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Aviation Law

Aviation law governs almost all aspects of aircraft navigation, including its operation and maintenance. The law governs the transit of aircraft above states and above other governed territory, and covers passengers, cargo, and aviation facilities.

In the United States, aviation statutes and regulatory agencies were created by the federal and state governments. Although, for the most part, aviation is governed by federal law enacted by Congress by virtue of its constitutional mandate to regulate interstate and foreign commerce. The foremost federal aviation law in the United States is the Federal Aviation Act passed by Congress in 1958. This Act establishes the Federal Aviation Administration, the leading federal agency regulating aerospace activities. States can enact their own laws consistent with federal laws and can modify existing remedies under states laws, but they cannot regulate rates, routes or services of any air carrier pursuant to the Federal Aviation Act. Another foremost development in aviation law would be the passage of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act of 2001, in response to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

In addition to federal and state oversight on aviation, international rules and treatises also form a crucial aspect of aviation law given the international nature of air travel. One notable international convention on aviation is the Warsaw Convention, which limits an airline's liability for accidents on inter-country flights, except when it is found that the airline committed acts of negligence. The International Civil Aviation Organization also provides rules regulating air travel and mediation procedures to resolve international aviation law disputes. In addition, international policies have been introduced through open skies agreements to liberalize international aviation rules and minimize government intervention. International aviation laws also regulate military air travel.

Aviation law encompasses almost all facets of air travel. Issues arising from aviation law, including the business aspect of operating an air carrier, require expert knowledge of counsel who can weave through the web of federal laws and regulations, international conventions and other areas of the law. One of the most common litigation area relating to aviation law arises from loss or injuries suffered by passengers caused by air craft malfunction or crashes. This area of litigation, which involves a combination of federal and tort laws, require extensive discovery and expert testimony to establish, first, the rights of passengers, second, the cause of loss or injury, and third, the extent of the air craft carrier's liability. Another common litigation relating to aviation law would be the defense of aviation professionals accused of violating Federal Aviation Regulations. These two common litigation areas may also involve insurance disputes, further complicating litigation.

In addition, other issues that could arise from aviation law would be concerning regulation of aviation practices and violations thereof. Increasingly, consumers have taken to courts alleged airlines' practices of deceiving customers with false advertising, especially on issues of "hidden" fees and charges, or airlines' conspiracy on ticket prices. These issues require, not just specialized knowledge on the law, but also smart litigation skills as consumer-plaintiffs often David in comparison to the Goliaths that are the airline companies.

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