February 20, 2015
Over at CNN.com, I have a piece arguing against the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) forthcoming rule aimed at outlawing “vapes on a plane.” I explain why the rule is both unjustified on risk-based grounds and an illegal implementation of the law written by Congress that outlaws tobacco smoking aboard aircraft.
Due to the limitations of the op-ed format, I wasn’t able to address a few items related to the airplane electronic cigarette rulemaking. Here are some additional thoughts:
First, DOT’s official timeline shifted earlier this week (inconveniently in Word .docx format). Instead of the end of April, the Department released its updated milestones in its February “Report on DOT...
February 18, 2015
As I continue to digest the sUAS NPRM, which is expected to be published in the Federal Register on Monday, I came across Canadian drone attorney Diana Marina Cooper’s post comparing the proposed U.S. small drone framework with Canada's regime:
Practicing in the Canadian jurisdiction, I believe that one of the most valuable aspects of our system is its flexibility and the fact that the system rewards safe operators. For instance, in Canada, first time SFOC applicants are typically rewarded narrow certificates in terms of time, geography and level of operational risk. As operators develop a track record of...
February 15, 2015
At 10am on Sunday, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced its draft rules to govern small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). The announcement is not particularly surprising, especially given the fact that FAA apparently accidentally uploaded a key rulemaking document for a few minutes over the weekend. Thankfully, the Internet never forgets.
Small UAS (up to 55 pounds) operators will now have a formal certification process. Previously, the FAA was issuing case-specific exemptions for commercial operators under ...
November 18, 2014
Earlier this morning, a full panel of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) overturned a previous ruling from an NTSB administrative law judge in the Pirker case.
In Pirker, the FAA had assessed a $10,000 fine against a photographer for using an unmanned aircraft system (UAS), or drone, to take photos on the University of Virginia campus. The administrative law judge held that the FAA lacked the authority to regulate a “model aircraft” as was used by Raphael Pirker.
In reversing this order, the full NTSB today noted that the distinction between “model aircraft” and “aircraft” is irrelevant. Model aircraft were never formally exempted from FAA regulation (...
October 31, 2014
The crash of a test flight of billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo, which cost the life of one, riveted many around the globe on Friday afternoon.
Branson headed to the California site, tweeting, “Thoughts with all @virgingalactic & Scaled, thanks for all your messages of support. I’m flying to Mojave immediately to be with the team.”
An investigation will show what happened. The LA Times noted the reawakening to how dangerous these ventures can be. Peopled were lulled into thinking the Virgin craft looked safer than a rocket, but, as an analyst noted, “People will now realize this is space travel...and you’re getting into a rocket.”
We should be careful that governmental responses do not aggravate risks...
September 25, 2014
In May, I criticized the Department of Transportation’s opening of a rulemaking on airline ancillary fees (baggage, seat assignments, etc.), noting that the primary motivation appeared to be continued expansion of the department’s unfair and deceptive practices authority. In addition, the department’s apparent opinion that consumers are unable to understand ancillary fees, and compare fares and fees across airlines, is completely unsupported.
Yesterday, I filed comments on behalf of CEI fleshing out some of these objections.
To be sure, no one is advocating that airlines be permitted to deceive and defraud consumers on ancillary fees. The core of the debate...
September 9, 2014
I've noted in the past the natural appeal passenger facility charges (PFCs) should have with fiscal conservatives. These are the user fees airports are allowed to charge passengers leaving their airports. Unlike federal Airport Improvement Program grants (funded via an array of taxes through the Airport and Airway Trust Fund) and local debt financing, PFCs offer a fair, transparent, and direct way for users to pay for the infrastructure investments from which they benefit. The monies collected by the airports are kept by the airports, who then use the funds to make Federal Aviation Administration-approved airport improvements. There are no Washington...
June 18, 2014
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) uses more than 700 full-body imaging scanners in 160 airports nationwide. In addition to the empirical evidence that shows they don’t actually make us safer and the questions on the intrusion of traveler...