by
The DC Circuit denied petitions for review of the FAA's decision that payments of the Portland International Airport's utility charges for off-site stormwater drainage and Superfund remediation did not constitute diversion of airport revenues or violate the Anti-Head Tax Act. The court held that Congress expressly authorized the use of airport revenues for "operating costs . . . of the airport" and the FAA has properly determined that the general expenses of a utility are such "operating costs." Therefore, the court rejected petitioner's contention that the FAA's decision was based on erroneous statutory interpretations and that the FAAs findings were not supported by substantial evidence. View "Air Transport Association of America v. FAA" on Justia Law

by
The DC Circuit denied a petition for review of the FAA's decision to revoke petitioner's pilot certification for knowingly operating an aircraft with narcotics on board. After petitioner's plane crash-landed due to an engine malfunction, a trooper doing a routine inventory of the aircraft's contents discovered three chocolate bars infused with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the psychoactive agent in marijuana) in petitioner's briefcase. The court held that the sanction of revocation of petitioner's pilot certificate was not imposed arbitrarily, capriciously, nor in conflict with the law. The court held that the Board explicitly considered petitioner's mitigating factors and simply determined that they did not warrant a lighter sanction. The Board reasoned that knowingly transporting illegal narcotics on an aircraft, regardless of quantity or purpose, fell within the scope of 14 C.F.R. 91.19 and was grounds for a certificate revocation. Likewise, the fact that the marijuana was purchased in Colorado did not change the fact that marijuana was illegal under federal law and in federal airspace. Finally, the passage of 49 U.S.C. 44710 did not limit the FAA's authority to revoke certificates under 49 U.S.C. 44709. View "Siegel v. Administrator of the FAA" on Justia Law

by
This appeal stemmed from a dispute between SilverWing at Sandpoint, LLC (“SilverWing”) and Appellant Bonner County, Idaho (the “County”). SilverWing sought to develop a residential hangar and taxiway adjacent to the Sandpoint Airport for residents who wished to park their aircraft in their home garage. SilverWing alleged that “[i]n 2007, the County provided to SilverWing an ALP that reflected the existing location of the Airport’s runway, and made no mention or reference to any plans for the runway to be moved. At the same time, the County promised that there were no plans regarding changes to runway location which would be incompatible with SilverWing’s development.” During the initial stages of engineering for the development, the County informed SilverWing that it needed to move the taxiway from where it was originally planned onto County-owned airport property, to accord with the County’s Airport Layout Plan (ALP). SilverWing proceeded with its development based on the County’s assurances, and built a taxiway and other infrastructure, including streets, to support its development. Once the taxiway was built, SilverWing learned that the placement of the taxiway was not approved by the FAA. After several years of legal maneuvering, SilverWing proceeded against the County in court, ultimately on a theory of promissory estoppel. After trial, a jury returned a verdict in favor of SilverWing. The County filed a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (“JNOV”), which the district court denied. The County appealed. The Idaho Supreme Court reversed the district court’s ruling on the JNOV and vacated its ruling regarding attorney fees. The Court determined the district court erred with respect to JNOV on the claim of promissory estoppel: "SilverWing actually got what it claims the County promised—an FAA approved taxiway in the location where SilverWing built it. SilverWing can now sell its development with no regulatory uncertainty." View "SilverWing v. Bonner County" on Justia Law

by
Current and former flight attendants challenged a SkyWest Airlines compensation policy of paying for their work in the air but not on the ground, alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. 201 (FLSA), and various state and local wage laws. The sought to certify a class of similarly situated SkyWest employees. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the federal claim. The flight attendants plausibly allege they were not paid for certain hours of work but under the FLSA the relevant unit for determining a pay violation is the average hourly wage across a workweek. The flight attendants failed to allege even a single workweek in which one of them received less than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. The dormant Commerce Clause, however, does not bar the other claims.. States possess authority to regulate the labor of their own citizens and companies; the dormant Commerce Clause does not preclude state regulation of flight attendant wages in this case, particularly when the FLSA itself reserves that authority to states and localities. View "Hirst v. Skywest, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Air Evac, an air ambulance company and registered air carrier, filed suit to enjoin the enforcement of various laws in West Virginia enacted to limit the reimbursement rates of air ambulance companies. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's ruling in favor of Air Evac by enjoining the state from enforcing the maximum reimbursement caps and fee schedules for ambulance companies. The court held that the state's laws were preempted by the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 (ADA), which expressly preempts state efforts to regulate the prices, routes, and services of certain air carriers. View "Air Evac EMS, Inc. v. Cheatham" on Justia Law

