Aviation

Overview

“I think their work is sterling. They are smart, alert, aware and treat their clients’ problems like their own and take their needs very seriously. When I have had a problem, I've always been confident in their advice and counsel.”

— Client feedback, Chambers USA

The aviation industry is facing challenges on a number of fronts as airlines face tighter margins, regulatory and environmental regimes shift, and the threat of terrorism and international conflicts rise.

Our nationally-recognized aviation practice vigorously represents major airlines, product manufacturers, pilots, airports, charter companies, helicopter companies, flight school operators, ground services providers, air show operators, flight schools, engine and component part manufacturers, MROs, FBOs, aviation insurers/insureds, aircraft and aviation equipment lessors and financers, among others, in a wide range of litigation, regulatory, and transactional matters associated with their operations.

With the proliferation of “drone” (“UAS”/”UAV”) usage, we also counsel our clients on the issues associated with public, civil/commercial, and recreational use of UAS, including FAA policies and regulations, federal versus state law and regulation, risk management, insurance, tort and privacy issues. We also counsel our clients regarding best practices for implementing policies and procedures governing drone usage.

How We Can Help

Blank Rome offers comprehensive support for clients in the aviation industry, including matters related to:

  • aviation accident investigations and litigation
  • aviation product liability and torts claims
  • breach of contract and commercial litigation
  • aircraft and equipment leasing and financing 
  • insurance coverage and recovery
  • commercial liability
  • employment suits
  • white collar crime issues, including asset forfeiture recovery of aircraft
  • labor disputes and negotiations
  • environmental and toxic tort claims
  • environmental compliance and investigations
  • government contracts
  • aviation rulemaking, regulation, and public policy
  • international import/export trade controls 
  • real estate transactions
  • intellectual property

Product Liability, Tort, and Contract Claims

Aviation product liability suits often revolve around whether accidents were a result of pilot error, aircraft mechanical problems, component part defects, or a combination of these or other factors. Our aviation attorneys have decades of experience defending our clients facing lawsuits as a result of commercial airline or general aviation incidents. We defend our clients in multijurisdictional litigation, actions filed in state and federal courts, arbitrations, mediations, and other proceedings. We also assist our clients with regulatory and commercial matters, as well as offering a cross-practice approach to assist with UAS-related legal, regulatory, insurance and risk management issues.

  • Defense against product liability claims against aviation product designers, manufacturers and/or distributors in a variety of matters, including general and commercial aviation accidents and incidents.
  • Defense against negligence, product liability, and breach of contract suits arising out of accidents involving commercial and general aviation aircraft, ground equipment, and airport facilities and systems.
  • Defense against wrongful death and personal injury product liability and negligence suits.
  • Defense against negligence and/or breach of contract claims involving indemnification, contribution, and/or tender of defense issues for airports, airlines, and other aviation industry companies.
  • Representation in claims involving FBOs, MROs , repair and service facilities, flight schools, and ground services providers. 
  • Representation in claims against engine, avionics, and component part manufacturers for general aviation, air transport, military aircraft, and airport systems and equipment.
  • Representation in claims against airlines, contractors, and construction companies arising out of design and construction of airport facilities, GSE facilities and MRO facilities. 
  • Representation in hull damage, property damage and subrogation claims resulting from aviation accidents.
  • Representation in lawsuits involving airlines versus TSA liability due to alleged safety and security issues.
  • Representation in accidents involving all types of aircraft, ground services, and airport equipment, including belt loaders, baggage carts and tugs, fuel trucks, deicing equipment, conveyor systems, and motorized vehicle collisions. 
  • Representation in claims involving airline contracts and relationships with regional carriers and third-party vendors. 
  • Advice and counsel on issues related to Montreal Convention, Warsaw Convention, DOHSA, and admiralty law issues including jurisdiction, forum non conveniens, conflicts of law, domestic and international treaties, and associated preemption issues.

Aircraft and Equipment Leasing and Finance

Blank Rome’s equipment leasing and finance practice, which was ranked #1 by Chambers & Partners USA, has a wide range of experience and capabilities in structuring, negotiating, and documenting complex aviation-related financing transactions for aircraft, engines, and parts, purchases or sales of aircraft, and other equipment leasing matters.

Airports/Airlines/Vendors

  • Negotiation and litigation of leases, third-party contractor and/or vendor agreements, Master Services Agreements, and other contracts. 
  • Airline-airport rights, responsibilities, and liabilities under leases, including repair/maintenance responsibilities, indemnification obligations, and associated governmental or tort claims act immunity.
  • Defense against subrogation claims for bodily injury and property damage. 

Airports/Airport Authorities/Aviation Boards and Commissions

We represent airports, airport authorities, as well as aviation boards and commissions with regard to liability claims, regulatory issues, tort claims act and/or sovereign immunity, and related matters, including:

  • Superfund, CERCLA, and other environmental litigation 
  • Insurance coverage disputes 
  • Defense of mass tort claims due to environmental spillage, toxic fumes, and other causes 
  • Claims and litigation involving personal injury and property damage
  • Construction, contract, and/or lease advice and claims 
  • Zoning, nuisance, noise, and trespass claims 
  • Regulatory compliance 

Aviation-Related Construction Litigation 

  • Defense of claims by contractors, airport owners, airline employees, and third parties in connection with alleged additional work and/or increased costs of airport construction projects, construction defects, and post-construction liability claims.
  • Representation of airlines against architects/engineers, contractors, and airport claims with respect to negligence, breach of contract, and personal injury claims arising out of airport/airline construction projects.
  • Designated law firm to represent a major air carrier and all subcontractors in the Owner Controlled Insurance Program related to the $500 million Philadelphia Airport International Terminal project, which resulted in the defense of numerous construction-related personal injury claims as well as construction disputes, contractual disputes, and professional liability disputes. 

