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UCRCC: Rep. Greg Walden`s Oregon Congressional Connection

September 2, 2010

Dear Jay,

I just wanted to drop a quick note to make you aware of what I consider to be an outrageous example of out-of-control government.

Here’s the backstory: Medford-based Mercy Flights, the nation’s longest serving air ambulance operator, was fined $30,000 by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for using the word “our.”

I’m not kidding. And keep in mind that they’re a nonprofit performing an essential service for southern Oregon.

They were punished for an infraction completely unrelated to safety or hazardous conditions. Their offense was using the pronoun “our” on its website and other company literature when referring to an air ambulance helicopter that it operates.

While Mercy Flights has exclusive use of the helicopter, pays all the costs of maintaining and operating the helicopter, and employs all the medical staff that work on the helicopter, the pilots and mechanics are controlled by BTS LLC.

So, the FAA decided the use of “our helicopter” in Mercy Flights’ literature constituted an act of deceiving the public, and slapped them with a $30,000 fine without even the opportunity to change the wording.

Huh?

As I told the Medford Mail-Tribune, since when did the FAA become the grammar police? It’s obvious that Mercy Flights wasn’t trying to deceive anyone.

I’ve written a letter to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood asking for a full explanation – and I must point out that Mercy Flights never contacted me about this. I just read the original story in the Mail-Tribuneand was outraged.

The Mail-Tribune’s most recent report is below.

Best regards,
Greg Walden

Rep. Walden goes to bat for Mercy Flights

He challenges severity of FAA’s fine for the Medford ambulance service’s misuse of ‘our’

September 02, 2010

By Greg Stiles

Mail Tribune

Congressman Greg Walden has asked Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood for details on the Federal Aviation Administration investigation into Mercy Flights’ promotional material that led to a $30,000 fine.

“Since when did the FAA become the grammar police? This is the kind of nuance that only bureaucrats could love,” Walden said in a statement Wednesday. “It is obvious that Mercy Flights wasn’t trying to deceive anyone. It is beyond me why the FAA would think that this exceedingly minor word choice merits such a severe penalty. Mercy Flights provides an essential service and creates good jobs in Southern Oregon. This is Exhibit A for excessive government control.”

The Oregon Republican wrote LaHood on Tuesday after Southern Oregon constituents raised the issue following a Mail Tribune story about the Transportation Department’s consent order concerning the nonprofit’s marketing.

“I would appreciate you informing me of the details of FAA’s enforcement investigation into this matter and explaining why the FAA chose to levy such an unreasonable fine on Mercy Flights without even affording it the opportunity to immediately modify the language in question in its promotional materials or comply with a nonpunitive cease-and-desist order,” Walden wrote.

Medford-based Mercy Flights, the nation’s longest serving air ambulance operator, was punished for an infraction unrelated to safety or hazardous conditions. The FAA levied a fine because Mercy Flights used the pronoun “our” on its website and other company literature when referring to an air ambulance helicopter owned by BTS LLC, which hires the pilots and maintains the craft. The helicopter has been dedicated to Mercy Flights’ use since 1998.

A spokesman for the Transportation Department in Washington, D.C., said the closer scrutiny was the result of crashes involving other companies.

“Over the past few years there have been a number of air ambulance and air taxi crashes, some involving fatalities, where the people chartering the flights did not appear to know who was really providing the service and who was responsible for the safety of the operations,” said Bill Mosley, a Transportation Department spokesman. “Thus we have begun to more closely monitor advertising for these activities to ensure the operators do not deceive consumers in violation of federal law, the only law that applies.”

Mosley said the department will reply to Walden in the near future, but didn’t indicate the nature of the response.

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