In Administrator v. Air Sunshine, Inc. the FAA initiated a civil penalty action against an air carrier alleging that a specific aircraft was not listed on the air carrier’s operations specifications. However, the FAA’s complaint did not allege that the air carrier had actually operated that particular aircraft. In response, the air carrier filed a motion to dismiss on the grounds that the FAA had not charged the air carrier with a violation of the FARs. Interestingly, the FAA did not file a response to the air carrier’s motion.
The administrative law judge agreed with the air carrier and dismissed the FAA’s complaint. The ALJ held that “[t]he claim that a specific aircraft was not listed on a carrier’s operations specifications does not allege a violation of the Federal Aviation Regulations in the absence of a further allegation that the carrier operated that aircraft in one or more operations subject to the jurisdiction of the Federal Aviation Administration.”
This really makes me wonder what the FAA attorney was thinking when the complaint was drafted. Was this simply a pleading error or something more serious (e.g. incompetence)? I doubt it was the former because the FAA could have simply amended its complaint when the obvious error was discovered. That didn’t happen. If the latter, then the FAA should have, at least in my opinion, dismissed the complaint voluntarily when the error was discovered. However, because the FAA did not dismiss and since the air carrier was forced to spend money filing its motion to dismiss, I hope the air carrier files for an award of costs and attorney’s fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act. Should be an easy win.