms. Yodice started her legal career with the FAA in 1986, before going into private practice in 1998.
Loretta Alkalay is an aviation attorney and consultant based in the New York City area and is an adjunct professor at Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology where she teaches a course in Drone Law. Ms. Alkalay retired from the FAA in 2009, after 30 years with the FAA as the agency’s Eastern Regional Counsel.
“Expert Insight” is the independent views and opinions of the submitting named authors of this article.