The National Academies

ACRP 11-01/Topic 04-05 [Final]

Compilation of DOT and FAA Airport Legal Determinations and Opinion Letters, through December 2011
[ ACRP 11-01 (Legal Aspects of Airport Programs) ]

  Project Data
Funds: $60,000
Research Agency: Spiegel & McDiarmid
Principal Investigator: Pablo Nuesch
Effective Date: 2/24/2012
Completion Date: 8/1/2013

ACRP Study Topic 11-01/4-05




Virtually all U.S. airports with commercial airline service have accepted federal grants under the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) (Title 49, U.S.C., Chapter 471).  In exchange for these grants, airports agree to comply with numerous federal assurances, ranging from requirements that their rates be reasonable to implementation of disadvantaged business enterprise programs.  The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) adjudicates complaints, brought by FAA or raised by third parties, relating to alleged failures by airports to comply with the AIP grant assurances.
Prior to 1996 the FAA’s procedures for processing and making determination regarding complaints against federally-funded airports were set forth in 14 CFR Part 13, a set of regulations applicable to a variety of adversarial proceedings within FAA’s jurisdiction.  In 1996, the FAA promulgated Part 16, regulations relating to processing complaints against airports specifically.  Part 16 includes several stages of FAA review, and therefore multiple decisions may be issued by the FAA in a particular Part 16 proceeding.
It is very difficult for attorneys representing airports to find either the older Part 13 decisions relating to airports, or the more recent Part 16 decisions.  In addition, airport attorneys are rarely aware of DOT general counsel opinions or FAA chief counsel opinions on airport legal issues.  This project would make these materials available.
The subcommittee is aware that the LEXIS™ service contains a library of Part 13 and Part 16 decisions.  Many airport attorneys, however, use a different online legal research service and do not have access to LEXIS.  In addition, the LEXIS library contains numerous Part 13 decisions that do not relate to airports, and that library, as best we can tell, does not include any DOT general counsel decisions or FAA chief counsel decisions.  Furthermore, LEXIS does not include a case summary to accompany the text of Part 13 and Part 16 decisions.
WESTLAW service contains a similar library, subject to comparable limitations on its usefulness.
Part 16 decisions are also maintained on the FAA website.  As with other online resources, there is no case summary and no digesting or indexing. Decisions are only searchable by names of party or docket number.  Also, DOT general counsel and FAA chief counsel opinions are not available through this on-line source.
ACRP 11-01, “Legal Aspects of Airport Program” previously published ACRP LRD 4, Compilation of DOT and FAA Airport Legal Determinations and Opinion Letters Through  December 31, 2007, by Spiegel & McDiarmid, August, 2008.  That report consists of a bound volume of indexes and a CD-ROM with the same indexes, digested determinations and opinions, and close to 2000 pages of determinations and opinions.  The determinations and opinions are numbered in the indexes by document numbers and linked.
The objective of this study topic is to supplement and update ACRP LRD 4.  
Status:  This has been published as a CD-ROM as Legal Research Digest 21.

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