Saturday, July 23, 2005

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Grand juries across California have indicted 40 pilots for fraud after they falsified medical records to hide disabilities like schizophrenia and severe heart problems that would have grounded them, federal officials said on Monday..
The pilots claimed to be fit to fly airplanes but collected disability payments for medical and psychological conditions that would have disqualified them from operating an aircraft, according to a statement by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of California. Other pilots failed to report they had prior criminal convictions, the statement said.
Authorities said they found pilots who continued to fly even though they had disabilities including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, drug and alcohol addiction, disabling back pain and severe heart conditions.
The indictments follow an 18-month probe of 40,000 licensed pilots in California by federal transportation officials, the Social Security Administration and the U.S. Attorney's office.
The statement said a number of commercial pilots and airline transport pilots were among the people indicted, but it did not provide details.
The pilots committed fraud when they didn't report their disabling medical conditions on their Federal Aviation Administration Medical Airman certificates, according to the statement. That certificate is the key document to obtaining and maintaining an active FAA pilot's license, the statement said.
The FAA has revoked 14 of the pilots' licenses and medical certificates, the other 26 pilots may be suspended.

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