DOT & FAA increase civil penalties for aviation violations

A light jet is towed on the runway.
Photo Credit: NBAA

Fines imposed by the Department of Transportation (DOT), including the FAA, for aviation violations and regulatory breaches have increased under the DOT’s annual adjustment to its civil penalty amounts.

The changes are mandated under the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustments Act Improvements Act of 2015, which requires government agencies to adjust civil penalties annually to preserve the effectiveness of the deterrent impact of such penalties.

Aviation Violations – Regulatory Landscape


The backdrop for these fines is the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustments Act Improvements Act of 2015.

This legislative mandate requires government agencies to annually recalibrate civil penalties, ensuring their effectiveness as deterrents.

The DOT, aligning with this legislation, has recently implemented adjustments reflecting the changes in the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers from October 2022 through October 2023.

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A 'No Drone' sign on airport fence.
Photo Credit: Wayne Jackson via Pexels

FAA Stance on Hazardous Materials Violations


One area where these adjustments are particularly noteworthy is FAA hazardous materials rules violations. The penalty for such infractions now stands at a staggering $99,756 per violation.

In cases leading to severe outcomes such as death, serious illness, severe injury, or substantial property destruction, the fines can skyrocket to a maximum of $232,762.

Navigating the hazardous materials regulations is now more critical than ever, considering the hefty penalties at stake.

Effect of a laser pointed at an aircraft landing at night.
Photo Credit: FAA

Laser Pointers and Unmanned Aircraft


The fine regimen also extends to unconventional threats, such as aiming laser pointers at aircraft or their flight paths.

Violators face a penalty of $31,819, emphasizing the FAA’s commitment to ensuring the safety of airspace.

Moreover, the operation of unmanned aircraft has its own set of penalties. Knowingly or recklessly interfering with law enforcement, emergency response, or wildfire suppression using unmanned aircraft can now incur fines of $25,455.

Assault and Imminent Threats


The DOT’s stringent approach extends to maintaining order within the aircraft to safeguard airspace and airspace users.

Assaulting or threatening assault of a crewmember or any individual on an aircraft, or actions posing an imminent threat to the safety of the aircraft and its occupants, now carries a penalty of $43,658.

This provision underscores the DOT’s commitment to fostering a secure environment within air travel.

A Look Forward


It is imperative for individuals and entities in the aviation industry to comprehend the gravity of these adjustments.

Doug Carr, NBAA senior vice president of safety, security, sustainability, and international affairs, highlights the importance of awareness regarding potential fines in 2024.

“Civil penalties are adjusted annually so these increases are expected, but it is important for those in the aviation industry to be aware of potential fines for violations in 2024,” said Doug Carr.

“The recently published fines serve as a guide to the FAA in its enforcement of regulatory violations.”

These adjusted civil penalties are not retroactive, but they set the tone for the FAA’s vigilance in enforcing aviation violations and regulatory compliance.

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Fines imposed by the Department of Transportation (DOT), including the FAA, for violating aviation regulations have increased under annual adjustment.
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