GA Groups Rally To Defend YouTube Personality On Legal Challenge


The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), together with the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) and the Alaska Pilots Association, are stepping up to defend YouTuber Trent Palmer in his bid to overturn an FAA suspension. The advocacy groups addressed the federal appeals court on Palmer’s behalf, maintaining that the National Transportation Safety Board has consistently “ignored key provisions of the Pilot’s Bill of Rights” and did so in this case.

The incident in question was a November 2019 flight during which Palmer made a low “inspection” pass in his Kitfox bush plane over an acquaintance’s backyard where he was considering landing. He chose not to land and received a 120-day certificate suspension from the FAA for a low-altitude violation. Palmer noted that FAR 91.119 specifies that altitude restrictions carry the (obvious) qualification “Except when necessary for takeoff and landing.” He argued that the inspection pass qualified as “necessary for takeoff and landing” even though he decided not to land. Part of his argument was that punishing him for a prudent decision could induce other pilots to land to avoid a violation even when better judgment dictates the location is not safe.

AOPA Legal Services Plan attorney Daniel Hassing helped draft the brief defending Palmer. He said the case goes beyond defending a single pilot and has implications for all pilots as to protections enacted by Congress (the Pilot’s Bill of Rights), which have not been “consistently followed” by the FAA and the NTSB. Hassing said, “We want to ensure that the process is fair to airmen and that the FAA and NTSB play by the rules Congress established. Furthermore, we want the court to overrule its prior decision before other courts cite it and rely upon it.”

AOPA reports that Palmer’s attorney filed a petitioner’s brief on Dec. 11 that addressed what it characterized as errors by the NTSB judge’s failure to dismiss the order of suspension. The brief begins, “This Petition for review principally centers on whether the FAA has complied with the most basic precepts of the due process of law in conducting air safety proceedings.” The NTSB/FAA legal team has until Jan. 17 to file a response, and Palmer’s legal team will be able to reply to that response by Feb. 7.

Mark Phelps
Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.


  1. Sorry state of affairs here. FAA and NTSB are wrong! “…errors by the NTSB judge’s failure to dismiss the order of suspension.” NTSB judge, huh?

    I read with interest about a case before the SCOTUS, namely SEC v. Jarkesy, that may have a serious repercussions for these “administrative” courts like the SEC, IRS, NTSB, etc., where you are guilty upon entering the courtroom. I’ve always questioned how these bureaucratic regulations (CFRs) can have the same force as statutory law anyway, and can be adjudicated in these special courts to boot. Along comes Mr. Jarkesy who apparently has the resources to appeal his SEC case into federal court ($$$), then on to SCOTUS. This will be interesting. It may end up affecting all of us.

  2. It’s hard for me not to compare Trent’s story with Trevor Jacob considering the timing. While they are no doubt apples in oranges by comparison, Trent got hosed in his verdict, while WE got hosed in Jacob’s (save for the six months he’s in the can and not in the sky). I have been an avid follower of Trent’s for quite some time, and I genuinely feel that he is very much a net positive for the aviation community. Hopefully reason prevails.

  3. Flying my Mooney’s off a grass strip (LS40) for the last 35 years, we often drag the field prior to landing b/c of cows, wild pigs and coyotes. Again, the FAA has shown itself to be the enemy of common sense. See, also; Martha Lunken, Bob Hoover, etc. Not to mention John and Martha King.

    • You are right about Bob Hoover, but wrong about Martha Lunken. Martha was an FAA examiner herself, who flew underneath a bridge by her own admission. During the same stunt, her transponder just happened to stop working. Back in 1991, as an examiner with the Cincinatti FSDO she went after a pilot that was giving rides in a P-51 out of Clinton County Airport (I66). She went after the pilot for going inverted without him/passenger having a parachute. I know this because I was on one of those rides. She was justified since he exceeded bank angles of 60 degrees, and not by a tidbit. But the same Martha then totally broke at least altitude regs with the bridge stunt, and likely more regs by pulling the CB on the transponder, as the FAA contended. So, Martha got what was coming to her IMO. She set a very poor example to other pilots like myself who try to abide by the rules.

  4. A government agency not following the law? Imagine that. The FAA has never even followed its own legal department guidance, example, time and duty rules. This is something the new administrator needs to fix, unfortunately since he is a FAA insider (former FAA employee), not holding my breath on that ever happening. Hopefully this court case will straighten that out!

  5. I can see why such hearings aren’t televised: reading the brief makes this NTSB “judge” look less like Clarence Darrow and more like that brilliant legal mind on “The Apprentice”.

    • You came to that conclusion by hearing (reading) only one side of the story. That “brief” is a bunch of opinions of what they “think” were unfair, illegal or procedurally incorrect. Maybe wait and see what the appeals court rules before making any judgement about the judge (pun intended).

  6. The FAA would be much more justified in going after pilots like the F22 pilot at Oshkosh who was by definition doing ground level aerobatic maneuvers outside of the waivered time period.
    When, not if but when one of these careless and reckless operations at Oshkosh kills 100 or so spectators it will be the end of EAA and Oshkosh.
    Look up Frecce Tricolori crash at Ramstein AFB, Shoreham Air Show crash and Ukraine Airshow crash.
    Oshkosh does not have legal real estate for a over 245 kt aerobatic airshow but somehow they manage to operate in violation of long standing air show rules.
    I am a fan of Martha as is the new owner of Flying Magazine who reinstated her monthly column.

