The Scope of Aviation Law

State and federal laws govern the operation of aircraft and the maintenance of aviation facilities in the United States, as well as the regulation of air traffic. Subsequent to September 11, 2001, Congress created the Transportation Security Administration as part of the Department of Homeland Security, giving authority with respect to most aviation matters to the federal government. States are prohibited from regulating airline rates, routes or services of any carrier that provides interstate air travel or operates in interstate commerce.

Important Federal Aviation Laws

  • The Air Commerce Act of 1926—This law provided for the certification and registration of all aircraft used in interstate or foreign commerce.
  • The Civil Aeronautics Act of 1938—This act amended the Air Commerce Act, creating the Civil Aeronautics Authority, a panel given the authority to regulate all facets of aviation in interstate commerce.
  • The Federal Aviation Act of 1958—This law created the FAA (the Federal Aviation Administration), and empowered the FAA of monitor, regulate and enforce safety in the airline industry. The act also gave the FAA the authority to control the use of American airspace by all forms of aircraft (military and civilian).
  • The Airport and Airway Development Act of 1970-This statute was enacted principally to provide an adequate source of funding for the U.S. airport and airway system.
  • The Airline Deregulation Act of 1978—This law removed most government control over fares, routes and entry into the commercial aviation market. It phased out many of the Civil Aeronautics Board’s regulatory powers, but did not affect the FAA’s power to set and enforce standards for air safety.

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