Pilot in fatal plane crash had a long disciplinary history with the FAA
The pilot of a small plane that crashed earlier this month in Santa Barbara County, killing him and his passenger, had a long history of discipline by the Federal Aviation Administration and lacked the medical clearances required to fly.
Government records show that David K. Martz, 58, of San Diego lost his pilot’s license three times over the years — the latest revocation occurring in 2009 after he had oral sex with an adult film actress while flying a helicopter.
Before the crash Aug. 6, Martz was facing a fourth revocation proceeding on allegations that he falsified his FAA medical certificate related to two drunken driving convictions in 2013 and 2014. He surrendered the document in June during the agency’s investigation.
The FAA issues medical certifications to pilots after doctors determine they are healthy enough to operate aircraft.
“A person needs a pilot certificate and a current medical certificate to fly legally,” said Ian Gregor, an FAA spokesman in Los Angeles. “Mr. Martz did not have a valid medical certificate when last week’s crash occurred.”
Martz was at the controls of a four-place, single-engine Cessna 182 when it crashed into a steep hillside in a remote area of Los Padres National Forest north of Ojai. He reported engine trouble about 9:45 p.m., authorities said.
The plane was headed from Lompoc to McClellan-Palomar Airport in Carlsbad in north San Diego County. Also killed in the crash was Greg Bacino, 56, of San Diego.
Though Martz had a lengthy disciplinary record, it can be difficult for the FAA to keep reckless, incompetent or rogue pilots out of the cockpit permanently. Under federal regulations, pilots can lose their licenses for a year and get them back by successfully re-testing after the revocation period expires.
There are exceptions, however. Air transport, commercial and private pilot licenses as well as medical certificates can be revoked permanently because of drug or alcohol dependencies, serious health issues, psychological problems, lack of good moral character, criminal convictions for narcotics trafficking or knowingly installing parts in aircraft that are not FAA-certified.
According to FAA records, Martz first lost his commercial pilot’s license for a year in 1986 for flying an aircraft without a valid registration and possessing a false medical certificate — the same charge he was facing before the Santa Barbara crash.
His flight privileges were revoked again in 2004 for operating an aircraft while his pilot’s license was suspended and flying within 50 feet of people and property at the Miramar Marine Corps Air Station in San Diego.
The third revocation occurred in 2009 for recklessly operating a four-passenger Bell helicopter Martz had lent to an adult film company. While at the controls and hovering over San Diego, he was captured on videotape receiving oral sex from a Swedish porn star.
The FAA also has suspended Martz’s license several times starting in 2002, when he lost his flight privileges for 30 days for performing aerobatics below an altitude of 1,500 feet over a populated area. A 230-day suspension followed in 2005 after he flew passengers in a helicopter he knew was damaged.
The FAA also investigated Martz in 2006 for landing a helicopter on Wattles Drive in the Hollywood Hills to pick up Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee, who wanted to go to a Nine Inch Nails concert.
No disciplinary action resulted, but the Los Angeles city attorney’s office charged Martz with reckless operation of an aircraft, landing an aircraft on a public road and landing an aircraft without a permit, all misdemeanors. Frank Mateljan, a city attorney spokesman, said Martz was placed on 36 months’ probation and fined $1,000 after pleading guilty to a lesser charge.
Three years later while transporting Lee again, Martz was forced to land his helicopter at Van Nuys Airport after he reportedly flew very close to a Los Angeles police chopper. Authorities said Martz took a Breathalyzer test to determine if he was intoxicated, but it was inconclusive.
The stories shaping California
Get up to speed with our Essential California newsletter, sent six days a week.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.