In deciding which regulated industry to research, we wanted to pick one with plenty of information and one that was reasonably interesting to us. So, we have chosen to research the air transportation industry and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). We will be reporting on the types of FAA regulations the air transportation industry must adhere to. In addition to this, we will be explaining how compliance with these regulations is measured. Along the way, we will discuss legal controversies the aviation industry has encountered in meeting, or failing to meet, FAA regulations and standards.
Finally, from the perspective of both the agency and the industry, we will look at the purpose and success of the regulations put forth by the FAA on the airline industry. Let us start with some background information about the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA is part of an even bigger government agency called the Department of Transportation. The FAA can be found under the DOT, along with many other agencies such as The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), to name a few.
The FAA was created in 1958 and was born out of the Civil Aeronautics Administration. Since then, the FAA has been responsible for regulating all types of air travel in the United States. From small, one-engine planes, to large passenger planes and everything in between, any type of air travel is under the jurisdiction of the FAA. The duties of the FAA will be further discussed in section one. Section two deals with hijacking. Section three deals with pilot licensure. The fourth and final section deals with airport noise and noise abatement.
Airline hijacking, also known as skyjacking, first occurred in the United States on May 1, 1961. This first episode dealt with a man who forced a commercial airliner in route to Miami to detour to Cuba. By the end of the year, four more planes had succumbed to this devastating new plague. While most of the earlier hijackings were non-violent and more profit driven, as the times changed, both economically and politically, so did the hijackers values for a more violent approach. A more destructive and dangerous wave of hijackings started appearing in Europe and the Middle East from 1968 onward.
The newer breed of hijackers were more politically motivated and wanted more the destruction of the plane rather than any sort of ransom claim. Approximately $50 million dollars in damages and destruction was caused just within a 2-year span. This breed of hijackers created a global scare, and led to the creation of the Federal Aviation Administration in the United States. The FAA created mandatory safety requirements and procedures for airlines, airports, and employees. The FAA rules and procedures that deal directly with Hijacking are located in Chapter 7 section 1-5.
These rules greatly helped decrease the amount of air traffic accidents and made airline transportation safer. The problem however was the inevitable fact that no matter how secure, or how many polices that were posted by the FAA, there was always to be a few cases of hijackers who manage to slip by the system. In order to fix this problem, or at least provide further remedy, the FAA helped amend new legislation making it possible for an individual to bring suit for money damages against a foreign state for personal injury or death caused by a state-sponsored terrorist act.
This new amended legislation, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), created a block against terrorists interested in purely economic and political gains through the seizing and re-distribution of international government land to the victims of the crime. This amended act, according to many experts, was one of the most controversial and most important laws created in the efforts to curb hijacking. The Foreign Immunities Act, however, went through a radical change to finally accept the new amended rules.
Primarily, the act was based upon the notion of par non habet in parem imperium, which means an equal has no authority over an equal. This doctrine forbid any sovereign country from exercising jurisdiction over another state. This approach was first created in 1812 with the Schooner Exchange v McFaddon case. In this case, Justice Marshall stated that absolute sovereignty would require there to be no “limitations imposed by the outside” with free quality and absolute independence. This view of total independence was shortly outlived with the United States markets opening to more international markets.
As the market started to become more global, the courts started moving away from totally sovereignty to more of an interpretive approach. In the cases of Ex parte Repulic of Peru and Republic of Mexico v Hoffman the Court created precedent to use a “deference policy. ” This policy gave the State Department the ability to determine whether a foreign sovereign state was amendable to suit. However, this precedent created only more confusion as to when a state would receive immunity and when it would be denied. The confusion and inconsistency of the State Department’s decisions in the sovereign immunity matter led to the Tate Letter.
Part of the reason why the State Department was so inconsistent was because of all the diplomatic influences given. One of the most influential cases used to show the unfair power of diplomatic pressure was Isbrandsten Tankers, Inc v President of India. In this case, the government of India owned a large group of shipping vessels carrying grains to India as part of a massive food-shortage campaign. Through some misunderstanding or wrong doing, Isbrandsten Tankers filed suit against the Indian government in the United States District Court in New York.
