Aviation law governs all aspects of air travel. It impacts those parties that provide air travel services, such as airlines, pilots, maintenance crews, security personnel and air traffic controllers. It also affects those that purchase air travel services, such as passengers and couriers.
In the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) serve as the primary federal agencies that regulate air travel. Although the majority of aviation regulations are federally based, states may enact their own laws that are consistent with federal aviation law.
- Federal Aviation Act
The need for federal aviation regulations appeared in the 1950s, when the aircraft technology and airline industry crowded American aerospace, and the regulation of air traffic was considered antiquated. As a result, in 1958, Congress passed the Federal Aviation Act, establishing the Federal Aviation Agency, later to be known as the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”), and abolished the Civil Aeronautics Administration. The act empowered the FAA to oversee and regulate safety in the airline industry and the use of aerospace by both military and civilian aircrafts. Today, the aviation regulations are known as the “FARs” (Federal Aviation Regulations).
- Federal Aviation Regulations
FARs, known formally as Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR), have numerous parts that are organized by category of operation:
- All aspects of commercial flight operations and pilot qualifications and fitness (14CFR Part 61, 91, 121, 125, and 135);
- Aircraft maintenance and repair (14 CFR Parts 43 and 145);
- The standards governing the design and manufacture of aircraft (14 CFR Parts 21, 25 and 33);
- The regulation of the national aerospace (14 CFR parts 71 and 77);
- The certification of airports (14 CFR part 139);
- Airport Operation (14 CFR Part 139).
- General Aviation Revitalization Act (GARA)
The General Aviation Revitalization Act of 1994, or simply GARA, created a statute of repose that bars any lawsuits arising from a defective aviation product or component more than 18 years after its date of delivery. With a few exceptions to the law, it gave general aviation aircraft manufacturers much stronger protection from prosecution for incidents which were previously said to have been caused by the manufacturer’s or designer’s negligence or carelessness. Manufacturers embraced this amendment as it put an 18-year time frame on how long they could be held responsible for a design defect.However, GARA included four exceptions: medical emergency patients plaintiffs, plaintiffs not on the plane, written warranty claims, and claims casually related to a “knowing misrepresentation” made by the manufacturer to the FAA. The GARA also incorporated a provision, pursuant to which any repairs or replacements of an aviation product will trigger the statutory period of repose anew.
INTERNATIONAL AVIATION REGULATIONS & LAWS
Because of the international nature of air travel, countries have entered into conventions to normalize the laws that regulate aerospace, airlines and set forth the rights of passengers.