    • They invite the residents in the area to the show to a VIP pavilion that’s catered. That’s how they make legal setbacks at Oshkosh.

  7. 60 years ago there were mostly very talented and helpful people in the FSDO offices. Today the
    ratio is reversed. Mostly bad people with a few excellent people mixed in.
    40 plus years ago I did Instrument, Multi and ATP with FAA as well as three type ratings. All were great people.
    Two of my former co workers went to the FAA. Both became very bad people after going to the FAA.

  8. Good. The NTSB judge made a ridiculously stupid ruling. It turns every go-around into a violation.
    They decided to throw the book at Palmer after one complaint. Some people will complain every time an airplane passes overhead. One unfounded complaint should not lead to a suspension!

  9. Tailwind has it exactly right. Years ago, FSDO staff were both knowledgeable and helpful. Enforcement action was occasionally necessary but I knew that they generally knew what they were talking about with respect to flying and they viewed their job as one to promote aviation safety and good practice. They were helpful. Today if that happens it is by accident.

    Although there are still excellent FSDO employees, most seem to be most familiar with the FARS and the minutia of FAA practices and not so much about real world flying, maintenance, or ATC procedures. I suspect that the FAA’s internal promotion criteria is responsible for this shift and they all spend way too much time on diversity training at OKC.

    It’s a hidebound institution unresponsive to the needs of the flying community and industry. It’s now too screwed up to be amenable to incremental change. We need the Argentinian approach to these bureaucrats.

  10. I spent over 30 years as an FAA Operations inspector and when I read about this, I was perplexed to say the least. So, I wanted to see what evidence the FAA had to prove such a violation. I requested a copy of the Enforcement Investigative Report (EIR) on 8/28/22 as the report was finished and a Notice of Proposed Certificate Action (NOPCA) was issued on 9/20/21 (almost a year earlier). My request was denied due to an “ongoing investigation.” NOT TRUE! Flying Magazine had an article and video concerning the incident prior to my request on 6/13/22. I immediately appealed the initial denial (9/20/22) citing it was not an ongoing investigation and I am still waiting for a copy of the EIR. Here is a synopsis of what is going on at the FAA.
    1. 4/20/2020 Notice of Proposed Certificate Action (NOPCA) for 210-day suspension of pilot certificate
    2. 9/20/2021 Amended NOPCA for 120-day suspension of pilot certificate
    3. 4/6/2022 NTSB law judge reduced suspension to 60 days.
    4. 3/30/2023 full Board reverses law judge sanction and increases suspension to 120 days.
    5. 8/28/2023 Stay granted to appeal to U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington D.C.
    6. 12/18/2023 Appealed to U.S. Court of Appeals

    But after numerous FOIA and FAA Administrator’s Hotline, the EIR has not been provided to me.

    A similar situation, much more dangerous happened on 11/16/2021 in Nashville at a Tennessee Titans game when 4 Army helicopters flew into the bowl of the Nissan Stadium as low as 80 feet, but the Army said it was okay! Look at some videos on YOUTUBE. That’s right, the FAA immediately initiated an investigation and as per agreement with the Department of Defense sent a letter to the ARMY advising them of the EIR (I have a copy of that one) showing 4 helicopters flew as low as 80 feet (ATC radar readout). The Army’s 3/23/2022 investigation stated in part, “I found the Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (14CFR) 91.13(a) and 91.119(d)(1) were adhered to.” I disagree. The helicopters should have been at 1,000 feet above the highest obstacle and 2,000 feet horizontal.
    So, nothing happed to the 4 helicopter pilots that flew 80 feet over the football field with 70,000 people in it and Palmer gets 120 days suspension for attempted to land and decided to go around.
    I just wonder where the equality is here! Hang in there Trenton!

  11. Make me wonder the political or financial pull of the the “complainant”. I would love to see the complainants video evidence of the event?

  12. Retired demo pilot, when I came into KOSH for just static display, we were offered the arrival arresting beat ups.

    It was one to a full stop as it was a good arrival window for us all. Do we reward the already arrived with our finest @$$ shining or not clog arrivals?

    I fly in and camp otherwise from the Endeavor bridge, so 1 to a full stop. Those F22s and 35s arrivals were better than the demos they presently fly.

  13. On December 22, 2023 At 7:31 pm, “Will” said:
    “Those that can not do, teach.”

    I assume that this was a generality; it includes neither me nor almost all other “teachers” I have known!

    John Woodhead
    Aviation instructor since 1958
    FAA CFI since 1969
    6600 hours instuction given

    • I agree. The phrase “Those that can not do, teach” is not only dismissive and disrespectful to the teaching profession, but also factually inaccurate and harmful. The phrase suggests that teaching is a lesser career option, chosen by those who couldn’t achieve success in their desired field. It is an insult.

  14. I have been living in the DC area since 78 and both in my personal and professional capacity have gotten to know both people that work directly in government as well as the contractors and subcontractors that work for corporations that also serve the government. They all have something on common. They want to keep their jobs.

    This means they often need to justify their existence, especially those who work in regulatory agencies. They need to expend their budget by the end of the fiscal year so they can justify getting more money next year. That is how the swamp operates.

    This ruling not only makes no sense but is obviously harmful and needs to be reversed. One would think common sense would prevail but when it comes to these regulatory parasites, it doesn’t!