FAA Final Rule

Today's Federal Register contains the Final Rule issued by the Federal Aviation Administration ("FAA") implementing changes to its rules of practice and procedures for filing and adjudicating complaints against federally-assisted airports in Part 16 proceedings.  A copy of the Final Rule, which becomes effective on November 12, 2013, is available here.

The FAA initiated this effort through the issuance of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking ("NPRM") in March of 2012, following meetings it held with various stakeholder groups, including ACI-NA legal staff, airport legal representatives from ACI-NA member airports and ACI-NA associate law firm representatives, as well as AAAE representatives.  ACI-NA filed comments in response to the NPRM with the FAA in June of 2012.  In addition, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and AAAE filed comments on behalf of airports in the NPRM proceeding.

The Final Rule updates certain Part 16 procedures to provide for increased efficiencies, including by providing an electronic filing alternative for the initiation of complaints and submittal of answers and other pleadings, and by adding opportunities for airport sponsors to seek early dispositions of complaints in certain cases.  In addition, the Final Rule adds the following, among other clarifications and enhancements, to the Part 16 rules and procedures:

  • A means of concluding the FAA's investigation by "summary judgment" or dismissal without an answer by the airport sponsor;
  • Dismissals of incomplete complaints;
  • Allowance of termination of a complainant's action in certain cases where the FAA finds the person filing the complaint lacks standing;
  • Intervention and other participation in Part 16 proceedings by interested parties;
  • Processes involving the Director, including procedures for seeking rehearing of the Director's Determinations upon a showing of good cause;
  • Requests for testimony of agency employees;
  • Transfer of responsibility for decision-making for civil rights cases; and
  • Availability of judicial review.

The goal of these changes is to improve the process and reduce the time required to address cases handled by the FAA, based on feedback received during the FAA's rulemaking process.

An overview of some of the changes implemented through this Final Rule will be provided during the FAA Update session of the Fall Legal Conference in San Jose.  We hope you will be able to join us there!