FAA Files on Pilot’s Medical Certificate Clash with Church Documentation | New

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) – The pilot of the plane that crashed Saturday, killing all seven people on board, was flying with an expired certificate that confirms whether a pilot is healthy enough to fly, according to records from the FAA.

But a spokeswoman for the pilot’s church, Remnant Fellowship Church, disputes those records, saying Joe Lara had an active medical certificate.

Robert Katz, a commercial pilot and aviation instructor who consults News4 Investigates after plane crashes, said the medical certificate is required by the FAA to show a pilot is healthy enough to fly.

“A medical certificate must be renewed periodically to determine a pilot’s aptitude and mental fitness to fly an aircraft on a continuous basis,” Katz said.

FAA records show Lara’s medical certificate was obtained in November 2017, and federal records show that for pilots over 40, this license must be renewed every two years.

FAA records indicate that his medical license would have expired 17 months before the accident.

The medical certificate provided by the church shows that he was obtained in November 2019, meaning he would still be active at the time of the accident.

News4 Investigates received a copy of the church’s medical certificate and sent it to the FAA for clarification.

An FAA spokeswoman referred our questions to the NTSB.

A spokesperson for the NTSB said they had not yet reached the administrative part of their investigation.

The medical certificate provided by the church cites the signature of Dr. Bruce Hollinger, a senior aviation forensic scientist in the Nashville area, as the examiner.

A representative from Hollinger’s office sent an email in response to our questions, including they had been ordered to forward all questions to the FAA.

When asked if the FAA database is not kept up to date, their spokesperson responded in an email that the database is up to date and “generally accurate.”

Katz has said too often that pilots let their medical certificates expire.

“This is the worst problem that occurs in general aviation today – it is the most common occurrence committed by pilots today. It is usually a conscious decision,” Katz said.

Longtime church member Rob Day said Lara was a caring spiritual pilot.

“There wasn’t a time that I didn’t get on a plane with him that he stopped and prayed,” Day said.

Day also said Lara was meticulous in inspecting her plane.

“He was so careful, the amount of worry he has in everything, I don’t know if anyone could have taken more time to prepare a plane. Sometimes I was like, “Come on Joe, we have to go” and he would walk around the plane to check everything, “Day said.

While there is no indication at this point that Lara’s health had anything to do with the crash, Katz said an alarm could be heard briefly in the background of Lara’s call with air traffic control.

“We hear an alarm go off – I don’t know what exactly that alarm was for – that will indicate that something abnormal is happening with the plane,” Katz said.

Katz also said the plane’s flight path shows it was only in the air for about two minutes.

“The flight ended very abruptly, very quickly, suggesting that something catastrophic had happened mechanically,” Katz said.

Katz also said the plane was 39 years old and would have required frequent maintenance.

These maintenance records will be included in logbooks typically kept by the pilot or aircraft owner, and the NTSB will seek to find these records, according to Katz.

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