FAA Oversteps on Private Flight-Sharing, SLF and Allies Argue to Supreme Court
WASHINGTON, DC/ATLANTA, GA, July 29, 2016: Southeastern Legal Foundation (SLF) today filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court urging it to reverse the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) backward interpretation of its own rule which allows pilots to post pre-planned flights on old-fashioned bulletin boards but not virtual ones.
SLF is joined by the NFIB Small Business Center, the Buckeye Institute, the Beacon Center of Tennessee, and professor and pilot Thomas P. Gross.
Flying a private airplane is expensive. For decades, the Federal Aviation Administration has permitted pilots to defray those operating expenses for pre-planned flights under its Expense-Sharing Rule. In other words, if a pilot is flying from Atlanta to Charleston and wishes to share the operating expenses (fuel, oil, rental fees etc.) with others, he would post his information about his pre-planned flight on a physical bulletin board at his local airport. And, others wanting to fly with him could take note and do so.
With the advent of the Internet and now ubiquitous use of apps, traditional bulletin boards are nearly obsolete. Companies like Flytenow have stepped in and created websites to make it easier for pilots to communicate with potential cost-sharing passengers. The practice is abundant in Europe and in fact next month will be legalized in all European Union member states.
For reasons that remain unexplained, the FAA has deemed the online practice illegal and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upheld that finding by deferring to the agency. Flytenow, and similar companies in the U.S. have been forced to shut down their websites.
SLF argues that the FAA’s order is arbitrary, antiquated, and inconsistent with its longstanding Expense-Sharing Rule for private flights.