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Area of Law
Aviation: an overview
Aviation law governs the operation of aircraft and the maintenance of aviation facilities.
Both federal and state governments have enacted statutes and created administrative agencies to regulate air traffic.
Using its constitutional authority to regulate interstate and foreign commerce, Congress may enact laws pertaining to air navigation. There have been several federal enactments along these lines: The first was the 1926 Air Commerce Act which provided, among other things, for the certification and registration of aircraft employed in interstate or foreign commerce. The statute was amended in 1938 by the Civil Aeronautics Act (http://www.archives.gov/research/guide-fed-records/groups/197.html) which created the "Civil Aeronautics Authority," a five member panel with the power to regulate all aspects of aviation within federal jurisdiction. Later, the five-member panel was changed to the "Civil Aeronautics Board" and most of its power was transferred to the Department of Commerce.
Then the Federal Aviation Act (http://www.risingup.com/fars/info/part13-15-FAR.shtml) was passed in 1958 establishing the Federal Aviation Administration (http://www.faa.gov/). There have been several subsequent acts passed by the federal government regulating aviation such as the Airport and Airway Development Act of 1970 (http://www.dotcr.ost.dot.gov/documents/ycr/14cfr152.htm) and the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 (http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d095:SN02493:@@@L|TOM:/bss/d095query.html|).
In the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Congress enacted the Aviation and Transportation Security Act which established a Transportation Security Administration (http://www.tsa.gov/public/) in the Department of Transportation. The TSA now resides in the Department of Homeland Security (http://www.dhs.gov).
The main source for aviation law then is federally based. States are prohibited from regulating rates, routes or services of any air carrier authorized under the Federal Aviation Act to provide interstate air transportation. States are not prohibited, however, from enacting consistent laws, or from altering existing remedies under state law.
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