Gary Aliengena, father of boy aviator Tony Aliengena, faces a four-month suspension of his pilot's license as the result of a crash that occurred while he was at the controls during his son's round-the-world flight last year, authorities said Monday.
The Federal Aviation Administration proposed the suspension in January after investigating events that preceded the July 1989 crash in Alaska, FAA spokeswoman Elly Brekke said.
Brekke said she did not know the specific findings against Aliengena, but an FAA investigator said shortly after the crash that the San Juan Capistrano man had mistaken a 300-foot taxiway for a 2,700-foot runway and tried to take off from it. The investigator also said that Aliengena had loaded the Cessna 210 Centurion with two more passengers than its six-person limit.
The FAA will now hold informal discussions in Los Angeles with Aliengena, who has appealed the proposed suspension. After discussions with Aliengena, the FAA will make a final decision, spokesman Paul Steucke said.
The FAA could have proposed a suspension of anywhere between 30 days and a year, Brekke said.
Aliengena can make a final appeal to a National Transportation Safety judge.
Aliengena described the FAA investigation as "standard operating procedure."
"Every time any airplane taxies off a runway, there is an FAA investigation. It's kind of like an IRS audit," Aliengena said in a telephone interview.
However, Aliengena would not comment on the proposed suspension.
After the crash, Aliengena blamed the layout of the gravel runway and taxiway for the mishap.
The crash occurred on the last leg of 11-year-old Tony Aliengena's seven-week, 22,000-mile Friendship Flight.
The eight people on board, including the rest of the Aliengena family and observers, had just completed a three-day fishing trip in the small Alaskan village of Golovin, a remote town on the western coast of the state. Gary Aliengena took control of the plane at Golovin to give his son a rest and had planned to head for Nome, which is 90 miles west.
The single-engine Cessna crashed after a gust of wind lifted the plane off the taxiway, which the elder Aliengena was allegedly using as a runway.