The Indian government claimed sovereignty and the District Court of appeals ended the case. The Isbrandsten Tanker did not have any possible financial way out. There was an outcry from the general public to create a fair standard to protect the people. In 1971 Jack Tate, the legal advisor to the State Department, wrote the Tate letter to further clarifying the requirements by implementing a “restrictive theory” of sovereign immunity. The restrictive theory stated that even though foreign states are immune to United States jurisdiction, there are exemptions that allow legal action to take place.
The initial restrictive theory created the following exemptions: 1) Commercial Activity; 2) waiver of immunity; 3) property claims; 4) noncommercial torts occurring in the United States; and 5) International agreements. The Tate Letter also believed that the executive branch was not qualified to make legal decisions regarding immunity, and therefore believed the courts should be responsible for this task. The ability to sue for torts created by public non-commercial parties, however, was very debatable and was always in “judicial limbo”.
However, the country was taking its first epic judicial step to destroying the immortal defense of sovereignty used by other countries. For roughly around 20 years, the infamous Tate letter and the recommendations given by it were welcomed open-handedly. However during the 1990’s two important cases, Saudi Arabia v Nelson and Smith v Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamhiriya, along with the increase in terrorism made it clear that the FAA needs to change and modify the FSIA to make it more open to the victims rights. In 1983, Scott Nelson, an American, was hired into the King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
After approximately one year of work, Nelson discovered safety defects in the hospital’s oxygen lines that created a very serious fire hazard. After advising the Hospital officials, the Saudi government arrested him and transported him to a Saudi Jail, where he was beaten and tortured for 39 days. It wasn’t until Senator Edward Kennedy made a personal request did the Saudi government free him. In 1989 Nelson filed suit against the Saudi Government for damages against the Saudi Government, the Hospital in Riyadh, and Royspec, the hiring company for the Hospital.
Nelson however was forced to file the lawsuit under the commercial activity exception of the FSIA because of the FSIA had very narrow exceptions. This angle greatly weakened the case for Nelson, and the court ultimately found in favor of the Saudi Government. Justice Souter stated that the abuse was not “based upon a commercial activity” within the meaning of the Act. The court also found that the conduct “boiled down to the abuse of power of its police by the government” which was monstrous and abusive, but still sovereign in nature.
This case showed the clear problem that legal recourse was needed against official security forces of a foreign state. The case of Smith v Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya further demonstrated the need for a revision by the FAA. In 1988 a bomb exploded on Pan Am Flight 103 shortly after take-off. The plane was destroyed, and all 259 passengers, along with eleven people on the ground, were killed. The blame of the explosion was finally linked to high-ranking officials in the Libyan government. The motive behind the bombing was to seek redemption for the United States bombing of Tripoli, Libya.
In this case, the families of the victims sued the state of Libya to recover civil damages. Again the families had a very difficult time attempting to bring suit against Libya because limited exemptions to the FSIA. The families ultimately had to accept the court’s decision that even though acts are “horrific” it can not be the “basis for giving unwarranted interpretations” simply to “benefit the victims of the bombings”. These cases gave need for the last and final amendment to the FSIA. The general public was furious with the increase in terrorism and the government’s inability to allow for financial compensation from the sovereign states.
Congress, with the aid of the FAA, finally amended to the FSIA to allow victims the ability to seek damages from foreign states for personal injury, death, torture, aircraft sabotage, hostage taking, and or any other terrorist activities. This final addition to the FSIA was a “significant tool in the fight against terrorism”. These new added provisions created the ability for multi-million dollar judgments in favor of the victims. The three most recent cases using this provision are Alejandre v. Republic of Cuba, Flatow v. Islmaic Republic of Iran and Cicippio v. Islamic Republic of Iran.
