2008 Buzz Job Cost Pilot His License
After making several low passes
over the Santa Monica Pier in November of 2008, pilot David G.
Riggs lost his flying priveleges and still faces criminal
misdemeanor charges for what turned out to be a publicity stunt for
an as-yet-unreleased movie. While Riggs had a court date set for
Monday, the incident has prompted the FAA in the region to take a
closer look at the private ownership of military aircraft certified
in the "Experimental" category.
The Los Angeles Times reports there are approximately 5,600
military aircraft registered as "Experimental" in the U.S., which
are limited to air shows, flight demonstrations, and training over
sparsely-populated areas. They may not carry passengers unless
approved by the FAA.
The aircraft used to buzz the Santa Monica Pier was an Aero
Vodochody L-39 Albatros, a Soviet Bloc trainer. Riggs and another
pilot flying a Canadian-registerd Albatros were involved, but only
Riggs was brought up on charges. The other pilot, Skip Holm, is a
decorated Vietnam War veteran of more than 350 combat missions for
U.S. Air Force with three Distinguished Flying Crosses. He retired
a lieutenant colonel in 1992. Riggs, on the other hand, first
received a pilots license in 1984, and has multiple convictions for
wire fraud, bank fraud and passport fraud.
Two FAA investigators said Riggs continued to sell flights in
the L-39 after he lost his license. They also said he did not hold
a commercial rating or obtain a waiver to carry paying passengers.
FAA inspectors Kevin Sullivan and George Erdel said the L-39 was in
disrepair and was being used illegally as a camera platform for
Sullivan and Erdel, both of whom no longer are employed by the
FAA, said their investigation was cut short with no explanation.
The FAA, for it's part, says the facts speak for themselves. Los
Angeles-based FAA spokesman Ian Gregor told the LA Times "We
revoked Mr. Riggs' pilot's license. We also required Mr. Riggs to
perform work on his aircraft to make it airworthy and we documented
that the work was, in fact, done."
Gregor says the FAA is still "keeping an eye" on Mr. Griggs, who
could re-apply for an airman certificate a year following the