Articles Posted in Aviation

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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

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The FAA's Registration Rule requires the owners of small unmanned aircraft operated for recreational purposes (model aircraft) to register with the FAA. Advisory Circular 91-57A announced that model aircraft would be subject to certain flight restrictions in the Washington, D.C., area. The DC Circuit granted the petition for review in this case, vacating the Registration Rule to the extent it applies to model aircraft because Section 336(a) of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act, 49 U.S.C. 40101 note, states that the FAA "may not promulgate any rule or regulation regarding a model aircraft." The DC Circuit held that petitioner's challenge to the Advisory Circular was untimely and petitioner did not have reasonable grounds for the late filing. View "Taylor v. Huerta" on Justia Law

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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

Posted in: Aviation

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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

Posted in: Aviation

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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