The following article appeared in the Miami Herald, Sunday July 7, 1996

FAA not sure whether to appeal Basulto ruling

Herald Staff Writers

The Federal Aviation Administration said Saturday it has not decided whether to appeal the decision by a judge who ruled that the FAA went too far when it revoked the pilot's license of Brothers to the Rescue founder Jose Basulto.

Instead, Basulto's license should be suspended for 150 days as punishment for the two instances in which he flew into Cuban airspace, National Transportation Safety Board administrative law judge William Pope said late Friday.

The ruling means Basulto could be back in the pilot's seat by October, his attorneys said.

The FAA, however, can appeal to the full National Transportation Safety Board, which could reverse the judge's decision, an FAA spokeswoman said Saturday afternoon.

``We have to review the decision, evaluate it and make a determination [whether to appeal],'' spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said.

The judge's meticulously worded ruling, which took 2 1/2 hours to read, comes less than two months after the FAA revoked Basulto's license for violating the law when he flew over Havana on July 13, 1995, and dropped leaflets onto the island. He also was accused of penetrating Cuba's airspace last Feb. 24, the day two other Brothers to the Rescue planes were shot down by Cuban MiGs.

After listening to eight days of testimony, which included details of shifting flight plans and radar coordinates, the judge ruled Basulto did penetrate Cuban airspace. Basulto acknowledged dropping leaflets over Havana last July but disputed the February allegations.

Pope's decision hinged on Basulto's motive in February. ``Compared to the flight on July 13, 1995, this one is less serious because it was not intentional,'' the judge said.

Basulto seemed satisfied with the ruling, calling the judge fair. Before the hearing, Basulto had said he would fly anyway -- as a front-seat passenger. By law, he is allowed to fly as long as a certified pilot is with him.

Sofia Powell-Cosio, one of the lawyers representing Basulto, called the ruling a victory.

``It would've been a better victory if he would've thrown out all the charges for the flight on Feb. 24, but we're happy with the suspension,'' Powell-Cosio said.

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Copyright 1996 The Miami Herald