One of his passengers, Janet C. Valleau, told investigators that Wozniak appeared so unfamiliar with the workings of his newly purchased $260,000 plane, that as he prepared to take off, " . . . he thought the radio he had to listen to was being jammed maliciously." The "jamming," she said, turned out to be an audible alarm inside the cockpit.
Wozniak, 36, refused to discuss his accident or his subsequent encounter with FAA, saying, "I don't want to get into that again."
Another prominent flier who declined to comment about his experience with the FAA was Robert A. Hoover of Pacific Palisades, a former Rockwell International test pilot considered a veritable legend in aviation circles. A distinguished combat flier, Hoover helped his chum, Chuck Yeager, break the sound barrier in 1947.
He was once described by another aviation pioneer, Lt. Gen. James H. Doolittle, as "the greatest (acrobatic pilot) that ever lived. He is so much a part of his airplane that he wears it rather than flies it."
But Hoover's contributions to aviation did not stop the FAA from citing him for an incident that occured in October, 1982, at the Deer Valley Airport, agency records indicate. FAA attorney Richard G. Wittry said that during an air show at Deer Valley, Hoover flew a P-51D Mustang on a "low, high-speed pass" during which the tips of the airplane's propeller were damaged.
Hoover was accused of "careless or reckless" operation of the Mustang and also of continuing to fly the World War II-era fighter even though it may not have been in an airworthy condition after the incident.
After extensive negotiations, Hoover eventually paid the FAA a $750 "administrative settlement," tantamount to a fine, Wittry said. (A Rockwell spokesman, however, insisted that Hoover never paid a fine and "has never been in violation of FAA regulations").
Earn a Living
Fliers like Hoover who depend on their pilots' licenses to earn a living often as not receive a fine instead of a suspension when found guilty of breaking an aviation regulation, agency attorneys say. That way, the errant pilot pays for his infraction but can still continue to work.
Sometimes, however, the infraction is considered serious enough that a suspension or revocation is ordered, even if the accused is a commercial pilot.
Such was the case in San Diego in June, 1985, when pilot Eric E. Svelmoe of suburban El Cajon was accused of not receiving a proper waiver before towing a banner over the city's Hillcrest area. Svelmoe was also charged with failing to notify the FAA of his new home address.
Under ordinary circumstances, the two alleged infractions might not have amounted to much. But the banner behind Svelmoe's plane declared, "Repent Fag," and his flight over Hillcrest--a neighborhood popular among homosexuals--occurred during Gay Pride Day. Within days, the FAA received a complaint from a San Diego city councilman, as well as a petition signed by 353 people, all alleging that Svelmoe had been flying at less than 500 feet above the ground.
The FAA's subsequent investigation determined that Svelmoe had not violated a 1,000-foot minimum altitude requirement. However, Svelmoe's explanation that he was towing the banner for his church did not fly with the FAA, and his pilot's certificate was suspended for 60 days.
Agency records also show that in 1984, Svelmoe received a 180-day suspension for piloting an aged airplane that lacked proper lights and certification. Close-up photographs of the plane on file with the FAA showed that pieces were literally held together with tape.
Svelmoe could not be reached to comment on either of his suspensions.
Still, handing down suspensions like those issued to Svelmoe and others will ultimately have little effect on air safety in Southern California and elsewhere, many FAA officials believe.
"We can pass all the laws we want," said Jim Holtsclaw, manager of the control tower at Los Angeles International. "But in the end, it depends on the integrity of the individual. It's still up to the pilot to police himself and follow the rules."
POLICING THE AIR To enforce regulations aimed at deterring conduct deemed hazardous, the FAA uses sanctions ranging from warnings, suspensions and fines to revocation of pilot licenses. A Times computer analysis of 3,507 FAA enforcement actions filed between 1981-1986 in California, Arizona, Nevada and Hawaii shows the most common infractions.
Total number of cases brought against pilots 697
Licenses revoked 34
Average suspension of licenses 64 days
Average fine $348