The FAA has played a very critical role in stopping hijackers. They have not only passed safety standards and policies but they also have amended many rules and regulations. One of the most influential acts the FAA helped amend was the FSIA, which, according to one expert, was one of the most “effective weapons” against terrorism. With the threat sanctions, loss of trade, and loss of foreign investments, the sponsors of terrorism are beginning to realize that the benefits are outweighed by the cost. This has been the main reason why terrorism is slowly dwindling downward.
Pilot Concerns & FAA Regulations Arguably, the most important person on an airplane is the pilot. Without him/her, the passengers would be helpless. Knowing this, the FAA has set forth many guidelines, provisions and restrictions for pilots of all aviation categories. From single-engine planes, to huge passenger planes, the FAA has rules concerning them all. For purposes of conciseness and brevity, we will be focusing on commercial airline pilots and smaller-plane pilots. We will look at the types of restrictions and regulations they are subjected to under the FAA guidelines.
Let us begin with the qualifications. Commercial airline pilots are subject to rigorous physical and mental standards. For example, a person wishing to become a pilot for American Airlines must meet the following requirements: “at least 21 years of age, be of a height to reach all necessary controls and have corrected 20/20 vision. Finally, all applicants must be legal U. S. citizens who can fully understand the English language and who have a valid FAA commercial license with an instrument rating, and all pilots must retire by the time they are 60 years of age.
Now, if you are not too tall, have good eyesight, fall within the age range and are licensed by the FAA, you can be considered for a job at American Airlines. So you can see that becoming a commercial pilot is not an easy process. Once a pilot is in control of a plane, they take on an extreme amount of responsibility. That responsibility, however, is often times through the form of “good judgments” and not through the consulting of a black and white textbook or manual. What is good judgment? It is the ability to make an “instant” decision, which assures the safest possible continuation of the flight.
But judgment may often be a series of evaluations, made over a period of minutes, hours, or even longer, that keeps you out of danger. A safe pilot consistently makes good judgments. Through education and experience, pilots can learn good judgment just as thoroughly as they learn the mechanical concepts and basic skills of flying. In fact, learning judgment is just as much an important part of flying as learning to make good takeoffs and landings. A pilot’s main concern is getting from point A to point B as safely and easily as possible.
Sometimes, however, that task is much harder than it seems because pilots are faced with many types of adversarial situations. One major enemy of any pilot, be it civilian or military, is the weather. Foul weather can come in the form of heavy wind, rain, snow and icy conditions. Not only do pilots need to be concerned with the weather in the air, they must also be thinking about their impending landing maneuvers. Will the runway be iced over or covered with an inch of rainwater? All these factors must be taken into account when pilots factor in weather conditions.
Foul weather can account for many in-flight problems. Planes that are forced to fly through intense storms often encounter severe turbulence. This was the case with an American Airlines flight that originated in New York and was bound for Puerto Rico on August 28, 1991. While airborne, the “First Officer noticed a weather system forming in the flight path. Upon this observation, the flight crew illuminated the fasten seat belts’ sign. At this time, the First Officer also warned the flight attendants that the aircraft would encounter some turbulence in approximately ten minutes.
At no time did the flight crew warn the passengers of the turbulence ahead, nor did the pilot change the flight course to avoid the oncoming weather system. Some passengers were injured when the plane encountered the severe weather and turbulence”. Among those injured were Khaled Abdullah, Audrey James, Eardley James, and Velma George. The plaintiffs filed lawsuits alleging that the “pilot and flight crew negligently failed to take precautions to avoid the turbulence and negligently failed to warn the passengers of the turbulent conditions to enable the passengers to take the necessary precautions to protect themselves”.
A jury trial began in August of 1995 in the District Court of the Virgin Islands, Division of Saint Croix, where the court consolidated the cases together into one. Upon conclusion of the trial, a jury found “American Airlines liable, with no contributory negligence by the plaintiffs, and awarded the plaintiffs more than two million dollars”. This case showed that even though the pilots turned on the “fasten seatbelts” sign, the fact that no one directly warned the passengers to do so, entitled them to their respective settlements.
