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Investigations

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Former Air Ambulance Pilot Convicted of Falsifying His Medical Certificate Application

On March 20, a former air ambulance service pilot was found guilty by a Federal jury in Sacramento, California, on charges of making false statements on his application for an airman's medical certificate and failing to report Social Security disability overpayments. Michael Pennington, of Susanville, California, was a former chief pilot and maintenance director for Mountain Life Flight, an air ambulance service based in Susanville. Testimony during the trial disclosed that Pennington falsified his application for his annual airman's medical certificate between 2001 and 2004 by failing to indicate that he was receiving disability benefits for debilitating medical conditions. Pennington also failed to inform the Social Security Administration (SSA) that he was receiving substantial income, resulting in his receiving $36,000 of excess Social Security Disability payments from 2003 to 2005. No sentencing date has been set.

OIG identified the falsifications during a joint review of airmen's medical certifications in Northern California conducted with the SSA Office of Inspector General. FAA performed an emergency revocation on Pennington's licenses and certifications. "Operation Safe Pilot" resulted in 45 pilots being charged with making false statements. One pilot died while under investigation and 43 pilots entered into plea agreements with the U.S. Attorneys' Offices. Pennington will be the last pilot in the operation to be sentenced.