Insurance Coverage 

  • Coverage opinions and litigation regarding interpretation of aviation insurance policies (including aircraft and airport policies) as well as duty to defend and/or indemnify issues.
  • Insurance coverage disputes for chemical exposure and environmental claims.
  • Representation of aviation insurers regarding the conflicting areas of coverage for a fixed base operator between its aircraft and airport policies.
  • Representation of aviation insurers in claims involving pilot warranty clauses, breach of warranty provisions, and other areas of limitation.
  • Drafting and litigating insurance, indemnification, and duty to defend clauses in leases and other contracts.

International Import/Export Controls

We handle all aspects of international trade controls issues, including compliance counseling as to the various regulatory regimes administered by the Bureau of Industry and Security (“BIS”) of the Department of Commerce (Export Administration Regulations), the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (“DDTC”) of the Department of State (ITAR regulations), the Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) of the Department of the Treasury (executive orders and sanction laws and regulations), and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives of the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) regarding the manufacture, import, and export of certain military items.

Governmental, Investigative, and Regulatory 

Our policy and political law professionals have for years provided lobbying law, ethics law, and campaign finance law advice to one of the nation’s largest airlines, and provided ongoing DOT regulatory compliance advice to a major foreign-based airline. Other transportation-based clients have also been advised regarding topics such as PAC compliance and Safety Act submissions. We are also able to assist with federal lobbying and strategic communications services available through our government affairs affiliate, Blank Rome Government Relations LLC.

  • Representation of air carriers, aviation companies, and insurers in their dealings with the FAA, TSA, Customs and Border Protection, and State Department.
  • Representation of airlines and other aviation companies in FAA enforcement actions, and NTSB, FAA and international accident and other investigations.
  • Representation regarding subpoenas and deposition requests from government entities or private litigants in civil actions and government proceedings.
  • Representation regarding expert inspections of products, equipment, and facilities.
  • OSHA issues, investigations, and proceedings.
  • Representation of airlines in DOT enforcement actions.
  • Representation of airlines in defense of penalty notices from U.S. Customs regarding various violations of U.S. Customs regulations.
  • Representation of helicopter transportation companies, airlines, and parts suppliers, in connection with U.S. economic sanctions and U.S. export control regulations and rules.

Federal Aviation Act/Federal Preemption Issues

  • Federal preemption under various federal aviation statutes and regulations, including field and conflict preemption defenses and issues.
  • Rates, routes, or services preemption (consumer protection, deceptive trade practices, economic impact issues).
  • Preemption of state law claims and/or remedies.
  • FAA regulations regarding flight crew duties and operation of flights, as well as interference with flight crew in performance of their duties.
  • Federal statutes versus international treaties.

Bankruptcy 

  • Representation of airlines during bankruptcy proceedings with respect to insured claims allowed to proceed following the lifting of bankruptcy stays and/or injunctions, and handling bankruptcy court processing of such claims. 
  • Representation of airlines with respect to claims in bankruptcy proceedings of other airlines.

Labor and Employment

We help clients navigate the web of federal, state, and local laws that affect every company and its employees. We help clients prevent or defend against costly employment discrimination actions and provide advice and litigation services for wage and hour issues.

Government Contracts

We maintain a nationally recognized, full-service government contracts group that represents contractors in all aspects of federal, state, and local procurement law—from contract formation through close-out— including handling complex matters for clients in the aviation industry

Environmental

We have particular experience in environmental enforcement and litigation (civil, criminal, and administrative proceedings), environmental due diligence and risk management, counseling, compliance auditing, and environmental management systems, and representation before regulatory agencies, including the U.S. DOT and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, and Congress. The group includes former trial attorneys from the Department of Justice, former officials of the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”), and former assistant United States attorneys.

Real Estate

Blank Rome’s real estate group has handled a variety of deals for aviation clients, including airport lease negotiations and issues, acquisition of land and facilities for aviation operations or jet fuel production, analysis of commercial transactions, and associated environmental and government relations issues. 

Intellectual Property

Blank Rome’s intellectual property group investigates, procures, litigates, and enforces intellectual property rights around the globe by covering every aspect of national and international patent, trademark, and copyright law.

What Sets Us Apart

  • Our aviation practice is unique in offering a true cross-practice approach and support to address any issue that arises in or is associated with aviation matters. We draw upon the deep bench of nationally-recognized attorneys based in 13 offices across the United States that know aviation industry issues as they relate to environmental, regulatory, government contracts, aircraft and aviation equipment leasing and financing, among other matters.  
  • Our aviation attorneys are recognized industry leaders and are regular speakers and attendees at the SMU Air Law Symposium, ABA TIPS conferences, Lawyer-Pilot Bar Association meetings, Aviation Insurance Association meetings, International Aviation Women’s Association, Airport Council International (“ACI”), and many other professional and media events.

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