What You Need To Know About Aviation Law & Aviation Attorneys

Aviation Law is an extension of Admiralty Law, which is also known as Maritime Law, and governs all countries and their vessels regardless of which ocean they are sailing upon. Admiralty law attorneys represent legal cases involving cargo disputes, pollution, fishing, international trade and injuries that occur on docks or vessels.

Maritime law came into existence when individuals in a coffee shop in London began insuring the first ships and their cargo many, many years ago. Eventually this group of individuals organized themselves into a company which today is known as Lloyd’s of London (which I have visited). Today Lloyd’s of London resides in a towering glass building full of aviation and marine underwriters, aviation lawyers, marine lawyers and claims managers. I have had the privilege of visiting Lloyd’s on several occasions, read the entry in the log about the sinking of the Titanic, and have seen the bell they ring when a ship founders.


Aviation Law has taken its roots from Admiralty Law which is one of the reasons aircraft are called “ships”, much as sailing vessels are called “ships.” After the first flight of a heavier than air aircraft by the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk in 1903, aviation law has been developed following the form of Maritime Law. Many of the terms used in aviation law are taken from their counterparts in maritime law.

Aviation Attorneys Work At Lloyds of London

Aviation Attorneys Work At Lloyds of London

Much of the language in insurance policies is taken from maritime insurance policies, and Lloyd’s of London is heavily involved in aviation insurance today, just as it has been in maritime law for over a century. In fact, most insurance companies purchase what is known as reinsurance through the Lloyd’s market. For many policies Lloyd’s Underwriters themselves are parties to the aviation insurance contracts. In fact, the profitability or lack thereof in the Lloyd’s of London market determine policy premiums, to a large extent, for aviation insurance policies.

We are all familiar with jokes about attorneys in general, but the truth is, for those of us in the aviation community, an aviation attorney can be essential to protecting our rights. The public imagines aviation attorneys attacking airlines and insurance companies to obtain relief after an air carrier crash, but there is far more to their portfolio than that. Anyone who has dealt with our courts know the essential role aviation lawyers would play in resolving disputes arising from the operation of aircraft.

But aviation attorneys and lawyers are essential for the continued growth and success of aviation worldwide.
Aviation accident attorneys provide valuable assistance in determining the cause of aircraft accidents, while aviation law attorneys are instrumental in constructing insurance policies to protect property and lives involved in the pursuit of aviation.

Aviation law involves not just aircraft here on earth, but spacecraft, satellites, interplanetary probes in the heavens above, including the launch facilities which carry them to outer space, but the vehicles themselves as they orbit the earth. And next, with civilian space travel just around the corner, they will be insuring those adventurous companies, their spacecraft, crews and passengers as they journey into space. Once again aviation attorneys will be involved in providing the wording for contracts involving this new form of travel.

Over my 50 year involvement with aviation I have dealt with a lot of aviation lawyers, not due to some dispute with the FAA, nor regarding some injuries on an air carrier. Rather, aviation attorneys have been helpful as new aircraft owners navigated the waters of buying and registering aircraft, for fixed base operators as they construct contracts for hangar and maintenance customers, and for pilots when they lose their medical certificates, pilot licenses or find themselves on the wrong end of an FAA investigation.

A career as an aviation attorney can be very rewarding and exciting, and certainly those of us in the aviation business need competent aviation lawyers to help us. Many budding aviation lawyers have advanced degrees in aeronautical engineering, many more become pilots themselves while others become aviation law attorneys who specialize in contract law. Some aviation attorneys even become aviation accident attorneys who specialize in helping victims and their families as they sort through the aftermath of an aircraft accident.


The aviation attorneys I have dealt with over the years have been very professional, highly motivated and professional in every respect. For some 30 years I owned and operated my own aviation insurance agency, and during that time some of my clients found themselves involved in accidents, including accidents involving deaths. One of the hardest things to deal with is a bereaved family member who has complete faith and confidence in their departed family pilot, and who dispute the findings of the NTSB where more often than not pilot error is identified as a contributing factor.

Many of the claims adjusters for insurance carriers are aviation attorneys, and work with our clients to resolve claims in a sensitive, timely and fair manner. On many occasions I have been surprised by the willingness of aviation attorneys to bend over backwards to help our clients, and many times claims have been paid for which I could see no basis to pay it.

Other aviation law attorneys work with aircraft manufacturers, distributors and sales organizations as new aircraft move through the process of conception, development, manufacture and sale. At each step along the way aviation law attorneys who have specialties in those areas are employed to protect suppliers, manufacturers and sales organizations, making it possible for pilots, businesses and airlines to purchase, own and operate their aircraft.

Because an aviation insurance policy is, in essence, a contract between the policyholder and the insurance carrier, aviation lawyers are engaged by all parties. As aircraft operators move into uncharted operations like private security helicopters in Iraq, to logging activities in the Northwest, or to the establishment of a new aircraft share company, aviation attorneys are there for each step along the way.

But dealing with aviation lawyers has not always been fun when you are trying to assist a client achieve the goal they have in mind. There is a saying in the industry that aviation attorneys are deal breakers and not deal makers. However, in my 30+ years in the aviation insurance business I found most aviation attorneys to be reasonable, and that sooner rather than later we could arrive at a mutually beneficial resolution to the issue at hand.

