Letter to the Editor………………………
When a pilot is not a pilot…
Yesterday, I followed a vehicle down Paris’s main street and noticed the license plate on the rear of the vehicle. What caught my attention was the absence of the colorful sticker issued by the Secretary of State. If you are not familiar with the vehicle licensing requirements here in Illinois: a current sticker must be attached to the rear license plate in order for the license plates on that vehicle to be considered legal.
That’s a no brainer, but if you were to ask if this car has license plates or that it’s plated, the return would undoubtedly be, yes. The clear inference is, if the car has plates it’s legal to drive the streets of Illinois when in fact, it is not legal to do so without the appropriate sticker.
The same sort of thing occurs when discussing a pilot’s license. Most assume if an individual has a pilot’s license then it would be legal for him or her to fly themselves and/or friends around at their convenience. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Just as in the example above, wherein, only having license plates on your car (without a current sticker) does not necessarily make it legal to drive that car on Illinois highways: having a pilot’s license without a current Medical Certificate or without having passed the required bi-annual examination does not make it legal for you to fly anything. The fact is, having a pilot’s license without the endorsements mentioned above should not and does not certify anyone to fly anything: including a broom.
This brings us to a current situation at the Edgar County Airport and our new airport manager, Jerry Griffin. Given the FAA documents revealing that Jerry has not had a medical since the 90’s is it a fair statement to then call him a pilot? Probably not!
It should also be pretty clear at this point, without a Medical Certificate Jerry would not be able to fly an airplane with an FAA examiner (or otherwise certified professional) in which to participate in his required biannual re-certification. In part, because these bi-annual examiners (Jerry just happens to be one of those); are not required to be pilots therefore, the person taking the bi-annual re-certification would need to have a “current” pilot’s license in the true sense of the word, to be pilot in command, and to pilot the aircraft. To put this quite simply, Jerry does not meet the FAA requirements to be a pilot and hasn’t for quite some time.
Information discovered with regards to both aspects, one of not having a medical certificate, and two, of not having a biannual re-certification surfaced after his appointment. While it is very clear, documents he submitted to the county in his employment application (here) show him to be a commercial pilot with multi-engine and instrument rating, and, those documents clearly imply, suggest and in a large way state that he is a pilot and that he can legally fly airplanes: the truth is, he cannot legally do so.
Now you ask; how can he have these licenses? Well, it’s really pretty simple, pilot licenses don’t have expiration dates on them. The FAA issues licenses for life…but remember, that doesn’t make them valid…it just means if you’re 120 years old, blind, can’t walk, and in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s, and strapped to a wheel chair, you’ll still have a pilot’s license to brag about.
Jerry also includes his license as a certified flight instructor. Here again, we are looking at the license plates on the back side of a clunker vehicle with no sticker. Yes, he may have had or once been a flight instructor…but without a current medical, at the very best he is limited to providing ground school to new students on the ground. No, he cannot teach you to fly from start to finish. No, he cannot get into a plane with a student pilot to provide instruction and no, he cannot take control of the plane. His options are the same as anyone else. He can only ride in an airplane as a passenger… and student pilots are prohibited from hauling passengers. Only pilots can do that. Do you now think the ability to provide only a fraction of the required training for new pilots entitles you to honestly claim yourself as a certified flight instructor? No, clearly that’s misleading.
Then there are the hand written notes by Jerry, claiming 1700 flight time hours over the 41 years between 1973 and 2014? That would equal about “41” hours a year if it were true. But is it? If Jerry hasn’t had a medical since the 90’s and if he’s operating legally…these hours could have only have occurred before he failed to gain a medical or in some rare cases; can be accrued as a “passenger” when riding along in a plane…but not as a pilot in command. Here again, a misleading statement. The conventional understanding regarding the hours a pilot has accrued equals the hours they were pilot in command, not passenger in observation.
What else is known about Jerry? In his application Jerry claims to having repaired and rebuilt antique airplanes; and to have performed hundreds of 100 hour inspections on flight school aircraft.
Oops, we’re back to the license plate thing again. Only Aircraft and Power Plant Certified mechanics are qualified to perform this work. They’re referred to as A and P’s in the aviation industry. Was Jerry claiming to be and A and P in his resume? Probably…that is, if you use the FAA definition of an A and P. The facts are; Jerry does not have an A and P certificate: therefore he cannot legally claim to do this work.
Perhaps Jerry should have and could have been more truthful in his application, by stating he assisted in the same and that all of his work was completed under the supervision of a certified A and P mechanic. He chose not to.
What’s left? Well, there are sources stating that Jerry was in fact the airport manager during a recent crash of an airplane at the Edgar County Airport (since it did occur after July 31, 2014): even though he claimed it occurred in June during Dale Barkley’s tenure. And we know that crash was not reported to either to the Edgar County Airport Advisory Board, Airport County Board Committee Members nor the Edgar County Board. If that proves to be true, then once again it makes Jerry Griffin out to be less………than…………………. truthful………………………again.
Then there are statements from separate sources that he’s been flying airplanes around as pilot in command; even making some of these illegal flights from the Edgar County Airport and all against FAA regulations. That’s something we’re awaiting proof on, but in this regard we do have a county board meeting video in where Jerry himself stated, he had been flying into and out of the Edgar County Airport for the past 20 years. Apparently our County Board has forgotten what he said.
So when is a pilot not a pilot or an A and P mechanic? The answer is, when using the industry (FAA) standards.