Review Aviation Law and Judicial Cases

Federal Aviation Laws

The Law of Airport Noise Regulation

Judicial Cases
Airport Noise Law –

Griggs vs. Allegheny County
U.S. Supreme Court 1962
Griggs v. Allegheny County (1962) — Extends the rule enunciated in Causby (see below) to local airport proprietors via the 14th Amendment. Airport was responsible for acquiring sufficient land adjacent to the airport to reduce the impact of aviation noise and, if it failed to do so, was liable for resulting damages from aircraft noise.

Parachutes, Inc. v. Lakewood, Township of
A municipal ordinance regulating noise from airplanes hovering and cruising at low levels for sport parachuting is a reasonable exercise of the police power. Since there is no federal regulatory scheme for noise from aircraft in a limited inter-state airspace there is no preemption by the federal government. The ordinance proscribes other noises as well, so it is not discriminatory; it need not reach all transient noises.

City of Burbank v. Lockheed Air Terminal (1973)
U. S. Supreme Court 1973
This is the seminal decision on the issue whether local government can regulate aircraft noise. The court held that the general police powers of state and local authorities do not extend to aircraft noise because of federal preemption (authority invested in the Federal Aviation Administration and Environmental Protection Agency). However, the court left open what limits, if any, should be applied to the exercise of the proprietary rights of municipalities and counties that own and operate airports (see footnote 14). This question was later addressed in National Aviation v. City of Hayward

National Aviation v. City of Hayward (1976)
District Court
A tenant of the Hayward Air Terminal, owned and operated by the City of Hayward, challenged the city’s aircraft noise abatement ordinance. The court upheld the ordinance on the grounds that the authority for the ordinance was the city’s status as proprietor of the airport, not its general police powers. This decision was subsequently cited with approval in a number of cases by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals as well as the California Supreme Court (see Shepard’s citations for this case.). (N.D. Cal.; 418 F.Supp. 417)

The Hayward Noise Ordinance

National Helicopter Corp. of America v. City of New York (1998)
Court of Appeal
In 1996 the city sought a new fixed-base operator for its heliport along the East River, issuing a request for proposal that contained seven restrictions on operations. Plaintiff, which had been the fixed-base operator for 20 years, challenged the validity of the restrictions. The court upheld the city’s weekday and weekend curfews, phasing out weekend operations, and reducing overall operations by 47%. It held invalid the city’s prohibition of certain helicopters (on grounds of federal preemption) and restrictions on sightseeing routes (on grounds the restrictions were not based on noise regulation). The city’s restrictions do not violate the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution because Congress has expressly approved of the “proprietary powers and rights” of state and local governments that own airports (49 U.S.C. 41713(b)(3)). (2nd Cir.; 137 F.3d 81)

Arapahoe County Public Authority v. Centennial Express Airlines
Colorado, 1998
Centennial Airport, a general aviation airport built in 1967, had never permitted scheduled passenger flights. Nevertheless, Centennial Express Airlines peremptorily began passenger service on December 20, 1994. The next day the airport filed suit for an injunction prohibiting Centennial Express from conducting passenger flights out of the airport. The trial court granted the injunction, and the Supreme Court upheld the injunction.

At issue in the case was whether, under FAA regulations, the airport could prohibit an entire class of aircraft. The court held that the airport’s prohibition is not preempted by federal law. Specifically, the airport’s authority in this case was not preempted by the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978, which states that a political subdivision of a state “may not enact or enforce a law, regulation, or other provision having the force of and effect of law related to a price, route, or service of an air carrier.” Nor was it preempted by the terms of an FAA grant to the airport in which the airport operator agreed to “make its airport available as an airport for public use on fair and reasonable terms and without unjust discrimination, to all types, kinds, and classes of aeronautical uses.” The court refused to construe the terms “so broadly that airport proprietors must accommodate every possible aeronautical use.” Instead, the court interpreted the terms of the grant to mean that the airport could not discriminate among operators of one class of aircraft. (956 P.2d 587)

Naples Airport Authority v. FAA (2005)
Court of Appeal
Naples Airport banned all stage-2 jets, following the procedure established by the 1990 Airport Noise and Capacity Act. The FAA then held hearings on whether the ban violated the airport’s Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grant assurances, and, not surprisingly, found that the ban violated the AIP grant assurance that regulation of aircraft operations will not be “unreasonable”. Based on this finding the FAA ruled that the airport was ineligible for AIP grants. The airport sought this review of the FAA’s decision. The court concluded that the airport had introduced ample evidence to justify the ban on stage-2 jets and thus vacated the FAA order.


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Airport Noise Law

Guide to Airport Noise Rules and Use Restrictions