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FAA Wins Legal Challenge

Warbird Adventures Inc., a Florida-based provider of flight instruction for vintage and WWII military aircraft, sued the Federal Aviation Administration after the FAA ordered the company to stop providing paid flight instruction in a Curtiss-Wright model P-40N because the aircraft was not certified for that purpose.

At issue was subsection 91.315 under 14 C.F.R., which states that “no person may operate a limited category civil aircraft carrying persons or property for compensation or hire.”  The company’s P-40N is a limited category aircraft.  Warbird Adventures argued that this section of the law does not prohibit paid flight training.  The company also claimed there wasn’t substantial evidence to support the FAA’s emergency cease and desist order. 

The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, DC, disagreed and ruled in favor of the FAA.  The appellate court judges said that a flight student is a “person” and, therefore, subsection 91.315 does apply.  In addition, the court said the FAA inspectors advised Warbird Adventures that flight instruction was prohibited in the P-40N; the FAA’s Office of Chief Counsel initiated an administrative action against the company yet Warbird Adventures continued to advertise paid flight instruction; and Warbird refused to disavow future use of the P-40N for paid flight instruction.  Those three actions, when considered together, were enough for the judges to affirm the FAA’s emergency order.