DC Circuit Issues Opinion in Falsification Case
On July 12, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued its opinion in Kornitzky Group v. Daniel Elwell regarding the appeal of a National Transportation Safety Board Order revoking the repair station certificate of AeroBearings, L.L.C.
The opinion has not been fully analyzed by ARSA’s legal team and its mandate does not become effective until each party to the case has had seven days to petition for rehearing.
To read the opinion, written by Judge Sri Srinivasan, click here.
Previous updates on the case...
January 25, 2019
ARSA is aware that the owner of AeroBearings has sent an email to “accountable managers” of numerous repair stations, including quite a few members. ARSA does not have a current relationship with the company or its owner; although the company was, at one time, a regular member. The association has no comment or observations regarding the information provided by AeroBearings or its owner. The association focuses on educating members on the legal process, which does not necessarily equate to justice.
To that end, ARSA filed an amicus brief with the appellate court to explain the law and practical ramifications of upholding the National Transportation Safety Board’s determination that “omitting” information from the approval for return to service document required by section 145.219(b) can constitute intentional falsification of maintenance records. ARSA team members attended the oral argument and will update the membership on the outcome of the matter.
Please refer to ARSA’s work in this regard by reviewing the updates below and returning for updates as necessary.
January 15, 2019
On Jan. 11, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit heard oral arguments in Kornitzky Group v. Daniel Elwell. The hearing considered the appeal of a National Transportation Safety Board Order revoking the repair station certificate of AeroBearings, L.L.C.
The order alleged falsification of multiple maintenance releases based on incomplete information in block 12 of FAA Form 8130-3. During the original proceedings, the inspector agreed there was no false or incorrect information in that block on any of questioned forms; the entries were simply incomplete. However, the Board found falsification based upon that fact that information was omitted.
In October 2018, ARSA filed an amicus brief in support of “the plain language of the minimum standards of the aviation safety regulations and the intent of those rules” in the case’s adjudication. The association’s brief covered several regulatory topics, in particular the “logical distinction between a complete maintenance record and a maintenance release.”
Shortly into the presentation by Christopher Richard Stevenson, counsel for the FAA, Judge Harry Edwards asked how the actions described in the NTSB’s order amounted to falsification under 14 CFR 145.12(a) rather than omission, which if performed knowingly to conceal facts would be covered by 145.12(b):
“I understand where you might go with [the falsification argument]…What is it that you think took [the omissions on the 8130s in question] to a higher level? It seems you’ve written 12(b) out of the regulations,” Edwards said, noting that under this line of reasoning, omission would amount to falsification in every case.
That simple question began a long exchange – far exceeding the ten minutes originally allotted to Stevenson – during which each of the three judges expressed skepticism regarding the falsification charge. They alternated asking Stevenson questions regarding the lack of intentionality (Judge Sri Srinivasan) and the information that was accurately provided on AeroBearings’ records (Judge A. Raymond Randolph).
As the discussion closed, Judge Edwards returned to his original question with continued skepticism. “What’s the international falsehood?” he asked. “I’m still missing it. In fact, I’m further away then when I first asked.”
To listen to a recording of the oral arguments, click here.
To read ARSA’s amicus brief, click here.
Stay tuned for the release of the court’s opinion on the case.
October 23, 2018
On Oct. 22, ARSA filed an amicus brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to support the “plain language of the minimum standards of the aviation safety regulations and the intent of those rules.”
The brief urged the court to reverse a National Transportation Safety Board Order revoking the repair station certificate of AeroBearings, L.L.C. The order alleged falsification of multiple maintenance releases based on incomplete information in block 12 of FAA Form 8130-3. During the original proceedings, the inspector agreed there was no false or incorrect information in this block on any of questioned forms; the entries were simply incomplete.
ARSA’s brief educates the court on the FAA’s “logical distinction between a complete maintenance record and a maintenance release (i.e., the approval for return to service [on FAA Form 8130-3]).” While information that should be included in a complete maintenance record had been omitted from the forms, its inclusion on those documents is not required by parts 43 or 145. Even more important, section 145.219(b), specifically requires repair stations to “provide a copy of the maintenance release to the owner or operator of the article on which the maintenance, preventive maintenance, or alteration was performed.” Explaining the difference and noting the “voluminous” nature of complete maintenance records, ARSA explained that: “The agency understands and accepts that a maintenance release is not the complete record required by 14 CFR § 43.9.”
The original complaint against AeroBearings also questioned the use of specialized equipment for which the company did not possess the original engineering data. ARSA highlighted the difference between maintenance data – the “how to” instructions regarding the performance of work – and the data used in developing equipment or tooling.
“The regulations are silent as to what makes equipment ‘special’ or ‘acceptable to’ the agency; however, the equipment or tooling must operate in the same fashion and achieve the same results as that recommended by the manufacturer,” the association said. “Once the showing is made that the equipment or apparatus achieves the appropriate result, there are no regulations that require retention of the data or recording of the demonstration used to make the showing.”
Based on this plain reading of the rules, ARSA urged reversal of the NTSB’s order. The entire brief, which provides a thorough overview of the aviation regulatory structure regarding maintenance, preventive maintenance and alteration, can be accessed by clicking here.
AeroBearings was an ARSA member during the time period at issue in the NTSB Order, but the association did not participate in the legal enforcement process.