Aviation Law incorporates a wide range of law. Coquina Law Group is ready to assist you whether it is the purchase/sale of an aircraft, maintenance dispute, property damage claim, FAA compliance or defense, an accident, or issues regarding drones. Coquina Law Group represents manufacturers, FBOs, maintenance facilities, pilots, operators, and owners. We are prepared to handle all of your aviation law needs. Ashby Underhill, a Board-Certified Aviation Attorney leads the aviation practice for the firm.
Aviation is one of the safest modes of transpositions; however accidents and incidents do happen. An aviation accident usually results in death or serious bodily injury. Aviation liability claims are complex and require the use of reliable experts in addition to knowledgeable attorneys. Claims and lawsuits may be made against the pilot, owner, operator, maintenance facilities, aircraft or component manufacturers. Depending on the circumstances, a claimant may allege liability on the theory of negligence against the crew, flight operator, ATC or aircraft owner, and/or a product liability claim against the manufacturing companies, or even the air traffic controller.
The complexity and fact intensiveness of aviation accident litigation requires attorneys to have knowledge and experience with aircraft and flying. To properly litigate an aviation accident, it is imperative to gather information as soon as possible as air traffic control communication and some flight radar is only stored for a limited time. In assessing an aviation accident claim, we obtain all information available through our investigation and hire experts (if needed). This allows us to provide our clients with a full assessment of liability exposure, potential defenses and other information for them to make informed decisions. The litigation process is simplified by identifying and addressing possible scenarios well before any claims are made.
The NTSB will investigate the accident. Although the NTSB does not have to allow parties access to the investigation, information can be obtained by cooperating with the NTSB while conducting your own investigation with the guidance of an attorney. The attorneys at Coquina Law Group are ready to respond with little notice to help your business. Additionally, the FAA will investigate and could bring enforcement actions against the owner/operator or pilot. You are entitled to and should be represented by an attorney anytime you are communicating with the FAA or NTSB.
The FAA governs aviation in the United States from drones to heavy jets. Although the FAA can be friendly, once the FAA believes you have violated a Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR), the FAA is NOT looking out for your best interest and will use anything you say against you and give you ample opportunity to incriminate yourself. The FAA investigator will likely call you or show up and encourage you to speak with him or her regarding the facts surrounding the occurrence. Even if the investigator assures you that everything will be okay, it will not, and the investigator will use your admissions against you. If the FAA is speaking with you under authority delegated by the NTSB, you are required to speak with him, but should be represented as the FAA may use that information for a potential enforcement action against you.
The FAA will formally inform you that they are investigating you by sending you a letter of investigation. This letter will indicate that the FAA believes you have committed a violation of regulations when no emergency exists to justify revoking your certificate. The letter requests that you respond within 10 days. You have several options when receiving this letter: 1) admit and accept the proposed action, 2) request the FAA to proceed and appeal to the NTSB administrative judge, or 3) request an informal meeting. Please consult with an attorney prior to responding to this letter. The circumstances surrounding the alleged violation will control whether or not you should respond. The certificate holder is allowed an informal meeting with the regional FAA attorney. At this time, through your attorney, mitigation and factual issues are addressed. During the informal meeting, the infraction and proposed sanction can be stipulated to, reduced, or dropped altogether. If no agreement is reached, the FAA will issue its sanction which may be appealed to the NTSB board. No sanctions are enforced until after all appeals are exhausted, unless the FAA issues an Emergency Order.
The FAA may issue an Emergency Order of Revocation, which immediately revokes your certificate rights until all appeals are exhausted. If this occurs, you have a limited amount of time to appeal the emergency nature of the revocation. On appeal to the NTSB, the appeal is streamlined unless the emergency portion of the decision is waived. When appealing to the NTSB, we can request jurisdiction for where the occurrence occurred, or the pilot or owner operator reside.
NASA reports allow sanctions for violations to be waived if the FAA certificate holder that has committed a violation of the FAA regulations, that does not fall into one of the exceptions. The Aviation Safety Reporting Program is administered by NASA. Although the violation will still be on your record, the sanctions will be waived. The report can only be used every five years. Depending on the circumstances, the use of the report offers protection against FAA enforcement. Even in the event the violation is excepted from the NASA Report protection, the fact that one was filed may be used as mitigation.
Aircraft are expensive and may be the most expensive asset you or your business ever purchase. Coquina Law Group is here to help you with your transactional needs. It is important to be represented during the negotiation aspect as well as at closing. Many owners have been surprised to get to closing to find out they owe several hundred thousand dollars because they were not represented and there was an escalation clause in the contract, or they were responsible for discrepancies discovered during the pre-purchase inspection. Additionally, there can be many external considerations that can frustrate the closing of the aircraft that need to be addressed prior to signing a contract. We can help you with the process from beginning to end with setting up an entity to owning the aircraft, negotiating the contract, tax considerations, and through closing.
Drones are aircraft and primarily regulated by the FAA. Some aspects of drone operation may be regulated by state and local governments. This law is rapidly changing and will continue to do so. The operation and registration requirements are determined by the size and use of your drone. Failure to comply with the regulations and local law may result in FAA civil penalties, enforcement action, liability claims, and invasion of privacy lawsuits.