In daily life, I tend to be positive and optimistic. My life’s not perfect. Far from it, in fact. But on the whole, my family and I are blessed.
And yet, there are often bumps in the road…or maybe turbulence is a better way to say it.
On May 28, 2019, the Office of the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Transportation released a pretty damning statement.
Central Florida Aviation Medical Examiner Charged for Fraudulently Certifying Pilots
“On May 28, 2019, Dr. Robert F. Kurrle, Port Orange, Florida, was charged via information in U.S. District Court, Orlando, Florida, for falsely certifying thousands of commercial and private pilot medical examinations. The information was filed subsequent to a signed plea agreement in which Kurrle admitted to the violations.
“The investigation revealed that between Jan. 1, 2017, and Feb. 28, 2019, Kurrle performed approximately 3,814 airman medical examinations, earning an estimated $523,740 in fees. He admitted that approximately 75% of his examinations were fraudulent and agreed to forfeit 75% of his earnings, a total of $392,805. He agreed to pay $48,818.45 to reimburse the FAA for the costs associated with retesting pilots.
“Kurrle also issued medical certificates to airmen who did not pass material portions of their medical examinations. He then transmitted the fraudulent results to FAA, which relied on those results to determine whether the airmen could operate aircraft safely.
“DOT-OIG and the Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted this investigation with substantial assistance from FAA’s Aeromedical Division.”
Pilots who were examined by Kurrle received a form letter from the Civil Aerospace Medical Institute.
That letter begins, “As a result of a quality assurance review and subsequent investigation of the airmen medical certification activities of Senior Aviation Medical Examiner Robert Kurrle, M.D., over the previous five years, there is reason to believe that the medical certification examinations conducted by Dr. Kurrle during this period were not conducted in accordance with FAA standards. The FAA has reason to question the medical qualifications of the airmen issued medical certificates by Dr. Kurrle during this period, and reexamination of the affected airmen is necessary in the interest of safety.”
It continues, “In order to determine whether you meet the medical standards, you must submit a new application for a medical certificate and undergo your physical examination within 60 days of the date of this correspondence.”
A hearing on the matter was set for June 12. As I write this, I’m not aware of the results of that hearing.
To be clear, I see a doctor in the Pacific Northwest. Not Dr. Kurrle. I didn’t receive any such form letter addressed to me personally.
I feel bad for those pilots caught up in this mess. Personally, I assume my aeromedical doctor is doing things properly. He appears fair and thorough.
For those who visited Dr. Kurrle because they couldn’t pass a medical exam, well, I’m still hashing out those thoughts. Part of me is mad. Part of me is sad. If flying was all I had, maybe I’d see if I could skirt the rules. I like to think not.
This story is messy, and will no doubt get messier. If I were caught up in this, I believe I would have a very hard time staying positive and optimistic.
Belite Aircraft makes charming little single- and two-seat aircraft at the lighter and more affordable end of the cost scale.
Sadly, on June 7 at about 11:45 p.m., James and Kathy Wiebe, the owners of Belite, received a call from emergency services that their building had been in a fire.
“It appears that the fire started at our CNC router dust collection system,” said James Wiebe via email. “Intense smoke filled the building, and my office and much of our building contents was destroyed. In the back area of the building (in the production area), everything higher than 6′ off the ground was melting or burned. Much of our raw inventory and all of our older collections of parts for older aircraft designs (for instance, ProCub and UltraCub) was upstairs. It appears that almost all raw inventory and most, if not all, work in process for aircraft kits was destroyed.”
While no person was hurt, the office cats, Lucky and Daphne, did not survive.
Best wishes to James and Kathy. I hope to see you both at AirVenture in July.