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Hudson v. Federal Aviation Administration

United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
192 F.3d 1031 (1999)


Facts

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) (defendant) is charged with prescribing minimum safety standards for aircraft. The FAA has authority to establish tests to ensure compliance with these standards. If the FAA determines that the design of an aircraft meets these standards, the manufacturer is issued a type certificate that permits production of the aircraft. In 1978, the FAA promulgated a rule requiring an actual demonstration of compliance with standards for evacuating an aircraft, unless a combination of analysis and testing would provide data equivalent to an actual demonstration. This rule was a revision of the previous rule, promulgated in 1967, which required actual demonstrations when the design of an aircraft was altered to increase passenger capacity by more than 5 percent. In 1989, the FAA issued an advisory circular that provided guidance on compliance with this requirement. The guidance indicated that designs increasing passenger capacity by more than 5 percent should conduct an actual demonstration to show compliance with evacuation requirements. The FAA revised this guidance in 1998 to note that sufficient methodologies had been developed to provide sufficient data in some cases, which could take the place of the actual demonstration. This latest guidance (1) provided that actual demonstrations would still be required if sufficient data was not available, (2) solicited public comment on the change, and (3) indicated that the guidance might be refined for future projects. The Boeing Company sought and received approval for the Boeing 777-300 aircraft. The FAA determined that sufficient data existed to determine that timely evacuation requirements were satisfied. The FAA then issued a type certificate for the Boeing 777-300. Paul Hudson (plaintiff) and Aviation Consumer Action Project (plaintiff), an international group of air travelers, airline pilots, and flight attendants, petitioned the court of appeals for review of the FAA’s decision, claiming that the FAA had not followed the proper rulemaking process and that the type certificate for the Boeing 777-300 was invalid.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Silberman, J.)

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  • A “yes” or “no” answer to the question framed in the issue section;
  • A summary of the majority or plurality opinion, using the CREAC method; and
  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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