May 31, 2018
Florida Man Charged With Operating Sightseeing Flights Without a Valid Pilot’s License
On May 31, Mario Cruise, owner of South Florida Air Tours (SFAT), was indicted in U.S. District Court, Miami, Florida, for serving as the pilot in command of an aircraft carrying passengers for hire although he lacked a valid Commercial Airman’s Certificate (CAC). He was also charged with making false statements to FAA, which requires pilots who carry passengers for hire or compensation to have a CAC.
In April 2017, FAA forwarded a complaint to DOT-OIG that alleged Cruise piloted numerous sightseeing flights in south Florida without the required CAC. FAA inspectors later observed Cruise performing sightseeing flights on multiple occasions; after which, he told the Agency that he had never done so.
Eventually, Cruise admitted that he had acted as a commercial pilot on approximately 150 SFAT flights without a valid CAC and provided false information to FAA in response to official inquiries about SFAT operations. According to records obtained from Groupon, SFAT sold 1,261 sightseeing air-tour vouchers, which were redeemed by air travelers, between approximately February 2016 and October 2017.
Note: Indictments, informations, and criminal complaints are only accusations by the Government. All defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.