Author Archives: David K. Tochen

Planes, Drones and $…The 2018 Appropriation and Aviation

After four governmentwide short-term stopgap funding provisions since last September, Congress has enacted, and the President has signed, a full fiscal year Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018 (Public Law 115-141, March 23, 2018), a 2,149-page behemoth that provides a total of $1.3 trillion in funding. According to a summary of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2018, (Division L of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018, commonly referred to as “THUD”) prepared by the Committee on Appropriations, U.S. House of Representatives, the Department of Transportation (DOT) appropriations include $18 billion in total budgetary resources for the Federal …

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Wheels Up for Blockchain Technology in Aviation?

Many of us know something about bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Perhaps fewer of us are familiar with the underlying digital technology for these cryptocurrencies — known as blockchain. Likely even fewer of us recognize the role that blockchain can play in aviation.  This post will shed light on ways blockchain is being examined and even introduced in the transportation sector in general, including aviation. First, what is blockchain?

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Summary of Congressional Hearing: “The State of Aviation Safety” Part II

In Part I of this post, we summarized the statements of Subcommittee Chairman LoBiondo and FAA and NASA witnesses at the February 27 hearing on “The State of Aviation Safety” conducted by the Subcommittee on Aviation of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure of the U.S. House of Representatives.  In this Part II, we will briefly discuss the prepared and oral statements from NTSB, USDOT Office of Inspector General (OIG), and Air Line Pilots Association, International (ALPA) officials.

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The State of Aviation Safety and Congress: Part I

The Subcommittee on Aviation of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure conducted a February 27 hearing on the safety of the National Airspace System (NAS), including progress made and challenges that still need addressing. Officials form the following organizations provided testimony at the hearing: FAA, NASA, NTSB, the USDOT Office of Inspector General (OIG), and the Airline Pilots Association International (ALPA). Although the following link to the hearing is available on Committee’s website – https://transportation.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=402184 – we are pleased to provide the following summary for our Plane-ly Spoken readers.

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Air Ambulances Services and Preemption

Since the enactment of the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 (ADA), an issue that continues to receive close legal scrutiny is the extent to which states may regulate the activities of air ambulance services.  This issue has been the subject of numerous federal and state court decisions, U.S. DOT legal opinions, state attorneys general opinions, and was also addressed in a broader U.S. Government Accountability Office report (Air Ambulance: Effects of Industry Changes on Services are Unclear, (September 2010)).  Recently, this issue was also ruled upon in federal district court and state appeals court opinions. Although the precise contours and …

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GAO Questions FAA’s Methodology for Determining Shared Industry-Liability Risks for Commercial Space Launch Accidents

For the second time in 10 months, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has questioned the FAA’s calculations in determining the proper balancing of risk between the federal government and the commercial space launch industry. This risk sharing regime was initially established in the Commercial Space Launch Amendments of 1988 (section 5). Under this regime, space launch companies purchase insurance against claims by third parties and for loss or damage to federal property and personnel as a result of a launch or reentry accident, unless companies otherwise demonstrate sufficient financial responsibility to cover the same calculated damages. The amount of …

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Christopher Hart – Safety Advocate, Deep Thinker, Gentleman

Christopher Hart, National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Board Member, and former NTSB Vice Chairman and Chairman, announced he will be leaving the agency on January 31.  He has been an outstanding leader and advocate to enhance safety in all modes of transportation. We both have known Chris for many years and worked with — and David working for — Chris and salute his long and distinguished career at the NTSB, FAA, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and the Department of Transportation’s General Counsel Office. Chris initially served as an NTSB Board Member from 1990 to 1993. He then …

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NTSB Reauthorization Proposal- Part II

In Part I of this post, we described various provisions in S. 2202, the National Transportation Safety Board Reauthorization Act, as reported by the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation on December 13, 2017. There we focused on those sections of the bill that would be of particular interest to our readers. In this post, we focus on bill provisions that would directly affect NTSB operations and activities — provisions that will also be of considerable interest to our readers. As briefly indicated last time, several of the NTSB provisions, if enacted, will impose operational and resource challenges …

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It’s Not Nice to Fool The NTSB

Those of us of a certain age will remember the television ad for margarine that tastes so much like butter that even Mother Nature is fooled.  When Mother Nature learns that the product is not her “delicious butter,” she vexedly responds “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature!”  Well, as we’re seeing for the second time in 16 months, our federal criminal justice system is also telling us it’s not nice to fool (or allegedly fool) the NTSB. Last week the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Alaska announced that a grand jury in Anchorage returned a three-count indictment …

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NTSB Reauthorization– Part I

The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation completed work the week of December 4th,  on a legislative proposal to reauthorize the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). The last NTSB reauthorization was enacted in December 2006 and authorized NTSB appropriations through September 30, 2008 (Just to be clear, as long as a federal agency has current appropriations or other budget authority to operate, the lapse of authorization amounts does not impair its ability to continue operating). More importantly, the reauthorization proposal, S. 2202, would add new measures to the NTSB’s organic statute and amend numerous current statutory provisions. The …

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