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.

A mile!

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 Congested Areas).

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 exemption work.

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 inspector’s supervisor.

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 for updates.

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 being unprofessional.

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 knit.

Blue Skies,
Sonnyboy John

Enjoy your legal, trouble-free flight.

July 13, 2010 update: Rogue Inspector Moved

An email came in that shows “problem children” are sometimes just moved around. Bob Stovall ( 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 reputation.

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.