Justia Aviation Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
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The Great Lakes Pilotage Act requires foreign vessels and American vessels participating in foreign trade to hire an American or Canadian maritime pilot to assist in navigating the difficult waters of the Great Lakes. Shippers challenged the pilot rates for the 2016 commercial shipping season under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). Shippers claimed that the 2016 Rule set an artificially inflated pilot rate that caused significant harm to the industry. The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's decision upholding parts of the 2016 Rule setting higher compensation targets for the pilots. The court also affirmed the district court's holding that several parts of the rule are unsupported by the administrative record. The court held that, although remand without vacatur is the exception rather than the rule, the district court acted within its discretion here, given the disruption likely to occur from reallocating rates paid several years ago. View "American Great Lakes Ports Ass'n v. Schultz" on Justia Law

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FlyersRights claimed that airlines were not giving passengers sufficient notice of their right to compensation for delays in flights and urged the Department to issue regulations requiring the airlines to print written summaries of passengers' rights on all international airline tickets, including information about how passengers suffering from flight delays might be compensated. The DC Circuit held that FlyersRights has at least one member with independent standing to sue the Department and therefore FlyersRights has associational standing to sue on behalf of its members. On the merits, the court denied FlyersRights' petition for review of the Department's denial of its request for rulemaking as arbitrary and in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The court held that the Department adequately explained why it denied the request for rulemaking, and the Department's finding that there was insufficient evidence of consumer confusion to warrant a rulemaking was also supported. View "Flyers Rights Education Fund v. Department of Transportation" on Justia Law

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This case arose out of the FAA and NPS's efforts to regulate commercial sightseeing flights over national parks. The Air Tour Management Act of 2000 directs the FAA and NPS to "make every effort" to establish rules governing such flights within two years of the first application. After determining that it has jurisdiction over this mandamus petition under the All Writs Act, the DC Circuit held that petitioners had associational standing to seek relief. In this case, petitioners' members showed cognizable aesthetic and recreational injury that could be redressed by mandamus relief. On the merits, the court granted a writ of mandate compelling the FAA and NPS to regulate air tours at seven parks where they have injured members. The court analyzed the six TRAC factors and concluded that mandamus relief was warranted here where the agencies have failed to comply with their statutory mandate for the past nineteen years. The court ordered the agencies to produce a schedule within 120 days of the issuance of this opinion for bringing all twenty-three parks into compliance. View "In re: Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit challenging the Navy Secretary's refusal to grant him a waiver of statutory requirements that govern his eligibility for incentive pay. After determining that plaintiff has abandoned his substantive challenge to the waiver denial, the DC Circuit held that the question of whether the Secretary complied with the process outlined in the applicable regulation is judicially reviewable. On the merits of plaintiff's procedural claim, the court held that nothing in Instruction 7220.87 obligates the Secretary to seek updated endorsements, and plaintiff gave the court no reason to conclude that the Secretary abused his discretion by relying on the old endorsements or by considering plaintiff's performance data. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the Secretary. View "Stewart v. McPherson" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit dismissed the State's petition challenging the FAA's amended flight paths to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport as untimely. Although the State acknowledged that its petition was filed well after the statutory sixty-day review window, it claimed reasonable grounds for the delay. The court held, however, that the State's delay was extreme and it lacked reasonable grounds for missing the statutory deadline. The court explained that the key distinction between this case and City of Phoenix v. Huerta, 869 F.3d 963 (D.C. Cir. 2017), is the FAA's near constant engagement with petitioner City of Phoenix throughout the period between the new flight paths' implementation and the City's late petition. In this case, throughout the more than two and one-half years during which the State delayed filing its petitioner, its communications with the FAA were almost entirely self-initiated, sporadic and primarily through the Working Group. The court also denied the State's motion to amend as moot. View "Maryland v. Federal Aviation Administration" on Justia Law

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This appeal arose out of the unexplained disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 somewhere over the Southern Indian Ocean in the early hours of March 8, 2014. Representatives of many of the passengers filed suit in United States, alleging claims under the Montreal Convention against Malaysia's national airline at the time of the flight, its current national airline, and the airliners' insurers, as well as claims against Boeing, which manufactured the aircraft in Washington state. After the lawsuits were centralized into a multidistrict litigation in the district court, the district court granted appellees' motion to dismiss on forum non conveniens grounds. The DC Circuit held that the district court did not clearly abuse its discretion in dismissing the lawsuits for forum non conveniens. In this case, the district court carefully weighed the relevant public and private interest factors and reasonably concluded that Malaysia is a more convenient forum to try the claims. View "Smith v. Malaysia Airlines Berhad" on Justia Law

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Exhaustless petitioned for review of the FAA's latest interim orders limiting the number of flights serving LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy Airports in New York and seeking implementation of Exhaustless's patent-pending product to manage the allocation of takeoff and landing slots to airlines. The DC Circuit dismissed the petitions based on lack of standing, holding that the company failed to demonstrate that vacating the interim FAA orders would redress its injury—i.e., a lack of market opportunity for its product. Furthermore, vacating the interim orders would leave takeoffs and landings at the airports unregulated, eliminating the need for the company's product at the federal level. To the extent that Exhaustless argued that the local airport authority could employ its product if there were no federal regulation, the court found any such possibility too speculative to support standing. View "Exhaustless Inc. v. FAA" on Justia Law

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Petitioners sought review of the National Transportation Safety Board's decision revoking their air agency certificate. The DC Circuit upheld the Board's determination concerning petitioners' performance of maintenance without the appropriate technical data. However, the court set aside the Board's intentional-falsification charge, because the Board departed from its own precedents when considering whether petitioners had acted with the requisite knowledge. Accordingly, the court granted the petition for review in part and vacated the Board's revocation of petitioners' air agency certificate. The court vacated the sanction imposed by the Board and remanded for further consideration. View "Kornitzky Group, LLC v. Elwell" on Justia Law

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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

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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