American Airlines tried to appeal this case saying that FAA regulations (simply turning on the seatbelt sign) already outlined the minimum standards of air travel. Why, then should the plaintiff’s be allowed to bring a case against American Airlines saying the pilot showed aviation negligence? “The Court, however, held that Congress intended to preempt the entire field of air safety, but allowed plaintiffs to recover damages under state or territorial remedies”. Foul weather does not only happen when the aircraft is in flight. It can create havoc for pilots on runways and can cause several hours of delay at airports nationwide.
All types of aircraft are subject to bad weather, not just large commercial airplanes. On February 13, 1980, a twin-engine airplane crashed near Hot Springs, South Dakota. The plane was carrying a pilot and three passengers. The pilot, Charles M. Largent, was also the plane’s owner. He, along with business associate Louis Altringer, were on their way to California for business. The estates of Largent and Altringer brought action against the United States, alleging that the government negligently failed to warn Largent of adverse weather conditions that led to structural icing causing the plane to crash.
The government, however, claimed that it was Largent, not the Flight Service Station specialist, (an FSS is a Federal Aviation Administration air traffic facility that provides services to airmen such as weather briefings, receiving and processing flight plans, and communicating with airborne aircraft) who was negligent and ultimately responsible for the crash. The problem lay in the fact that when Largent phoned to speak to the FSS at approximately 4:16 a. m. , he was not told of icy conditions reported because that warning was set to expire at 6:00 a. m.
That was the same time Largent had planned to take off for California and the FSS specialist felt the ice warning would be irrelevant by then. However, approximately two minutes before Largent again called the FSS, one specialist replaced another and he too failed to mention the now expired ice warning to Largent. So, Largent and his three passengers took off, supposedly thinking that moderately fair weather lay ahead of them. However, shortly after takeoff, the plane crashed and it was determined by investigators that the reason was an ice buildup on the plane, which was not fitted with de-icing equipment.
FAA regulations mandate that the pilot in command of an aircraft is directly responsible for, and is the final authority as to, the operation of that aircraft”. So, keeping this in mind, the court decided that even though both FSS specialists were negligent in not telling Largent of the reported icy conditions which led to the crash, the ultimate responsibility still fell on Largent. Also, the court found that Altringer was negligent because he too could have seen the poor weather of the morning in question and therefore should have used better judgment when deciding whether or not to fly.
As mentioned earlier, pilots have an enormous amount of responsibility on them when they take the controls of a plane. Under FAA regulations, they are responsible for themselves, as well as all passengers in the plane. For this reason, groups like the Air Line Pilot’s Association (ALPA), which represents over 59,000 pilots at 49 airlines in the U. S. and Canada, are pushing for more laws governing things such as flight time for fatigued pilots. On November 20, 2000, the FAA interpreted a rule clarifying that “16 hours is the maximum time a pilot can remain on duty, regardless of delays caused by weather, air traffic control, or maintenance”.
The FAA, in concert with the ALPA, has worked together to gain strides like this one to keep airlines from forcing their pilots to fly without adequate time for rest and relaxation. FAA Deputy Chief Counsel James Whitlow wrote, “If, when using the actual expected flight time [for a segment], the carrier cannot find at least eight hours of look-back rest upon arrival, then the flight may not depart [on that segment]”. This ruling helped to close a loophole that has long been used by airlines to keep pilots on duty indefinitely. Pilots are beginning to see organizations like the ALPA becoming very necessary.
Especially with air travel being rated as poorly as it has been recently, pilots need all the help they can get when it comes to the public holding them in poor regards. According to the ALPA newsletter, airline management tends to push negative aspects of the labor problems off onto the pilots. Recently, some airline managements have “waged a campaign with the public to blame flight delays on labor problems’ when, in fact, mismanagement, bad weather, and the need for ATC modernization are the real culprits”. Labor problems do exist. When management declares “open season” on employees, labor problems will arise.
