Justia Aviation Opinion Summaries

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Petitioner is an experienced airline pilot. When he was interviewing for a new position, he was asked to take a urine test. Unable to provide an adequate sample, Petitioner left the site. Under FAA guidelines, walking out before providing a drug test sample is considered a refusal. The potential employer reported Petitioner's refusal to the FAA. The FAA sought to revoke Petitioner's pilot and medical certifications. However, at a hearing in front of the National Safety Transportation Board, the Board agreed with the FAA in sustaining the refusal, but reduced Petitioner's sanction to a 180-suspension.The D.C. Circuit denied Petitioner's petition for review, finding that by walking out before providing a sufficient urine sample, Petitioner's conduct was properly considered a refusal. In so holding, the court noted that the trial court credited the FAA witnesses while questioning the veracity of Petitioner's testimony.The D.C. Circuit also granted the FAA's cross-petition, finding that the Board was required to defer to the FAA under these circumstances. View "Ydil Pham v. NTSB" on Justia Law

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Cirrus petitioned for inter partes review of a patent that describes ballistic parachute systems that use a rocket to deploy a parachute, slowing the fall of a crashing aircraft. The Patent Trial and Appeal Board determined that the challenged claims are unpatentable as obvious over a combination of Cirrus Design’s Pilot Operation Handbook (POH) and the James patent. The POH describes the operation of a ballistic parachute system installed on the Cirrus SR22 airplane. The James patent, titled “Semiautonomous Flight Director,” describes a “device for programming industry-standard autopilots” to allow “for the safe operation of any aircraft by an unskilled pilot. The Board determined that proposed amended claims lacked written description.The Federal Circuit affirmed. The determination that the ordinarily skilled artisan would program James’s autonomous system to perform the claimed flight maneuvers suggested by POH is the result of a faithful application of precedent on obviousness, including a directive to consider the creativity of the ordinarily skilled artisan. That the prior art cautioned pilots not to use autopilot in some emergency situations on some aircraft does not mean that the skilled artisan would have been dissuaded from doing so in all emergency situations on all aircraft. Substantial evidence supports the finding of lack of written description. View "Fleming v. Cirrus Design Corp." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs purchased tickets for Defendant’s commercial flights from Miami to Venezuela. Plaintiffs allege that their ticket prices reflected the “fully-paid contract” and that Defendant failed to sufficiently disclose any other fees required for passage. When checking in for their flights at the airport, however, Defendant informed Plaintiffs that they had to pay an additional $80 “Exit Fee” before being allowed to board their flights. Plaintiffs filed a breach of contract putative class action.The district court dismissed the suit, concluding that the Airline Deregulation Act preempted Plaintiffs’ breach of contract claim because it related to the price of the airline ticket and the Act’s preemption provision identifies actions relating to price as preempted. The Eleventh Circuit reversed, first holding that the Plaintiffs plausibly alleged facts that would establish diversity jurisdiction. Plaintiffs’ breach of contract claim seeks merely to enforce the parties’ private agreements regarding the cost of passage and does not invoke state laws or regulations to alter the agreed-upon price. The statute, 49 U.S.C. 41713(b)(1), provides: “[A] State . . . may not enact or enforce a law, regulation, or other provision having the force and effect of law related to a price, route, or service of an air carrier..” The suit falls within the category of cases protected from preemption by Supreme Court precedent. View "Cavalieri v. Avior Airlines C.A." on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit remanded to the FAA for it to consider the evidence petitioner provided and to make the explicit "why and wherefore" of its action. In this case, after petitioner, a commercial airline pilot with a diagnosed alcohol dependence, tested positive for alcohol, the FAA withdrew his medical certification required for flight. Petitioner requested reconsideration of the FAA's decision with documentation to demonstrate that the positive test was due to unknowing exposure to alcohol. View "Erwin v. Federal Aviation Administration" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit granted defendants' motion for a stay of discovery in this class action lawsuit while the court reviews their appeal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(f). Boeing and Southwest were sued for allegedly conspiring to conceal design defects in Boeing's 737 MAX 8 aircraft and thus defrauding airline ticket purchasers. After considering the Nken factors, the court concluded that Boeing and Southwest have made a strong showing that the court is likely to reverse the class-certification decision because they raised substantial predominance questions regarding damages. Furthermore, defendants have also made a strong showing regarding irreparable harm; plaintiffs have not plausibly alleged that they or any other parties will be irreparably injured by delaying further discovery until the conclusion of the Rule 23(f) appeal; and the public interest supports staying district court proceedings to avoid potentially wasteful and unnecessary litigation costs where, as here, defendants have shown a substantial likelihood of success on appeal. View "Earl v. Boeing Company" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against the Government, alleging violations of their Fourth and Fifth Amendments and the Administrative Procedure Act, and seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. Plaintiffs' action stemmed from extensive and intrusive security screenings at domestic and international airports, and their belief that they were on a terrorist watchlist maintained by the U.S. Government. The district court granted the Government's motion to dismiss with prejudice on the ground that plaintiffs lacked Article III standing.The DC Circuit concluded that because plaintiffs plausibly allege that they will travel again soon and that they will again endure the alleged illegalities, they have established an imminent threat of future injury and have standing to pursue most of their claims for prospective relief. The court could easily infer from the family's travel history that they will soon fly again, particularly if they secure the relief they now seek. Furthermore, plaintiffs' uncontested factual allegations, combined with the reasonable inferences the court drew from them, plausibly indicate that the family likely appeared on a terrorist watchlist in 2018. The court also concluded that plaintiffs plausibly allege that the treatment they endured went well beyond what typical travelers reasonably expect during airport screenings. Finally, plaintiffs' factual allegations lead to the reasonable inference that the family's watchlist status remains the same today.However, the court held that plaintiffs lack standing to pursue prospective relief relating to certain actions taken by Government agents who detained them during their travel in 2018. In this case, plaintiffs claim that these actions violated established federal policies, but they lack standing because they have not plausibly alleged any impending or substantial risk of future harm. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part and reversed in part, remanding for further proceedings. View "Jibril v. Mayorkas" on Justia Law

