BOULDER CITY, Nev. — The Federal Aviation Administration has revoked the license of a Southern California pilot whose business partner died in a crash in Boulder City, saying he was reckless in offering tourists paid flights in an experimental aircraft less than two weeks after promising a federal inspector he wouldn’t.
The FAA on Tuesday ordered David Glen Riggs, famous for buzzing the Santa Monica Pier, to surrender his commercial pilot license, following an investigation into the May 18 crash that killed pilot Douglas Gilliss and passenger Richard Winslow. Gilliss and Riggs were flying two aircraft in a formation.
In the order, FAA attorney Naomi Tsuda told Riggs his conduct “demonstrates a reckless disregard for the safety and property of others” and that he lacked “the degree of care, judgment, and responsibility required of the holder of any FAA issued pilot certificate.”
Riggs, 50, told The Associated Press that he planned to file an appeal Friday. He said the flights were being filmed and were conducted legally under a motion picture and television waiver, although he declined to discuss specifics of the filming project.
“We’ve done nothing wrong,” he said.
Investigators said a group of eight people had purchased a package that included 45-minute rides on Aero Vodochody L-39 jets and a film of the flight. Riggs had just taken off, and the aircraft piloted by Gilliss, of Solano Beach, Calif., was following when Gilliss’ jet crashed in the desert not far from the Boulder City Airport.
Gilliss and his passenger, Winslow, were killed.
The National Transportation Safety Board released a preliminary study, but has not reported an exact cause of the crash.
In their revocation order, FAA officials said Riggs carried passengers on three flights the day of the crash, even though the jet was only licensed for air racing and exhibition.
They said Riggs had met with inspectors about two weeks earlier in Van Nuys, Calif., and assured them he wouldn’t fly for hire.
Riggs had a prior run-in with the FAA. His private pilot certificate was revoked in 2009 for a year, after officials said he flew a jet within feet of California’s busy Santa Monica Pier.
“You have a history of committing other violations that indicate you put your own economic gain over aviation safety,” Tsuda wrote. “You were willing to sacrifice the safety of others for your own personal financial gain by charging for flights in (the jet).”
Riggs scoffed at the characterization. “That’s ridiculous,” he said. “Safety is the No. 1 priority. We go through extensive training, extensive preparation for every single flight. What happened was a tragic accident, and after the NTSB finishes their report, I’m sure we’ll know what occurred.”