by
The Jackson Municipal Airport Authority (JMAA) currently manages the Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport, but control would transfer to a new board under Senate Bill 2162, which was recently passed by the Mississippi Legislature. The new board would be structured differently with nine commissioners, rather than the current five. Although Governor Bryant signed the Bill into law in 2016, it has only nominally taken effect. The FAA does not consider disputed airport transfers if there is pending litigation. JMAA and others sued, challenging S.B. 2162 under the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses, alleging discriminatory purposes. In discovery, Governor Bryant identified Chief of Staff Songy as a person having discoverable knowledge that would tend to support or refute any claim, defense, or element of damages in the case. JMAA moved to compel Songy’s deposition. Governor Bryant sought a protective order, claiming official privilege, which limits depositions. The Fifth Circuit declined to issue a writ of mandamus requested by the Governor. Involuntary depositions of highly-ranked government officials are only allowed in “exceptional circumstances.” A court must consider the status of the deponents, the potential burden on them, and the substantive reasons for taking the depositions; it rare that exceptional circumstances can be shown where the testimony is available from an alternate witness. The court nonetheless noted important aspects of this analysis that the lower court failed to fully consider, including parallel litigation regarding the deposition of legislators. View "In Re: Bryant" on Justia Law

by
In 2016, the Department of Transportation issued a rule requiring airlines to report the number of wheelchairs and scooters that are mishandled after being transported as checked luggage on passenger flights. The “Reporting Rule” was scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2018. In March 2017, DOT issued an “Extension Rule” that delayed the Reporting Rule's effective date by one year. More than four months after the issuance of the Extension Rule, Paralyzed Veterans filed suit, challenging the Extension Rule as procedurally infirm because it was issued without notice-and-comment procedures and as arbitrary and capricious. DOT argued only that the district court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction. The court agreed and transferred the case to the D.C. Circuit pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1631. The D.C. Circuit dismissed. Under 49 U.S.C. 46110(a), petitions for review of specified orders issued by the Secretary of Transportation must be filed in the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit or in the court of appeals for the circuit in which the petitioner resides or has its principal place of business. The court also noted that the claim was filed after the 60-day statutory deadline and there are no “reasonable grounds” justifying the untimely filing. View "Paralyzed Veterans of America v. United States Department of Transportation" on Justia Law

by
Sikkelee was killed when a Cessna aircraft he was piloting crashed after taking off from North Carolina's Transylvania County Airport. The aircraft had a Lycoming engine; Sikkelee's widow alleged the aircraft lost power due to a defect in the design of the engine and its carburetor. The FAA had issued Lycoming a type certificate for the engine, certifying that the design performs properly and satisfies federal regulations. Sikkelee’s widow brought strict liability and negligence claims against Lycoming, alleging design defect. The Third Circuit held that Sikkelee’s state-law claims are not barred based on the doctrine of field preemption. On remand, the district court concluded the claims were conflict-preempted and that Lycoming was entitled to summary judgment on Sikkelee’s strict liability and negligence claims based on Pennsylvania law. The court granted Lycoming summary judgment on Sikkelee’s claim that Lycoming violated 14 C.F.R. 21.3 by failing to notify the FAA of the alleged defect. The Third Circuit reversed in part, rejecting an argument that Sikkelee’s claims were conflict-preempted because FAA regulations made it impossible for Lycoming to unilaterally implement design changes Pennsylvania law allegedly would have required. Lycoming has not produced clear evidence that the FAA would not have allowed it to change the design set forth in the type certificate. Summary judgment on Sikkelee’s strict liability and negligence claims was inappropriate because there are genuine disputes of material fact concerning causation. Summary judgment was proper on the failure-to-notify-the-FAA claim. View "Sikkelee v. Precision Airmotive Corp" on Justia Law

by
In 2016, commercial air pilot Sean Fitzgerald showed up for work "rip-roaring drunk." He was set to fly in the morning, so he readied the jet for take-off: he conducted a walk-around safety check before entering the cockpit, where he calibrated the altimeter, programmed the flight-management system, turned on the auxiliary power unit, and requested flight clearance from air- traffic control. Before passengers boarded, Fitzgerald’s co-pilot recognized his inebriation and alerted airline executives, who in turn notified local law enforcement. Fitzgerald was arrested and charged under 18 U.S.C. 342, which makes it a crime to operate a common carrier while intoxicated. A jury convicted Fitzgerald, and the district court sentenced him to one year and one day in prison and to three years of supervised release. On appeal, Fitzgerald contended that the actions he performed were not enough to operate the aircraft within the meaning of section 342, that the jury was wrongly instructed, and that the district court erred at his sentencing. Finding no reversible error, the Sixth Circuit affirmed Fitzgerald's conviction. View "United States v. Fitzgerald" on Justia Law

by
The DC Circuit denied Interjet's petitions for review of the Department's orders implementing a decision to not allow the airlines to give any takeoff and landing slots at Mexico City's Benito Juárez International Airport, because Interjet already had more than 300 slots at that airport. The court denied Interjet's claim that the Department's orders were arbitrary, capricious and contrary to law. Rather, the court held that the Department's decision was reasonable and consistent with its statutory mandate. In this case, the Department's orders were neither contrary to the Federal Aviation Act nor arbitrary and capricious. View "ABC Aerolineas, S.A. de C.V. v. DOT" on Justia Law