Some airline officials, however, are trying to work with their employees. They recognize the advantages of offering fair wages and working conditions. They are offering early bargaining dates to correct compensation, retirement, and work rule inadequacies that have arisen as other airline workers successfully conclude bargaining. In conclusion, we have looked at a few of the regulations the FAA puts on pilots. We have seen that noncompliance with these regulations often results in court cases showing the pilot was either negligent or partially at fault for the mishaps in question.
Overall, however, the FAA does a good job of keeping both pilots and their passengers’ safe when in the air. Through the strict guidelines and high standards to which pilots are held, the FAA has indeed done its job of promoting safety in air travel. When combining all of these factors together, it is no wonder that air travel is still considered to be the safest form of travel in the world, beating out popular options such as automobile and train travel! Noise abatement There is no doubt that aircrafts and airports cause a lot of noise.
This noise indisputably has a detrimental effect on the people who reside near airports. These citizens who live near airports are often at the center, and many times the cause, of controversies that seem to have no correct solution. The citizen groups generally seek to lessen the amount of noise they are subjected to, while airports and airlines tend to fight these measures in an effort to ensure the greatest profit. Aircraft noise has been found to cause serious problems to health in both physical and psychological areas.
This noise not only affects the people who reside near airports during the day, but often this noise affects sleep and communication and other processes necessary to daily life. Excessive noise has been linked to serious health problems such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal problems, and the obvious hearing loss. It is quite clear that noise has serious affects beyond just being annoying, and it is very understandable that people who reside near airports would make an attempt to thwart the damaging effects of airport and aircraft noise as much as possible.
This desire to avert damaging noise invariably leads citizens to various governmental bodies to seek conciliation. The road to conciliation has taken many paths over the past half-century, though. Historically, noise regulations have been put in place by local governments through ordinances. These ordinances have evolved to create actual maximum decibel level standards. Other measures taken by local governments include limiting the hours that aircrafts can take off and land at certain airports, and limitations on certain types of aircrafts, runways or flight patterns.
More recently, however, noise regulation is generally achieved through the federal government, either through Congressional statute or administrative regulation, with the most dominant agency being the FAA. The Federal Aviation Act of 1958 was amended in 1968 to authorize the FAA to consider engine design in an effort to decrease noise levels in the Control and Abatement of Aircraft Noise and Sonic Boom Amendment. Here, allowing the FAA to regulate noise levels at the source enhanced the FAA’s regulatory power.
In 1972, the Office of Noise Abatement and Control (ONAC) was created under the EPA to determine the adequacy of FAA regulations on noise levels. Here the EPA was to make suggestions to the FAA for improvement of the regulation of noise levels, but the FAA did not implement many of the EPA’s proposals. Congress has taken further steps to authorize federal governmental agencies to aid the FAA in regulating noise levels, and in 1990 Congress passed the Airport Noise and Capacity Act, which integrated the many local noise restrictions into one national noise policy.
Here, citizen groups argued, the FAA was given unrestricted discretion in their ability to render local noise abatement measures useless. No longer were local governmental entities free to enact noise reduction measures. The FAA created national standards that the local governmental entities were to follow, thus limiting the discretion previously allowed to local governments in dealing with noise reduction. For the most part, airports or their proprietors must adhere to noise levels set forth by the FAA.
Generally, the level of noise is averaged over a period of time, usually an entire day. The level is usually set at an average of 65 decibels over the twenty-four hour period. This average does not take into account the fact that many times the average may be low, but at various times during the twenty-four hour period the decibel levels rise well above the 65 decibels that is restricted by law. The FAA is to set the national standards for noise levels, which the local governmental entities are responsible for complying with.
Conformity to the rules set forth by the FAA can lead to increased federal funding for local entities that want to reduce noise in the way that the FAA sees fit. This creates a system that is quite confusing to citizens looking to reduce noise levels in the interest of their health. Should the citizens go to the local government and demand they reduce levels through ordinances? This is problematic because local governmental entities are operating on slight budgets, at least compared to the federal government, and they cannot risk losing the funding of the FAA which finances noise abatement programs.
