Tweed-New Haven Airport, seeking to extend its 5,600 foot runway to 7,200 feet, has run into an unexpected roadblock.  A Federal Magistrate in the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut has determined that Connecticut’s Gen. Stat. 15-120j(c) (providing, in part, that “[r]unway 2/20 of the airport shall not exceed the existing paved runway length of five thousand six hundred linear feet”), is not preempted by federal law.  Tweed-New Haven Airport Authority v. George Jepsen, in His Official Capacity as Attorney General for the State of Connecticut, Case No. 3:15cv01731(RAR).  The Magistrate concludes that the state statute “does not interfere with plaintiff’s ability to comply with federal aviation safety standards,” because: (1) the “Plaintiff has failed to present evidence that the runway length in this instance is a component part of the field of airline safety,” and, thus, does not violate the Federal Aviation Act, 49 U.S.C. § 40101, et seq., Memorandum of Decision, p. 39; (2) the statute is not expressly preempted by the provision of the Airline Deregulation Act (“ADA”) (49 U.S.C. § 41713(b)(1)) that “prohibits states from enforcing any law ‘relating to rates, routes, or services’ of any air carrier,” Morales v. Trans World Airlines, Inc., 504 U.S. 374, 378-79 (1992), because the Connecticut statute does not “relate[] to rates, routes or services [of airlines],” Memorandum of Decision, p. 43; and (3) the Airport and Airway Improvement Act, 49 U.S.C. § 47101, et seq. (“AAIA”), “does not impose any requirements or authorize the promulgation of federal regulations, unless funding is being sought,” Memorandum of Decision, p. 47.  

The Court’s decision contravenes the plain face of the FAA Act for the following reasons:  

Continue Reading Connecticut State Statute Limiting the Length of the Runway at Tweed-New Haven Airport Resists Federal Preemption Challenge

The Cities of Inglewood, Culver City and Ontario, California and the County of San Bernardino (“Cities/County”) joined together yesterday, May 30, 2013, to file a challenge to the recently approved Los Angeles International Airport (“LAX”) Specific Plan Amendment Study (“SPAS”) expansion project.  The project includes: the further separation of runways on the North Airfield to allow access by A380s, B787s and other New Large Aircraft (“NLA”), as well as simultaneous approaches by other kinds of smaller, but no less impactful aircraft; addition of a new terminal; and a new off-airport transit center and people mover.

Cities/County’s action involves a challenge to the Environmental Impact Report (“EIR”) for the project, on the grounds that, among other things, the EIR fails to adequately disclose the project’s admittedly significant air quality, aircraft noise and surface traffic impacts, or to provide adequate mitigation for those impacts, including a coherent plan to disperse air traffic demand to other regional airports, such as Ontario International Airport, now operating at only 30% of its optimal capacity.  A copy of Cities/County’s Petition for Writ of Mandate may be obtained by clicking here.

Similar lawsuits were also filed by the SEIU United Service Workers West, a Union representing LAX service workers and Alliance for a Regional Solution to Airport Congestion (“ARSAC”), representing residents of communities in Westchester and Playa del Rey immediately to the north of the airport.
 

On Monday, May 7, 2012, the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) issued a revision to Advisory Circular 150/5300-13A which provides standards and recommendations for airport design.  While Advisory Circulars are typically considered non-regulatory, and, thus, merely “advisory,” use of the Advisory Circulars is mandatory on all projects funded by the FAA under the Federal Airport Improvement Program. 

The principal changes include: (1) a new introduction of the Runway Reference Code and Runway Design Code; (2) an expanded discussion on “declared distances;” (3) a clarified discussion on the Runway Protection Zone; (4) the introduction of a Taxiway Design Group concept; (5) the establishment of more specific guidelines for the separation between non-intersecting runways and intersecting runways; (6) the inclusion of runway incursion prevention geometry for taxiway to taxiway intersections and taxiway to runway interface; and (7) the consolidation of numerous design tables into one Runway Design Standards Matrix, Table 3-5. 

Comments must be received on or before July 6, 2012 by either hand delivery to Federal Aviation Administration, 800 Independence Avenue S.W., AAS-100, Room 621, Washington, DC  20590, or by fax to (202)267-3688.
 

On March 20, 2012, in a far reaching opinion, the California Appellate Court for the Second District incurred into the territory usually occupied by the Federal Courts of Appeals, by holding that Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) safety standards, published in FAA Advisory Circular 150/5300-13 (“Advisory Circular”) do not preempt state tort law on the standard of care applicable to utilization of an airport’s “Runway Protection Zone” (“RPZ”). 

