Photo of Oliver Beiersdorf

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has finalized its rule requiring U.S. and foreign air carriers to refund costs associated with tickets and ancillary service fees under certain circumstances related to airline delays and cancellations. This rule stems from and responds to President Biden’s Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy, issued on

As we begin the new year, the aviation industry is closely following certain Department of Transportation (DOT) Notices of Proposed Rulemakings (NPRM) published in 2022. These proposed rulemakings relate to consumer protections, including ancillary fees and airline ticket refunds.
Continue Reading Department of Transportation (DOT) consumer protections – rules to watch

Recent news headlines relating to air travel have demonstrated the aviation industry’s refocus on passenger experience and consumer protection issues.  Airlines are working hard to address scenarios that may affect the passenger experience during air travel today, including remediating weather delays and personnel-related issues. The Biden Administration has made consumer protections in the aviation industry

The European Union, through its aviation safety authority (EASA) has taken steps to address the future VTOL traffic management challenge with the development of an unmanned traffic management system, called the “U-Space.”
Continue Reading EASA’s U-Space: The future of air traffic management for drones and VTOL

If you live in Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Texas, Utah, or Virginia, your recent online Walmart order may have been delivered to your home by a drone.  In May, Walmart announced that it completed hundreds of drone deliveries.  By this time next year, Walmart hopes to complete over a million drone home deliveries in these states. 

In the May press release, Walmart announced that its drone delivery program was made possible through its partnership with DroneUp, a company that offers drone flight services through a network of single pilots and pilot organizations. Through close consultation with DroneUp, Walmart is now able to deliver packages weighing less than 10 pounds, in as little as 30 minutes, between the hours of 8am and 8pm.  While Walmart believed most customers would use its drone-delivery service for “emergency items,” it turns out that the top selling item in one hub location is Hamburger Helper. 

This demonstrates that consumers quickly become comfortable using drone delivery service for all kinds of goods, including food and everyday household items. 

According to recent press releases, Walmart’s delivery process is as follows:  a DroneUp delivery hub, with a team of certified drone pilots, is tasked with the safe delivery of packages within the confines of FAA guidelines.  When a customer places an order, the item is fulfilled from the store, packaged, loaded into the drone, and delivered to the customer’s home using a cable that gently lowers the package to the ground. Continue Reading Walmart continues to expand its drone-delivery program

As the global economy becomes more interconnected, aviation takes on an increasingly central role in our collective economic growth. The aviation industry supports 65 million jobs and enables the best part of $3 trillion in global GDP annually. If aviation were a country, it would rank among the world’s largest economies.

With the loss of

On Monday May 3, 2021, the California federal district court judge handling the Kobe Bryant helicopter crash lawsuit denied the United States Government’s motion to dismiss claims made against it by Island Express Helicopters, Inc.—the helicopter charter company operating the fateful helicopter flight—for indemnity.
Continue Reading U.S. Court refuses to dismiss indemnity claims against U.S. Government in Kobe Bryant helicopter crash lawsuit

The impact of COVID-19 (“Coronavirus”) on aviation is becoming more pronounced by the day, with the International Air Transport Association (“IATA”) yesterday asking that airport slot allocation rules be suspended to prevent airlines from losing their take-off and landing slots on the basis of failure to meet the required 80% usage rates, as flights continue to be cancelled globally[1]. About 54 countries, including the US, have now introduced travel restrictions to China and the wider Asia/Pacific (“APAC”) region.
Continue Reading Reed Smith update on the impact of Coronavirus on the aviation industry

In a very significant, closely watched aviation product liability preemption case in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, Sikkelee v. Precision Airmotive Corp., et al., No. 17-3006, 2018 WL 5289702 (3d Cir. Oct. 25, 2018), the court recently held that state law claims against type certificate holders can go forward unless the defendant can show that the FAA would not have approved a plaintiff’s proposed change to the FAA type certificate. The court held that the plaintiff’s design defect claims against Lycoming, the type certificate holder for the engine on the accident aircraft, were not conflict preempted because Lycoming was in a position to make changes to its type certificate and was unable to show that the FAA would not have approved the alternative engine design the plaintiff proposed. The court emphasized that allowing state law claims to proceed against type certificate holders complemented the federal scheme and furthers its purpose of ensuring the safety of aircraft. Accordingly, under this ruling, it appears that the only time a type certificate holder can potentially succeed with a conflict preemption defense under these circumstances is if there is clear evidence establishing that the FAA would not have approved an alternative design proposed by the plaintiff.

The dissent held that the claims were preempted and pointed out significant issues with the majority’s decision. The majority relied primarily on a U.S. Supreme Court case which held that state law claims against brand name pharmaceutical manufacturers are not preempted because the manufacturer was able to implement changes prior to receiving FDA approval. The dissent pointed out the critical distinction between that case and Lycoming – unlike a brand name pharmaceutical manufacturer, an FAA type certificate holder cannot implement design changes without prior FAA approval. Thus, the dissent held that the majority’s analysis was flawed because it would be impossible for Lycoming to independently implement the changes that the plaintiff alleged state law required.
Continue Reading New Sikkelee decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit – state law claims against type certificate holders are not conflict preempted