Journal of Air Law and Commerce


The Second Circuit's landmark ruling in Jones v. Goodrich Pump & Engine Control Sys., Inc. establishes crucial precedent by asserting that tort claims stemming from military aircraft crashes are not field or conflict preempted by the Federal Aviation Act (the Act). This decision, the first of its kind at the appellate level, carries far-reaching implications. The court’s rationale, grounded in the Act’s plain language, emphasizes that “public aircraft,” including military ones, are exempt from Federal Aviation Administration regulation. Title 49, section 44701(a)(1), explicitly excludes public aircraft from the Act’s purview. While the court’s analysis relies on the Act’s text, it is fortified by a comprehensive examination of legislative history dating back to the early days of aviation.

This Article contends that the Second Circuit’s reasoning, supported by both statutory language and over a century of legislative evolution, should serve as a universally adopted guideline. The separation of civil and military aircraft regulation, initiated in the Paris Convention of 1919 and continued through subsequent legislative acts, underscores the distinct standards governing military aviation. The inherent divergence in purpose and design between civil and military aircraft, coupled with Congress’s consistent exclusion of military aircraft from FAA regulation, solidifies the argument against preemption. As the sole appellate authority on this matter, the Jones decision provides a robust foundation for future courts facing Federal Aviation Act preemption challenges in “public aircraft” tort cases.



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