Lawyers & Engineers: The Evitable Redefinition of Flight Training

By Scott Spangler on June 28th, 2021

The immediate and long-term consequences of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruling on Warbird Adventures, Inc., et. al. v. FAA, which redefined the educational mission of flight training as the “carriage of persons for compensation or hire,” should not have surprised anyone.

There is not one aspect of life and culture in the United States that is not ruled, litigated, and defined by our national legal system. We are a nation overpopulated with lawyers, whose numbers have increased 15 percent since 2008, says the American Bar Association, giving us 1,338,678 licensed active attorneys (in 2018). And most of us know that most of our elected officials are also lawyers and how almost every aspect of our lives, even our health, has become rabidly politicized.

Lawyers serve a purpose in society, but they pursue their occupation with a mindset antipodal to engineers. Like scientists, engineers look at the data and test their designs to achieve the best solution for a given problem. In short, they strive for what is right or appropriate to the given challenge.

Lawyers, on the other hand, work in a world where there are at least two sides to every situation, and it is their job to pause all action while they argue their side of the case at hand. In short, what matters most is whose point of view is right based on the evidence they present to support their argument. The goal is to win the argument, not solve (or prevent) the given problem or challenge.

Almost any evening on TV, you can watch lawyers design and assemble their cases specifically for their courtroom audience. In the Warbird Adventure case, that was the judges at the Court of Appeals. The judges are lawyers, so the FAA’s representatives presented their case in terms their peers would understand, paying for flight training is nothing more than buying an airplane ride.

Had engineers decided this case, the outcome would surely been different. People who buy an airplane ride do not undertake a premeditated, defined program of education, the acquisition of new knowledge and skills. They show up, climb in, and strap in. Engineers would also see the logic in acquiring this knowledge and skill in a flying machine as close to the one the pilot plans to fly upon completion of his or her training.

But engineers did not decide the case, lawyers did. And judging by the relentlessly expanding trend in our American society, where the first response to not getting our way is to sue (if not shoot first, then argue), we can assume that the Warbird Adventure definition of “flight training” will be coming soon to a traditional flight school near you. Even more interesting will be the consequences in aviation’s accident rates, but an increase in them means more work for attorneys.

If you enjoyed this story, why not SUBSCRIBE to JetWhine, if you haven’t already, and please share it with anyone who might find it interesting. – Scott Spangler, Editor

Related Posts:

Leave a Reply

Subscribe without commenting