8900.1 CHG 422


Indicates new/changed information.


Section 5  Reckless Operation of Aircraft

14-3-5-1    REGULATORY BASIS. Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) part 91, 91.13 provides that, “No person may operate an aircraft in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another.” Neither Title 49 of the United States Code (49 U.S.C.) nor the 14 CFR define “reckless” or “reckless manner.” The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), however, has in several cases dealt with the allegation that a particular operation was “reckless” within the meaning of 91.13, and has thus contributed towards a definition of the phrase, “reckless manner.”

A.    NTSB Case History. The cases studied by the NTSB indicate that recklessness involves deliberate and willful conduct (i.e., conduct that reflects a wanton disregard for others’ safety).

1)    The inspector can infer a deliberate and willful disregard of the regulations or safety standards from the circumstances surrounding a violation.
a)    It need not be established that a pilot intended to be reckless but only that he or she intended to engage in deliberate or willful action which resulted in a deviation from 14 CFR or from safety standards and created actual or potential danger to the life or property of another.
b)    For example, the NTSB said of a pilot whom it found to have been reckless when the pilot deliberately operated an aircraft within 50 to 200 feet of another aircraft for a period of 5 to 10 minutes:

“ so long as the respondent intends to do the particular acts complained of, and the resulting action widely departs from the norm of reasonably prudent conduct, a finding of reckless operation does not require proof of the state of the pilot’s mind but can be inferred from the nature of [the pilot’s] acts or omissions and the surrounding circumstances.”

2)    In one violation, the airmen flew visual flight rules (VFR) in formation and proceeded into a mountainous area in instrument flight rules (IFR) conditions at dusk without ascertaining the weather conditions. Neither pilot held an instrument rating and one aircraft had an inoperative radio. The NTSB declared that the conduct of such a flight was reckless. The NTSB found that the conduct was “ so devoid of basic safe operating practices and adherence to critical safety regulations that it constituted a reckless operation.”

B.    Conduct Deemed Reckless. The fact patterns of some individual cases tried before the NTSB provide guidance about the kind of conduct that the NTSB will deem reckless. For example:

1)    The pilot of an aircraft, in an attempt to land on a highway in a non-emergency situation, approached from the rear and struck a moving truck. The truck was substantially damaged, and the person who was sitting in the middle of the front seat of the truck was seriously injured. The NTSB, after considering the circumstances surrounding the incident, found that the respondent operated the aircraft in a reckless manner.
2)    In another case an airman willfully and deliberately made several extremely close passes near a van for the purpose of causing apprehension or bodily harm to the occupants of the van. The NTSB wrote, “Such piloting can only be characterized as reckless operation which created a serious hazard to the van.”
3)    The allegation of recklessness was affirmed by the NTSB in a case where an air carrier pilot operating an aircraft in scheduled air transportation took off from an airport after being advised that the reported visibility was 1/16 of a mile. The takeoff minimums were 1/4 of a mile. The NTSB held that the “ knowing violation of one of the standards applicable to air carrier pilots forms the basis of the finding of reckless operation.”
4)    In another case where the NTSB found recklessness, the pilot violated several regulations in 14 CFR. The airman carried passengers on several flights when not rated in the aircraft, had no instruction or experience in the aircraft, the aircraft had not been issued an airworthiness certificate nor had been inspected for the issuance of the certificate, the aircraft had not undergone an annual inspection, and the aircraft carried no identification markings. The NTSB considered the entire range of circumstances and the broad areas of noncompliance with the regulations under which numerous flights were conducted, many on which passengers were carried, a reckless operation.
5)    In another case, the airman was acting as pilot in command (PIC) of an aircraft on a VFR, passenger-carrying flight carrying parachutists for compensation. The pilot deliberately performed an aileron roll. The seriousness of this violation was accentuated by the fact that the aircraft was not certificated for aerobatics, two parachutists were in the air when the roll was performed, the roll took place at an altitude of 500 to 800 feet over a group of persons on the ground, and the flight was made for compensation. The NTSB found the respondent’s violations to be deliberate and knowing and, therefore, reckless.
6)    In another case, the pilot in command (PIC) flew the pilot’s personal aircraft on a VFR, passenger‑carrying flight. During the course of the flight, the aircraft entered clouds and subsequently crashed into a mountainside. The NTSB held that the “ respondent’s continued VFR flight into clouds in the vicinity of mountainous terrain demonstrated inherently reckless conduct.”
7)    A pilot was found to be reckless when that pilot ignored specific air traffic control (ATC) instructions. Contrary to ATC instructions, the pilot failed to report downwind, landed the aircraft instead of going around, made a 180-degree turn on the runway, and departed via a taxiway. The NTSB noted that the go‑around instruction was given four separate times by the controller, yet the pilot persisted with the approach and landing. The NTSB also stated that, “ it appears that [the pilot] made up his mind to land the aircraft and no amount of instruction from the tower could keep him from that goal.” The pilot’s operation of the aircraft was characterized as reckless.

C.    Conclusion. While there is no regulatory definition of the term, “reckless,” it has been defined in cases decided by the NTSB. A reckless operation results from the operation of an aircraft conducted with a deliberate or willful disregard of the regulations or accepted standards of safety so as to endanger the life or property of another either potentially or actually. Accordingly, any such reckless behavior violates 91.13.

14-3-5-3 through 14-3-5-17 RESERVED.