By Alan Armstrong

AN AIRMAN’S CERTIFICATE is a protected property or liberty interest that cannot be suspended or revoked without affording the airman due process of law, including notice and an opportunity for a hearing as provided in the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). Because the hearing must conform to the due process requirements of the APA, it must be conducted in an “impartial manner.” Proceedings to suspend, revoke, or deny an airman’s certificate are not conducted in federal district court. Rather, by law, jurisdiction of such cases is vested in the National Transportation Safety Board (Board or NTSB). Unfortunately, the Board has a conflict of interest that precludes the proceedings from being conducted in an “impartial manner” either at the administrative hearing level or on an appeal, with the Board sitting as the appellate body. The reason the Board has a conflict of interest is because it does not and cannot adjudicate the airman’s case in an impartial manner since that is not its standard in deciding whether the airman retains or loses his certificate. The statute that vests the Board with jurisdiction to adjudicate airmen cases provides, inter alia: “[T]he Board may amend, modify, or reverse the order [of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)] when the Board finds . . . that safety in air commerce or air transportation and the public interest do not require affirmation of the order.”

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Recommended Citation
Alan Armstrong, Why Jurisdiction Over Airmen Enforcement and Certificate Cases Should Be Transferred from the National Transportation Safety Board to Federal District Court, 83 J. Air L. & Com. 257 (2018)