New York Times reported on 20, July 2005 that “prosecutors in Northern California have charged 46 pilots with lying to federal authorities to obtain airplane licenses, in most cases not disclosing debilitating illnesses that should have kept them grounded.” This information came to light according to the NYT after an “18-month criminal air traffic safety investigation by the Department of Transportation and the Social Security Administration that looked into licensed pilots who were also receiving disability benefits and payments from the government”.
Among the 46 pilots who were charged, “7 held commercial pilot certificates that would have allowed them to fly as well as carry cargo; another 4 pilots held air transportation pilot certificates which would let them, transport passengers, 28 had private pilot licenses, and 7 had student licenses”. 14 of the pilots held active pilot licenses, which were immediately revoked. The remaining pilots had licenses that had either lapsed or were missing current information, which would not prevent them from flying a private plane.
This whole thing started in July 2003 when authorities started an investigation. In this, the authorities ordered the review of more than 40,000 pilot licenses. These licenses were issued in Northern California. And the suspicion grew when the matter of “misuse or abuse of Social Security numbers” surfaced. This prompted the authorities to review the licenses held by commercial and private pilots. Through the review, it was revealed that some applicants claimed that they are medically fit to fly a plane but they were also receiving disability benefits.
It initially started with 48 pilots who were getting disability benefits. Their disabilities included for illnesses like paranoid schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and disabling heart conditions. There was one case about where someone exhibited “severe suicidal tendencies”. And in order to get their certificates, these people had to “lie or falsify paperwork”. The pilots who were indicted failed to provide accurate medical history forms, as required by the F.A.A.