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Litigation News

Litigation News | 2022

Aviation Law Is Broader Than You Think

Oran F Whiting


  • A Handbook on Aviation Law is a concise and well-organized resource for students and practitioners.
  • It covers a wide range of topics in aviation law, including liability, accidents, regulatory entities, litigation issues, and emerging areas like drones and emotional support animals.
  • The book is a practical reference with case citations and serves as a valuable starting point for understanding aviation law and its expanding scope.
Aviation Law Is Broader Than You Think
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Aviation law is expanding from a treaty-based specialized area of law governing a relatively narrow segment of commercial enterprise to encompass multiple areas of law. Technological advancements in manufacturing, developments in areas ranging from the operation of drones to space tourism, and the myriad of issues involved with the business of passenger travel and cargo/freight operations have inflated aviation’s widening canopy.

A Handbook on Aviation Law (ABA 2017) is an excellent supplementary text for students learning the foundation and fundamentals of aviation law, as well as a handy, quick reference guide for practitioners. The authors are experienced aviation law practitioners with uniquely diverse backgrounds. One, a military veteran, former prosecutor, and financial institution in-house counsel turned aviation practitioner, and the other, a former claims director for a premier aviation insurance company, present an introduction to and coherent coverage of the topic.

Compact at 173 pages and organized for easy reference, the handbook consists of nine chapters. The authors begin with a history of and the rationale behind the treaties and conventions governing aviation liability. They provide a general explanation of the scope of an air carrier’s liability from the international perspective and address delays, baggage and cargo issues, limitation of actions, contracting parties, and the applicability of the conventions and treaties to international carriage.

The authors thereafter expeditiously cover several pertinent areas, including accidents and the definitions thereof, intrusive searches, turbulence, and terrorism. Bodily injury is addressed and includes, among other topics, discussions about emotional distress. Embarking and disembarking/boarding and deplaning, and preemption as well as procedural matters, including jurisdiction, venue, forum non conveniens, are defined, dissected, and contextualized. Importantly, the authors present case and reference citations.

From a U.S. litigator’s perspective, domestic issues preempt the international; however, domestic matters properly follow the international perspective in the book.

U.S. regulatory entities, including the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board, are explored as is the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978, arguably responsible for the current aviation environment. The authors then specifically address several of the broad array of issues pertaining to and included under the aviation litigation canopy, including false arrest/imprisonment, employment discrimination, bumping, passengers of size, denial of first-class seats, and overhead bin issues, to name a few. The authors recognize the importance of removal to federal court for liability purposes by devoting an entire chapter to the topic and providing case citations.

The book’s second half tackles relatively new, “non-traditional” areas increasingly common in aviation matters. Interestingly, the General Aviation Revitalization Act of 1994, which implements an 18-year statute of repose for lawsuits against manufacturers of general aviation aircraft and component parts, receives its own chapter, under the title Product Issues. Airport security, the Airline Passenger Bill of Rights, and the issues of communicable diseases, drones, and emotional support animals each receive special coverage.

A Handbook on Aviation Law is more than a compendium of cases. It teaches how to initially address aviation liability-related issues and provides a resource for the basics. The book serves as a practical reference. The authors cover most, if not all, of the important issues involved in aviation litigation.

It neither dwells on the relatively short history of the aviation industry, nor touches on business, finance, economic, or operational issues. It provides sufficient background to assist the reader to understand the relatively unknown treaty-based premise of the law and how it has expanded from a specialized part of law to include areas ranging from property to civil rights. In my view, A Handbook on Aviation Law is a good starting point for students and a useful, practical reference guide for practitioners.

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