July 16, 2015
Yesterday, July 15, 2015, CEI filed a petition for writ of mandamus with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Our suit requests the court enforce its July 15, 2011, decision that found the TSA’s deployment of body scanners in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act. The 2011 court ordered the TSA to “promptly” open a rulemaking proceeding and produce a final rule. Yesterday was the four-year anniversary of the court order and we still do not have a final rule to evaluate and potentially challenge. In fact, given that TSA has been rolling out body scanners since 2007, they have been violating the APA for eight years.
Other than CEI, petitioners are the National Center for Transgender Equality, The...
May 11, 2015
The Tax Foundation today released a new report, “Improving Airport Funding to Meet the Needs of Passengers.” Authored by Tax Foundation economist Alan Cole, the report notes that airport funding and financing in the U.S. is skewed against the users-pay principle and that the passenger facility charge (PFC) represents a welcome alternative to federal airport cross-subsidization schemes.
The PFC is a local user charge that airports can use to fund or finance a narrow class of improvements, as permitted by the Federal Aviation Administration. The PFC has been capped at a maximum of $4.50 per enplanement since 2000. Inflation has eroded that buying power by about half. CEI, along with airports and other aviation industry stakeholders, supports increasing the cap to $8.50 and then...
May 4, 2015
We saw two announcements on air traffic control modernization last week. The first was that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had finally completed its En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM) deployment, a critical component of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) update of National Airspace System (NAS) management.
ERAM greatly improves flight tracking, communications, and controller displays by harnessing new technologies that have been developed in the last several decades. This is all well and good, but ERAM rollout was supposed to have been completed by 2010. Five years late and several hundred million dollars over budget, it is a bit...
April 24, 2015
Today, I submitted comments to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on behalf of CEI on its notice of proposed rulemaking for small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) certification and operations. We make three main points.
First, we question why the FAA is using its case-by-case exemption authority as the basis for this rulemaking, as opposed to the actual rulemaking section of the same law that Congress passed in 2012. This was the last FAA reauthorization and Congress included a subtitle on unmanned...
March 26, 2015
I saw some unfortunate news today: Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform sent a letter to Congress opposing a possible increase in the cap of the airport Passenger Facility Charge (PFC). ATR is often an ally in CEI’s libertarian battles, but here they are both wrong on the facts and inadvertently supporting a tax-and-spend federal regime that the PFC and other facility user charges can help counter.
Before I get to why ATR is completely wrong on federalist and free-market grounds in opposing a PFC cap increase, let’s be clear about what a PFC is, why it exists as it does, and what Congress may (or may not) do with the cap.
First, the PFC is a local user charge. Congress authorized its creation in 1990 and it allows airports to charge per-passenger enplanement fees. The revenue raised can...
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...