Aviation Law Articles

FAR 61.3(h)
Do Not Voluntarily Surrender the Certificate:
The Bob Hoover Debacle

In June of 1992, famed aviation icon, Bob Hoover, was flying his usual air show routine at the Oklahoma City Aerospace America Air Show. Two F.A.A. inspectors were assigned to the show and observed Mr. Hoover’s performance. Two months later, the inspectors reported to the F.A.A. medical division that the pilot’s medical condition should be reviewed. The F.A.A. required Mr. Hoover to have a comprehensive psychiatric evaluation which he did (at his own expense). The F.A.A. reviewed the results with its first psychiatrist, opining that Mr. Hoover was fit to hold a second class medical. However, its chief psychiatrist disagreed. They called Mr. Hoover and told him that he was not medically qualified and that he should turn in his medical certificate to his medical examiner which he did (because he thought he had to).

While FAR 61.3(h) requires a certificate holder to allow an inspection, it does not require its surrender. If the F.A.A. wants to suspend or revoke a medical certificate (or a pilot certificate), it must give notice and an opportunity to be heard (the appeal procedure).

So, if you are asked to voluntarily surrender your medical (or pilot) certificate, remember that there is no requirement that you do so before an opportunity to be heard. If a situation arises wherein your medical qualifications are being questioned, consult your aviation attorney to see if the matter can be resolved informally by, perhaps, submitting additional medical data or, if necessary, in order to protect your rights in an enforcement proceeding.

Note that the “Hoover Debacle” worsened when Mr. Hoover requested that his medical be returned. The F.A.A. revoked his medical on an emergency basis! After several years, Mr. Hoover’s certificate was returned but not without quite a battle, expense and considerable embarrassment to all concerned. Fortunately, this very troubling emergency revocation later resulted in the passing of the “Hoover Bill” which gives airmen appeal rights on such emergency actions. Thank you, Bob, and all others who worked so diligently to pass the bill into law.
by Richard T. Miller, Specialist in Aviation Law – (818) 994-8234