The case, Sierra Pacific Holdings, Inc. v. County of Ventura, 2012 WL 920322 (Cal.App.2 Dist.)), concerns damage to an aircraft owned by Sierra Pacific Holdings, Inc. (“Sierra”), allegedly caused by a barrier erected within the RPZ at Camarillo Municipal Airport.  The airport, owned and operated by Ventura County (“County”), erected the barrier for the apparent purpose of preventing runway incursions by police vehicles leasing space in part of the RPZ at the airport.  The trial court upheld the County’s motion in limine to exclude evidence of state safety standards relating to “airport design and construction,” on the ground that Federal standards in the Advisory Circular preempt state tort law on the standard of care.  The trial court’s holding was based on the Federal government’s “implied preemption” of safety standards at airports, and, thus, the foreclosure of Sierra’s negligence action based on a dangerous condition of public property under state tort law.  Cal. Gov. Code § 835.  The Appellate Court reversed on the ground that “Congress has not enacted an express preemption provision for FAA safety standards” and, thus, if preemption exists, it must be implied.  The Appellate Court’s decision is flawed for at least two reasons. 
 

Continue Reading A California Appellate Court Puts a Fence Around Federal Preemption of Airport Safety Standards

In what might be a surprising decision in any other Circuit, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a ruling in Barnes v. U.S. Dept. of Transportation, United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Case No. 10-70718, August 25, 2011, which, while narrow, begins the process of eroding both the Federal Aviation Administration’s (“FAA”) long held position that “aviation activity . . . will increase at the same rate regardless of whether a new runway is built or not,” Barnes, at 16285, and the Federal Court’s traditional deference to it. City of Los Angeles v. FAA, 138 F.3d 806, 807-08, n. 2 (9th Cir. 1998).

Continue Reading Ninth Circuit Calls FAA to Task on Environmental Impacts of New Runway

It’s a good thing that Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) has finally begun to pull the mask of safety from its plan to move Runway 24R in the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) North Airfield Complex closer to Westchester Homes. According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), only three of the total twelve runway incursions reported at LAX during FY 2010 occurred on the North Airfield. This follows a long pattern of imbalance of incursions preponderantly occurring on the South Airfield.

 

On Friday, October 8, 2010, the FAA announced that the number of minor runway incursions at LAX increased from eight in FY 2009 to twelve during the fiscal year that ended September 30, 2010. No serious incursions that could endanger aircraft or passengers were reported at LAX during FY 2010. Nationwide, the number of serious runway incursions dropped from twelve in FY 2009 to eight in FY 2010. According to FAA officials, ten of the LAX incursions were caused by pilots who strayed across “hold lines,” while two were caused by air traffic controllers. Three of the incursions occurred on the North Airfield and nine were reported on the South Airfield, where LAX officials recently spent $83 million to further separate two parallel runways and add a centerline taxiway in an effort to reduce incursions on the South Airfield.

The FAA comparison of North and South Airfield runway incursions, showing three times as many incursions on the South Airfield as on the North Airfield, follows the recent LAX North Airfield Safety Study which found that the North Airfield is safe as presently configured, and that LAX officials’ plans to further separate the North Airfield runways and add a parallel center taxiway cannot be based on increased safety reasons.

The Los Angeles International Airport North Airfield Safety Study Final Report (“Final Report”), published on May 11, 2010, looks very much like the draft. The Final Report, like the draft, concluded that no safety problem exists on the two runways of the North Airfield. It further concludes that an additional separation of the runways by 340 feet is unnecessary for safety purposes, although useful for increasing capacity. Finally, the study concludes that an additional separation of 100 feet, originally proposed by the Cities of Inglewood and El Segundo, which would allow the addition of a center taxiway, would be sufficient to accommodate any remaining safety concerns. The study, however, reaches the correct conclusions for the wrong reasons.

Continue Reading North Airfield Safety Study Final Report Confirms Earlier Conclusion That the North Airfield is Safe

In the January 9, 2009, edition of the Federal Register, the FAA announced that the Record of Decision (ROD) for the development and expansion of Runway 9R/27L and other associated airport projects at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport is now available.  With the publication of this notice in the Federal Register, opponents of the project have 60 days (i.e., until Tuesday, March 10, 2009) to file a Petition for Review of the ROD and the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS).

The FAA identified "Alternative B1b" as its "preferred alternative" in the ROD.  That was also its preferred alternative in the FEIS.  This alternative includes the expansion of Runway 9R/27L ti an overall length of 8,000 feet and width of 150 feet.  The runway will extend to the east without encroaching onto NE 7th Avenue and would be elevated over the Florida East Coast Railway and U.S. Highway 1.  The western extent of the runway is the Dania Cut-Off Canal.  Alternative B1b also includes the following projects:

  • construct a new full-length parallel taxiway 75 feet wide on the north side of Runway 9R/27L with separation of 400 feet from 9R/27L;
  • contruct an outer dual parallel taxiway that would be separated from the proposed north side parallel taxiway by 276 feet;
  • construct connecting taxiways from the proposed full-length parallel taxiway to existing taxiways;
  • construct an Instrument Landing System (ILS) for landings on Runways 9R and 27L;
  • Runway 13/31 would be decommissioned and permanently closed due to the increased elevation of the expanded Runway 9R/27L at its intersection with Runway 13/31.

Opposition to the expansion centers around the increased noise that the expansion will bring, as well as damage to the surrounding environment.

Continue Reading FAA Issues ROD Approving Expansion of Ft. Lauderdale Airport