Airport Operators May Have A Duty To Assure That Repair Facilities Or Visiting Mechanics Working At The Airport Have Sufficient Qualifications And Financial Responsibilty
In general aviation accident cases, an injured pilot or passenger can assert a negligence claim against a repair person and/or facility that incorrectly performs maintenance on the aircraft which contributes to the accident. But what if the repair person or facility has few assets and maintains a policy of insurance with low policy limits or has no insurance whatsoever? There is no federal or state law requiring a minimum level of insurance for aircraft repair persons or facilities operating at airports.
However, it is interesting to note that airport operators may be liable to the injured person for failing to assure either minimum qualifications of repair persons or requiring them to have a requisite amount of insurance before being able to work at the airport.
Federal Aviation Administration Advisory Circular 150/51907 promulgated in August 2006 sets forth standards for establishing minimum, safe airport operations: “The FAA objective in recommending the development of minimum standards serves to promote safety in all airport activities, protect airport users from unlicensed and unauthorized products and services, maintain and enhance the availability of adequate services for all airport users, promote the orderly development of airport land, and ensure efficiency of operations.”
It is possible to develop a significant legal argument that the operator of a general aviation aircraft airport, whether private or public, has a continuing, nondelegable duty to take reasonable steps to assure that repair persons working at the airport have sufficient qualifications and financial responsibility. A failure to do so could subject the airport operator to potential liability for an accident, even if the airport operator played no role in inspecting or repairing the aircraft involved in the accident.