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

Articles Posted in Aviation
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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

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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

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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

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The DC Circuit denied a petition for review of the FAA's Small UAS Rule regulating certain unmanned aircraft (drones). Petitioner, a model aircraft hobbyist, contended that the rule exceeded the agency's statutory authority, was arbitrary and capricious, and had miscellaneous additional infirmities. The court held that because the challenged rule's only regulation of section 336 model aircraft was permitted by the Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, the FAA has honored the statutory safe harbor for these aircraft; section 333 of the Modernization Act permits the agency to apply the regulations of the Small UAS Rule to recreational model aircraft that do not fall within the section 336 safe harbor; the FAA did not act arbitrarily or capriciously and the court rejected plaintiff's five arguments to the contrary; and the court rejected plaintiff's contention that the FAA violated the Paperwork Reduction Act. View "Taylor v. FAA" on Justia Law

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