Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Want to Ride-Share With a Dubious Pilot? The legislative language the authors support would override the Federal Aviation Administration safety regulations

The Wall Street Journal 
Opinion - Letters
Nov. 18, 2016 2:52 p.m. ET

Jonathan Riches and Thomas P. Gross’s “Ride-Sharing for Pilots Is No Flight of Fancy” (op-ed, Nov. 16) suggests the Federal Aviation Administration is barring pilots from using the internet to take advantage of the share economy. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is part of a campaign to convince people it is now acceptable to allow the public to ride-share with private pilots with potentially little flight time or training for challenging weather conditions. As the U.S. Court of Appeals noted in one of several legal rebukes issued to the authors’ clients, “Pilots communicating to defined and limited groups remain free to invite passengers for common-purpose expense-sharing flights . . . so long as they share a common purpose and do not hold themselves out as offering services to the public.”

Consistent with previous attempts to offer the same service using telephone-based technology, the FAA determined the proposed service cited in the article requires additional safety certifications for both the pilots and their aircraft. It is instructive to look at the legislative language the authors support. It would override the FAA’s safety regulations, something unnecessary if the only issue was internet communication. We doubt the Supreme Court will grant certiorari in this matter because it is neither a novel question of law nor are there any disputes between the lower courts as to the FAA’s interpretation. The National Air Transportation Association will continue to educate lawmakers on how the authors’ clients are simply selling old wine in a new bottle to ultimately undermine the safety of the flying public.

Martin H. Hiller


National Air Transportation Assn. Washington

Original article can be found here:  http://www.wsj.com

Ride-Sharing for Pilots Is No Flight of Fancy: Supreme Court decision to review Flytenow v. Federal Aviation Administration could make airplane flight-sharing an option for Americans

The Wall Street Journal
November 15, 2016 6:54 p.m. ET

From Uber to Airbnb, the “sharing economy” is revolutionizing industries by letting companies connect directly with consumers. If the Supreme Court decides to review Flytenow v. FAA, Americans could benefit from cost-sharing in the airline industry.

In late 2014 the Federal Aviation Administration banned private pilots from communicating travel plans and sharing flight expenses over the internet. That order shut down Flytenow, a startup that connected pilots and cost-sharing passengers online.

Around the same time, the European Aviation Safety Agency found compelling reasons to allow the very same cost-sharing operations in Europe. On Aug. 26, the agency authorized cost-sharing for general aviation flights in 32 countries. At least two companies similar to Flytenow, called Wingly and Off We Fly, now operate in the European Union.

In American aviation, cost-sharing isn’t a new thing. For over 50 years the FAA has allowed pilots and passengers to communicate about cost-sharing via email and phone as well as by posting notices on airport bulletin boards.

With seed money from Silicon Valley, Flytenow brought that practice into the digital age. And it was working until the FAA shut down the startup. The agency claimed that if a private pilot flying a four-passenger airplane used Flytenow to communicate travel plans and find people to share his expenses, that pilot should be regulated as a commercial flight operation.

Yet the FAA ignored a key difference between commercial and general aviation: Commercial pilots provide services to the public for profit; Flytenow pilots merely share expenses. By regulation, flight-sharing pilots must pay at least a pro rata share of flight expenses, so they can never earn a profit. The FAA’s conclusion also missed that pilots have a First Amendment right to communicate their noncommercial travel plans with others, even over the internet.

The FAA’s job is to ensure safety. Yet its rationale for deeming Flytenow dangerous is based on pre-internet policies. Web-based flight-sharing arrangements, where pilots are screened, and their experience and credentials are displayed for potential passengers, are actually safer than simply posting flight times on an airport bulletin board.

The Goldwater Institute challenged the FAA’s legal interpretation on behalf of Flytenow and the Supreme Court is expected to decide within the next few weeks whether to review the case. Meanwhile, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has passed an amendment to its FAA reauthorization bill that would authorize web-facilitated flight sharing.

The Flytenow case presents an opportunity for the Supreme Court and Congress to say consumers and service providers should be free to choose which innovations work for them. If Europe can ensure the safety of these tech innovations, then so can the U.S.

Mr. Riches, director of national litigation at the Goldwater Institute, represents Flytenow before the Supreme Court. Mr. Gross is an attorney and a private pilot.

Original article can be found here:  http://www.wsj.com

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