Well then, should the citizens seek pacification with the FAA? This is may also prove ineffective because the FAA allots relatively little funding to noise abatement programs in light of other priorities faced by the FAA including crashes and air traffic control equipment. As is imaginable, many court actions have risen out of the desire of citizens to lower noise levels and businesses to maintain or increase profit. In City of Burbank v. Lockheed Air Terminal, INC. the City of Burbank issued a curfew on flights leaving from Hollywood-Burbank Airport.
The curfew, which restricted flights from 11 p. m. to 7 a. m. , affected only one flight per week. The District Court, the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court all found the ordinance unconstitutional based on the Supremacy Clause. The Court maintained that it was the sole responsibility of the federal government, in this case the FAA, to enact rules dealing with noise. The Court further found that, in the interest of alleviating noise, the curfew was ill conceived because many flights would now leave directly prior to that deadline, thus escalating the noise problem.
The Court generally relies on past legislation, such as the Noise Control Act of 1972, which directed by the FAA and the EPA to design regulations to alleviate noise problems. The Court further explained that the control of noise is a state problem, however the FAA and EPA remain in control in these areas due to the 1972 legislation. The Court also made it clear that if they were to uphold the City of Burbank’s ordinance, many other municipalities would enact similar ordinances, and “severely limit the flexibility of FAA in controlling air traffic flow”.
The Court stressed that changes must be made by Congress to change the control of governmental entities over noise control. Legislation since that time has not aided municipalities in their efforts to curb the amount of noise at certain times of the day, as is seen by the 1990 legislation. Here municipalities were required to follow the standards set forth by the FAA. The Airport Noise and Capacity Act of 1990, although in an attempt to cater to the demands of citizen groups phased out older – usually noisier – aircrafts, the ability of local governments to set forth their own standards was drastically reduced.
In order to truly address the problem of noise control, new measures must be taken. Citizens who live near airports will always complain of noise levels because airports and airplanes are simply loud. Airlines and airports will probably always complain about reducing noise levels because reducing noise levels requires the spending of money, which in turn means less profit. This would lead the cynic to believe that there is no solution. That may be true, but a happy medium can be reached where both sides compromise a little, but each side can still achieve their goal.
This happy medium will not be achieved without the help of the government, though. Due to the FAA’s broad responsibilities, such as crash investigations, and relatively little time and money spent on noise reduction, which is a very serious health problem to those who must endure it, the responsibility of devising a plan to reduce noise should be delegated outside of the FAA. The EPA seems a likely candidate, for they did take many steps to suggest the FAA change the rules regarding noise reduction, although the FAA followed few of those recommendations.
In order for ONAC, under the EPA, to be effective, however, they must be given not only more funding but greater authority in rulemaking and enforcement. This solution would appease the citizen groups who believe the FAA caters to the airline industry, and the ONAC would have the power, for example, to limit the decibel levels in residential areas around airports. It is unlikely, however, that the airline industry will be pleased with any increased regulations regarding noise reduction. Airlines should not fight these noise restrictions, however.
With some creative spinning, airlines could easily convince people that they are ready and willing to lower the noise levels themselves. Airlines could effortlessly convey the idea that they are the driving force behind the reduction in noise levels, which will invariably lead to good publicity. Although some people will notice that the airlines are pursuing ulterior motives, the airlines will in fact be helping the people who reside near airports, and that it the ultimate goal. If the airlines can get some good press in aiding the people who live near airports, that is just an added bonus. Conclusion
The air transportation industry is clearly affected by many regulations, most of which are set forth by the FAA. The issue of safety is the most stressed. Safety in regards to hijacking, pilot licensure, and noise abatement have been discussed here in this paper. These areas only scratch the surface of the FAA’s overall jurisdiction. The FAA’s original goal was to ensure the safety of all people who fly or come into contact with aircrafts; the growth of technology has created many new hurdles for the FAA to contend with. The FAA has evolved with technology, as well, and the original goal of providing safety is still achieved every day.