The wreckage of a small plane crash in Southeastern Santa Barbara County.


The wreckage of a small plane crash in Southeastern Santa Barbara County.

Unlicensed to Fly

Pilot in Small Plane Crash Lacked Medical Certificate to Fly

After pilot David K. Martz fatally crashed the small plane he rented to fly resigned attorney Greg Bacino from San Diego to a San Luis Obispo business meeting, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) documents revealed that Martz lacked the medical certificate necessary to fly.

Just one month prior to the crash, Martz had been served in July with a Notice of Proposed Certificate Action from the FAA, which asked him to surrender his Commercial Pilot Certificate before a revocation order would be issued 15 days later. This wasn’t the first time his unsafe flying practices got him in trouble with the FAA: Since 1986, Martz had thrice lost his permit to fly. In ’86, his certificate was revoked for operating a plane without a second-class medical certificate ​— ​one of two safety documents required for every commercial pilot ​— ​falsifying a document, and flying with invalid registration. Martz then evaded FAA regulations by flying with a suspended certificate and flying within 50 feet of people and property in 2004, after which his nonexistent certificate was revoked. Finally, the pilot faced his most egregious suspension in 2009 when he lost his privileges to fly after having sex while piloting a passenger-carrying flight; “one of the passengers leaned her upper body over the collective pitch control to perform oral sex” on him, as stated in the July notice.

In 2011, Martz received a DUI in his hometown of San Diego for driving with a blood-alcohol level above the legal limit, and his driver’s license was suspended for one year. Two years later, Martz received a second alcohol-related DUI and lost his license for one more year. Under FAA regulations, repeated motor vehicle incidents may lead to certificate suspension. Coupled with his previous offenses, the grounds for his fourth revocation was failing to disclose the second DUI when he was issued a medical certificate in 2014.

Ian Gregor, FAA public affairs manager, said that Martz had already surrendered his medical certificate at the time of the crash and was thus unlicensed to fly.

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