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United sought refunds, pursuant to 49 U.S.C. 44940(g), from the TSA for payments it made to the TSA related to fees charged to airline passengers, and collected by airlines, that fund aviation security measures and are to be remitted monthly to the TSA. United contends that it erroneously remitted the security fees in two circumstances: (1) tickets associated with passengers who purchased their tickets from other airlines but who were later involuntarily transferred to United flights and (2) tickets for which, because of currency exchange rate fluctuations, the recorded and remitted fee amount deviated from the fee amount statutorily required.The DC Circuit upheld the TSA's decision denying United's refund request regarding the second set of tickets, but found that the TSA's denial of a refund for the first set arbitrary and capricious. The court concluded that the TSA's denial was arbitrary and capricious with respect to the involuntary transfer tickets where the court is confronted with a factual dispute with important implications for United's refund. On the one hand, United claims that it never transfers security fees—a practice that appears correct in view of the allocation of liability under 49 U.S.C. 44940—but failed to raise or support this assertion until oral argument. On the other hand, the TSA maintains that airlines might transfer security fees but does little to support this assertion in its denial letter, at least beyond bare conclusions and unsupported hypotheticals. The court vacated the TSA's decision with respect to the IT tickets and remanded to the TSA for reconsideration of the denial. The court otherwise affirmed the TSA's decision. View "United Airlines, Inc. v. Transportation Security Administration" on Justia Law

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Petitioner sought review of the TSA's Mask Directives, issued in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, claiming that the TSA has no authority to issue the directives. Petitioner argued that TSA's authority under the Aviation and Transportation Security Act does not empower TSA to require face masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19.The DC Circuit found no merit in petitioner's claim and denied the petition for review. The court concluded that the COVID-19 global pandemic poses one of the greatest threats to the operational viability of the transportation system and the lives of those on it seen in decades. TSA, which is tasked with maintaining transportation safety and security, plainly has the authority to address such threats under both sections 114(f) and (g) of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act. The court stated that the Mask Directives are reasonable and permissible regulations adopted by TSA to promote safety and security in the transportation system against threats posed by COVID-19. The Mask Directives are not ultra vires, and the court deferred to the agency's interpretation of the Act. View "Corbett v. Transportation Security Administration" on Justia Law

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To comply with the National Environmental Policy Act, the FAA issued an Environmental Assessment (EA) for the construction and operation of an air cargo facility at the San Bernardino International Airport. The Record of Decision found no significant environmental impact. Objectors asserted that the FAA did not conform its study areas to the FAA’s Order 1050.1F Desk Reference.The Ninth Circuit rejected a petition for review. The FAA’s nonadherence to the Desk Reference could not alone serve as the basis for holding that the FAA did not take a “hard look” at the environmental consequences. Rejecting an argument that the FAA should have expanded its assessment to include more than 80 projects, the court held that the record showed that the FAA did consider the fact that the additional projects would result in massive average daily trips in the first year of operations.The court rejected California’s argument that the FAA needed to create an environmental impact statement because a California Environmental Impact Report found that the proposed Project could result in significant impacts on air quality, greenhouse gas, and noise. The South Coast Air Quality Management District’s own assessment was that the Project will comply with federal and state air quality standards. The court also rejected California’s noise concerns. Objectors failed to show arbitrariness or capriciousness in the EA’s truck trip calculation method and provided no reason to believe that the Project threatened to violate federal ozone standards. View "Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice v. Federal Aviation Administration" on Justia Law

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Williams International Company LLC designed, manufactured, and serviced small jet engines. Dodson International Parts, Inc., sold new and used aircraft and aircraft parts. After purchasing two used jet engines that had been manufactured by Williams, Dodson contracted with Williams to inspect the engines and prepare an estimate of repair costs, intending to resell the repaired engines. Williams determined that the engines were so badly damaged that they could not be rendered fit for flying, but it refused to return one of the engines because Dodson had not paid its bill in full. Dodson sued Williams in federal court alleging federal antitrust and state-law tort claims. Williams moved to compel arbitration under the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), relying on an arbitration clause on the original invoices. The district court granted the motion, and the arbitrator resolved all of Dodson’s claims in favor of Williams. Dodson then moved to reconsider the order compelling arbitration and to vacate the arbitrator’s award. The court denied both motions and, construing Williams’s opposition to the motion for vacatur as a request to confirm the award, confirmed the award. Dodson appealed, challenging the district court’s order compelling arbitration and its order confirming the award and denying the motions for reconsideration and vacatur. After review, the Tenth Circuit affirmed, holding: (1) the claims in Dodson’s federal-court complaint were encompassed by the arbitration clause; (2) the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Dodson’s untimely motion to reconsider; and (3) that Dodson failed to establish any grounds for vacatur of the arbitrator’s award or for denial of confirmation of the award. View "Dodson International Parts v. Williams International Company" on Justia Law