Jail Time For FAA Safety Inspector

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Harrington Bishop, 64, former safety inspector at Teterboro Flight Standards District Office, was sentenced Wednesday to one year of prison time for accepting unauthorized payments from pilots after giving them check rides. Bishop, also a former Air Force pilot, was not authorized to grant licenses or participate in checks on his days off. But over seven years he scheduled rides (mostly for military pilots looking for civilian certificates) and accepted tips of $300 under those conditions, the court found. Bishop operated most of the flights out of Flying W airport in Medford, N.J., and nearly every pilot he tested passed. Along with the prison term, he has been ordered to pay the government $70,000 in restitution. Bishop did offer an explanation for his behavior.

According to Bishop, he would give (mostly) former military pilots instruction on Friday evenings and fly the check rides the next day, Saturday. He always told them he could not accept payment, but once a student offered $300 for the previous night's instruction, word soon spread that the amount was the fee, Bishop said. The FAA became aware of the activity and told Bishop to stop -- twice -- once in 2006 and once in 2010. Guidelines for sentencing suggested a jail term of 21 to 24 months for the offense. The judge saw letters of support and heard statements from Bishop's wife and pastor prior to offering the more lenient sentence of one year and one day. According to the judge, Bishop is "very unselfish" but "for reasons none of us understand" he did not stop the improper tests after being asked to do just that. A federal prosecutor told Philly.com that there is no evidence pilots who were granted certificates by Bishop would have been found unworthy of those certificates if they'd gone to anyone else.