Justia U.S. D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Aviation

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Plaintiff, diagnosed with Insulin Treated Diabetes Mellitus (ITDM), seeks the first class medical certificate necessary to serve as a commercial airline pilot. Plaintiff holds a third class medical certificate authorizing him to pilot non-commercial flights in the United States. The FAA contends it did not issue a final order regarding plaintiff's first class medical certificate application; it purportedly ruled solely on his independent request for a third class medical certificate and specifically indicated the first class certificate remained under review. The court concluded, however, that the specific facts presented here establish a constructive denial of plaintiff's application for a first class certificate. The court held that where, as here, an agency has clearly communicated it will not reach a determination on a petitioner’s submission due to petitioner’s recalcitrance but simultaneously refuses to deny the petitioner’s submission on those grounds, it has engaged in final agency action subject to the court’s review. Although plaintiff's case is subject to judicial review, the court noted that there is a complete absence of a relevant administrative record to review. Accordingly, the court remanded to the FAA to offer reasons for its denial of plaintiff's application for a first class medical certificate. View "Friedman v. FAA" on Justia Law

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Southwest petitioned for review of the DOT's guidance letter addressing “accommodation” policies at Love Field. Accommodation is a process by which an airline can gain access to operate flights from an airport at which it leases no gates. The court dismissed the petition for review, finding that DOT’s letter does not constitute a final agency action, a prerequisite to the court's review. In this case, the letter does not reflect the consummation of DOT’s decisionmaking on the issues it discusses. DOT in fact has instituted an administrative proceeding (which remains ongoing) that will address and resolve, among other things, the precise issues and policies broached in the letter. View "Southwest Airlines Co. v. DOT" on Justia Law
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Petitioner, a former pilot with Spirit Airlines, challenges the DoT's refusal to consent to the release of the urine sample it says petitioner produced for a mandatory drug test. Because the sample tested positive for controlled substances, petitioner lost his job and airman medical certificate. The court held that neither the DoT’s general rule against releasing urine samples for DNA testing, nor its refusal to release the sample in this case, is arbitrary, capricious, or contrary to the Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act of 1991, Pub. L. No. 102-132, 105 Stat. 952. The court also held that petitioner's constitutional challenges to the rule fail. Accordingly, the court denied the petition for review. View "Swaters v. DOT" on Justia Law

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After petitioner was charged with violating FAA regulations while on board a flight, including interfering with crewmember duties, the ALJ rejected petitioner's claim that a medical emergency caused his erratic behavior. The charges stemmed from petitioner's actions on the flight where he thought he was in love with another passenger and would not follow crewmember instructions to stop talking to her and leave her alone. The court rejected amicus's argument and concluded that it had no doubt that proscribing passenger interference with crewmember duties satisfies the “minimum nexus” to safety in flight required by Bargmann v. Helms; the FAA has authority to impose civil penalties on passengers under 49 U.S.C. 46301(a)(5)(A) where the term "individual" applies to the common sense understanding that the term refers to a natural person; the Agency did not improperly add omitted violations to the amended notice and thus petitioner did not receive inadequate notice of the violations; and the court rejected petitioner's arguments regarding the Administrator's determination that petitioner violated the Interference Rule and the Seatbelt Rules. Because the court found no merit in petitioner's challenges, the court denied the petition for review. View "Wallaesa v. FAA" on Justia Law
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EPIC seeks review of the FAA's decision not to promulgate the FAA’s dismissal of its petition for rulemaking and the FAA’s omission of privacy provisions in the notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM). EPIC's petition relates to the Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, 49 U.S.C. 40101, which was enacted to regulate, inter alia, unmanned aircraft - i.e. drones. The court rejected EPIC's contention that "reasonable grounds" justify its untimely petition 60 days after the FAA's explicit dismissal. The court also rejected EPIC's argument that the FAA's February 23, 2015 NPRM constituted, in effect, the dismissal of its petition, triggering the 60-day clock. Accordingly, the court dismissed the petition for review. View "Electronic Privacy Information Center v. FAA" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, a foreign alien from Venezuela, seeks review of the TSA's determination that petitioner was a risk to aviation and national security, and denial of his application for FAA-certified flight school training. The Vara Declaration confirms that the internal agency materials express TSA’s reasoned, contemporaneous explanation for its decision. The internal agency materials, as illuminated by the Vara Declaration, offer a clear and reasonable statement of the grounds upon which TSA relied in denying petitioner’s application for flight training. Furthermore, the Declaration and the internal agency materials to which it refers are not impermissible post hoc rationalizations. Because petitioner and the court have a written statement explaining the grounds and rationale for TSA's action, and because the court found the agency action against petitioner was not arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law, the court concluded that there is no need to remand the case for further review. Accordingly, the court denied the petition for review. View "Olivares v. TSA" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, a foreign alien from Venezuela, seeks review of the TSA's determination that petitioner was a risk to aviation and national security, and denial of his application for FAA-certified flight school training. The Vara Declaration confirms that the internal agency materials express TSA’s reasoned, contemporaneous explanation for its decision. The internal agency materials, as illuminated by the Vara Declaration, offer a clear and reasonable statement of the grounds upon which TSA relied in denying petitioner’s application for flight training. Furthermore, the Declaration and the internal agency materials to which it refers are not impermissible post hoc rationalizations. Because petitioner and the court have a written statement explaining the grounds and rationale for TSA's action, and because the court found the agency action against petitioner was not arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law, the court concluded that there is no need to remand the case for further review. Accordingly, the court denied the petition for review. View "Olivares v. TSA" on Justia Law

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Flytenow developed a web-based service through which private pilots can offer their planned itineraries to passengers willing to share the pilots’ expenses. The FAA issued a Letter of Interpretation, concluding that pilots offering flight-sharing services on Flytenow’s website would be operating as “common carriers,” which would require them to have commercial pilot licenses. Flytenow’s members, licensed only as private pilots, thus would violate FAA regulations if they offered their services via Flytenow.com. The court concluded that the FAA's Interpretation is consistent with the relevant statutory and regulatory provisions and does not violate Flytenow’s constitutional rights under the First Amendment and Equal Protection Clause, and is not unconstitutionally vague. Accordingly, the court denied the petition for review. View "Flytenow, Inc. v. FAA" on Justia Law

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Jody Ducote co-piloted a passenger-carrying flight round-trip between the United States and the Bahamas but he was not qualified to pilot or co-pilot the flight. Ducote admitted both that he improperly piloted the Bahamas flights and that there was a material discrepancy between his personal flight log and the one he gave to the FAA. The FAA issued an emergency order revoking Ducote's pilot license, but the NTSB dismissed the Administration's complaint for failure to plead with sufficient factual specificity the seriousness of the violations. The court concluded that the Board’s interpretation and application of its stale complaint rule to dismiss Count 4 of the Administrator’s complaint marks an unexplained departure from prior precedent that is unsustainable under the plain text of the Board’s regulation; the Board relied on a finding never made by the ALJ to dismiss Count 3, rendering its reasoning entirely bankrupt; and therefore, the court vacated those portions of the Board’s decision, and remanded to the Board for further proceedings. Accordingly, the court granted the Administrator’s petition for review. View "Huerta v. Ducote" on Justia Law
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The NTSB completed an investigation and issued reports identifying Georgina Joshi, the pilot, as the most likely cause of a plane crash. Georgina's father filed a petition seeking reconsideration of its conclusion in light of new evidence he gathered. The Board denied the petition. The court reported that it may not review the reports or the denial of the petition for reconsideration because they are not considered a final order subject to judicial review. Accordingly, the court dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction. View "Joshi v. NTSB" on Justia Law
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