Justia Aviation Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

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Georgetown University and others petitioned for review of the FAA's approval of new flight paths that would bring planes closer to the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Petitioners alleged that the FAA failed to comply with environmental and historic preservation laws when assessing the noise impacts of the new departure procedures. The DC Circuit dismissed the petition as time-barred, because the FAA's December 2013 approval of the new routes, not its later publication of the route charts, qualified as the agency's final action, and because petitioners failed to challenge it within the sixty-day statutory time limit and had no "reasonable grounds" for the delay. View "Citizens Association of Georgetown v. FAA" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit denied a petition for review of the FAA's "airworthiness directive," that mandated removal of some of petitioner's engine cylinder assemblies. The court held that the FAA's conclusion that AEC63 cylinder assemblies presented a "hazardous" risk in the event of failure was supported by substantial evidence in the record. The court explained that the FAA gathered the record evidence, over a period of years, with multiple rounds of public comment, on the safety risks posed by AEC63 cylinder assemblies, and the FAA's "unsafe condition" determination was based on a proper application of the FAA 8040.4A methodology and was supported by substantial evidence in the record on cylinder assembly failures. View "Airmotive Engineering Corp. v. FAA" on Justia Law

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The City petitioned for review of the FAA's letter, characterizing it as a final order, that addressed the noise complaints stemming from its change of flight routes in and out of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. The DC Circuit held that petitioners had reasonable grounds for their delay in filing and reached the merits of their petitions. The court also held that the FAA's approval of the new flight routes was arbitrary and capricious and violated the National Historic Preservation Act because the FAA's failure to notify and provide documentation to the City of the agency’s finding of no adverse impact denied the City its right to participate in the process and object to the findings. The FAA also violated the National Environmental Policy Act, the Department of Transportation Act; and the FAA's Order 1050.1E. Accordingly, the court granted the petitions for review, vacated the FAA's September 18, 2014 order implementing the new flight routes and procedures, and remanded. View "Phoenix v. Huerta" on Justia Law

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Paul Hudson and the Flyers Rights group petitioned the FAA to promulgate rules governing size limitations for aircraft seats to ensure, among other things, that passengers can safely and quickly evacuate a plane in an emergency. The Administration denied the petition, asserting that seat spacing did not affect the safety or speed of passenger evacuations. The DC Circuit granted the petition for review in part and agreed with Flyers Rights that the Administration failed to provide a plausible evidentiary basis for concluding that decreased seat sizes combined with increased passenger sizes have no effect on emergency egress. However, the court disagreed with Flyers Rights' challenge to the Administration's declination to regulate matters of physical comfort and routine health. In this case, the Administration decided that it should not address those issues at this time, making the very type of regulatory-effort and resource-allocation judgments that fell squarely within the agency's province. The court remanded to the Administration for a properly reasoned disposition of the petition's safety concerns about the adverse impact of decreased seat dimensions and increased passenger size on aircraft emergency egress. View "Flyers Rights Education Fund v. FAA" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit upheld the Department's final rule defining e-cigarette use as "smoking" for purposes of airplane travel under 49 U.S.C. 41706. The Department rested its authority for the regulation on two sections authorizing past aircraft smoking regulations, 49 U.S.C. 41706 (prohibition on "smoking" on scheduled passenger flights within, to, or from the United States) and 49 U.S.C. 41702 ("air carrier shall provide safe and adequate interstate air transportation"). The court held that a "smoking prohibition" reasonably applies to products intended to enable users to inhale and exhale nicotine; the regulation was not arbitrary; the Department acknowledged petitioners' contrary evidence and explained why the regulation was still warranted; and the Department did not impermissibly rely on new studies in the final rule, but instead included new supplementary information that expands on and confirms data in the rulemaking record. Because the court upheld the regulation under section 41706, the court need not address section 41702. View "Competitive Enterprise Institute v. DOT" on Justia Law

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Petitioner sought refunds from TSA for overpayments it made to TSA that related to fees charged to airline passengers that fund aviation security expenses and were to be remitted to TSA. TSA conducted an informal adjudication and refused to consider the refund request. The DC Circuit rejected the notion that petitioners' request for a refund was a tardy effort to reopen an audit. Putting aside the audit as irrelevant, there still remained the question of whether it was arbitrary and capricious for the Under Secretary to refuse to pay a refund, as he was statutorily authorized—but not commanded—to do. Accordingly, the court remanded to TSA for further proceedings. View "United Airlines, Inc. v. TSA" on Justia Law