Monday, November 23, 2015
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) Unmanned Aircraft Systems Registration Task Force Aviation Rulemaking Committee released its final report earlier today. The recommendations contained within the report are non-binding, but the FAA is not expected to significantly deviate from the plan outlined in the report. There is very limited time remaining if the FAA is to meet its objective of having a working registration process in place prior to the Christmas holiday, but the Task Force's recommendations may be manageable. The key recommendations were to require owners of small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (under 55 pounds) to register their drones with the federal government online prior to operation, as opposed to at the point-of-sale. The Task Force recommends that registration be free of charge, and open to any person, citizen or not, as long as he or she is at least 13 years of age. Owners would only be required to provide their name and street address when registering. After registration is complete, each drone will be assigned a registration number which the owner will be required to affix to the drone. There is little to object to in the report, as the registration process described should hardly inconvenience drone operators. This hasn't prevented some drone enthusiasts from objecting on principle to the notion that the FAA has the statutory authority to mandate registration of non-commercial drones, which remains a live question, though one that the FAA likely won't have to litigate until 2016. On the pro-regulatory side, there is concern that not requiring registration at the point-of-sale will lead to widespread non-compliance with the registration requirement. The Task Force recommended the imposition of monetary penalties for non-compliance but did not include specific amounts.
Wednesday, November 18, 2015
The Russian government has now acknowledged that the recent explosion of a charter jet departing from Egypt's Sharm el Sheikh airport was almost certainly caused by an act of terrorism. The Egyptian government had disputed the bomb theory in recent weeks, but without Russian support Egypt appears likely to eventually concede on this point as well. Should individuals be located and apprehended in connection with the bombing, prosecution of their actions would be covered by the 1971 Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Civil Aviation and its 1988 Supplemental Protocol.
Monday, November 16, 2015
As we await the results of the investigation into the midair explosion of a Russian airliner two weeks ago, tension has arisen between authorities in Egypt and countries such as the United States, which are used to playing a more active supporting role in investigating such incidents. In addition, the suspected connections to terrorism, combined with the tragic events in Paris last week, have prompted a renewed focus on airport security.
Thursday, November 12, 2015
The United States Department of Justice has filed a complaint in federal court in an attempt to prevent United Airlines from acquiring 24 takeoff and landing slots at Newark Airport in an exchange with Delta Air Lines for slots at JFK Airport. United has a dominant position at Newark, owning more than 70 percent of the slots. United believes the relevant market for antitrust analysis should not be confined to city-pairs between Newark and other cities, but should encompass the entire New York city region in which there exist alternatives to Newark Airport and a greater degree of competition. The DOJ forced United to divest slots at Newark as a condition of its merger with Continental and has opposed subsequent attempts by United to reacquire Newark slots, so it can be assumed that the DOJ has already considered and rejected this argument. If the slot swap is to go forward, United may need to convince a court that the DOJ is mistaken.
Wednesday, November 11, 2015
Reuters is reporting that the European Commission is drafting a legislative proposal for release early next year that would allow it to take a tougher line against competitive practices by non-EU carriers the Commission deems to be unfair. The report indicates that the new proposal could extend the Commission's authority to a broader range of practices, grant the Commission new investigative powers, and add new sanctions for violators up to and including revocation of traffic rights. The proposal is clearly intended with the Gulf carriers in mind, as the article mentions that the Commission hopes to discuss the issue of government subsidies with the UAE and Qatar in air services agreement negotiations next month. While subsidy accusations by the legacy U.S. carriers against the Gulf states, including a Wall Street Journal Op-Ed yesterday, have been the dominant story of 2015, this report indicates that Europe is poised to significantly escalate matters this winter.