CAMDEN - A federal aviation safety inspector from Pemberton Township admitted Thursday that he accepted tens of thousands of dollars in illegal "tips" from pilots he took out on unauthorized flights, passing them on their pilot testing and certifications.
Harrington Bishop, 63, of Red Feather Trail, pleaded guilty in federal court to an information charging him with one count of receiving illegal gratuities by a public official, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman said.
Bishop faces up to two years in federal prison and fines of up to $250,000 when U.S. District Judge Robert B. Kugler sentences him Feb. 2.
Bishop, a safety inspector with the Federal Aviation Administration, generally accepted $300 tips when he would take pilots out on "flight checks" at the Cave Flight School at the Flying W Airport in Medford, authorities said.
He worked for the FAA assigned to the Teterboro Flight Standards District Office in Saddle Brook, Bergen County, from May 2004 to February 2011.
Bishop admitted that, during that time, he spent hundreds of weekends, holidays and other days of approved leave taking pilots out on flight checks at Flying W.
The tests, none of which were authorized by the Teterboro office or the FAA, ranged from private pilot tests to airline transport pilot certificate tests, authorities said.
Bishop said in court that the hundreds of tests over the seven-year period nearly always resulted in the pilots passing.
Even though the FAA did not authorize the flights, the pilots became officially licensed, certified or otherwise approved by the FAA as a result of Bishop's official acts.
In exchange for the hundreds of check flights, Bishop collected the $300 tips, fully aware that he was not allowed to accept payment from pilots or anyone else in exchange for the performance of his official duties, authorities said.
Over time, he collected tens of thousands of dollars, federal officials said. They did not immediately release an exact amount.
The bribery charge carries a maximum potential penalty of two years in prison and a maximum $250,000 fine, or twice the gain or loss caused by the offense.
Fishman credited special agents of the U.S. Department of Transportation's Office of the Inspector General for the investigation leading to the guilty plea.