The Safety Board serves as the "court of appeal" for airmen, mechanics or mariners whenever the FAA or the USCG takes a certificate action. The Board's administrative law judges hear, consider, and issue initial decisions on appeals filed with the Board. The judges also adjudicate claims for fees and expenses stemming from FAA certificate and civil penalty actions under the Equal Access to Justice Act.
The Board currently has four judges. Two are based in Washington, D.C., and hold hearings primarily in the eastern half of the United States. The other two are based in Arlington, Texas and Denver, Colorado and hear cases primarily in the western half of the country. Either the certificate holder or the FAA may appeal the judges' decisions in these cases to the five-member Board. The Board's review on appeal of its administrative law judges' decisions is based on the record of the proceeding, which includes hearing testimony (transcript), exhibits, the judge's decision, and appeal briefs submitted by the parties.
Marine certificate actions are heard first by the Coast Guard's administrative law judges, and may be appealed to the Commandant of the Coast Guard. The ruling of the Commandant may then be appealed to the Safety Board.