The general public sees aviation attorneys as those who swoop in when there is an airliner accident somewhere in the world, attacking the manufacturers and aircraft operators alike. Some aviation lawyers have even been seen as predators, contacting victims or victims families before the fires from the airliner accident have even died out.

The truth is that these aviation attorneys are simply doing the right thing in an effort to garner information while it is fresh, and collecting evidence before it becomes lost or confused. Without exception every aviation attorney I have ever dealt with has been professional, knowledgeable and helpful. Because so many are pilots these aviation lawyers know how important it is to get things right.

Another contribution aviation lawyers make is that, through their extensive examinations regarding aircraft accidents, they sometimes come up with much better answers as to why a particular aircraft crash occurred, and their work advances aviation safety for all of us.

An aviation attorney can also be very helpful when pilots run afoul of the FAA. If you have ever had the experience of dealing with a bureaucracy, then you know how difficult it is to navigate those waters. Most of us are at a disadvantage when working with someone at the FAA where the investigators posses all of the knowledge and rules and the pilot is groping in the dark. A good aviation attorney not only knows the law, but usually has a good grasp on the rules and regulations the FAA is seeking to apply to a particular event.

Another area where a good aviation attorney can be helpful is when a pilot is dealing with a medical certificate issue, where somehow the pilot has completed his information and inadvertently either included or excluded some information that has caught the eyes of the FAA and suddenly find themselves without a valid medical certificate, making it impossible for them to fly their aircraft.

The good news is that a competent aviation lawyer can navigate those waters for the pilot and secure the best result given the particular circumstances. So, instead of criticizing aviation attorneys, we need to embrace, encourage and support their efforts to protect both the pilot’s and passenger’s rights when things go wrong.

After all, it is important that we get the best legal assistance available when dealing with problems, and aviation attorneys work hard to help keep aviation advancing, and in protecting everyone in aviation.

Maritime law came into existence when Lloyd’s of London began insuring the first ships and their cargo so many years ago. This form of insurance started in a coffee shop in London (which I have visited) and today resides in a towering glass building full of aviation and marine underwriters and aviation and marine lawyers. I have had the privilege of visiting Lloyd’s on several occasions, read the entry in the log about the sinking of the Titanic, and have seen the bell they ring when a ship founders.

We all know jokes about attorneys in general, but the truth is, for those of us in the aviation community, an aviation attorney can be essential to protecting our rights. The public imagines aviation attorneys attacking airlines and insurance companies to obtain relief after an air carrier crash, but there is far more to their portfolio than that. Anyone who has dealt with our courts know the essential role aviation lawyers would play in resolving disputes arising from the operation of aircraft.

Over my 50 year involvement with aviation I have dealt with a lot of aviation lawyers, not due to some dispute with the FAA, nor regarding some injuries on an air carrier. Rather, aviation attorneys have been helpful as new aircraft owners navigated the waters of buying and registering aircraft, for fixed base operators as they construct contracts for hangar and maintenance customers, and for pilots when they lose their medical certificates, pilot licenses or find themselves on the wrong end of an FAA investigation.

A career as an aviation attorney can be very rewarding and exciting, and certainly those of us in the aviation business need competent aviation lawyers to help us. Many budding aviation lawyers have advanced degrees in aeronautical engineering, many more become pilots themselves while others become aviation law attorneys who specialize in contract law. Some aviation attorneys even become aviation accident attorneys who specialize in helping victims and their families as they sort through the aftermath of an aircraft accident.

The aviation attorneys I have dealt with over the years have been very professional, highly motivated and professional in every respect. For some 30 years I owned and operated my own aviation insurance agency, and during that time some of my clients found themselves involved in accidents, including accidents involving deaths. One of the hardest things to deal with is a bereaved family member who has complete faith and confidence in their departed family pilot, and who dispute the findings of the NTSB where more often than not pilot error is identified as a contributing factor.

Many of the claims adjusters for insurance carriers are aviation attorneys, and work with our clients to resolve claims in a sensitive, timely and fair manner. On many occasions I have been surprised by the willingness of aviation attorneys to bend over backwards to help our clients, and many times claims have been paid for which I could see no basis to pay it.

Other aviation law attorneys work with aircraft manufacturers, distributors and sales organizations as new aircraft move through the process of conception, development, manufacture and sale. At each step along the way aviation law attorneys who have specialties in those areas are employed to protect suppliers, manufacturers and sales organizations, making it possible for pilots, businesses and airlines to purchase, own and operate their aircraft.

Because an aviation insurance policy is, in essence, a contract between the policyholder and the insurance carrier, aviation lawyers are engaged by all parties. As aircraft operators move into uncharted operations like private security helicopters in Iraq, to logging activities in the Northwest, or to the establishment of a new aircraft share company, aviation attorneys are there for each step along the way.

But dealing with aviation lawyers has not always been fun when you are trying to assist a client achieve the goal they have in mind. There is a saying in the industry that aviation attorneys are deal breakers and not deal makers. However, in my 30+ years in the aviation insurance business I found most aviation attorneys to be reasonable, and that sooner rather than later we could arrive at a mutually beneficial resolution to the issue at hand.

The general public sees aviation attorneys as those who swoop in when there is an airliner accident somewhere in the world, attacking the manufacturers and aircraft operators alike. Some aviation lawyers have even been seen as predators, contacting victims or victims families before the fires from the airliner accident have even died out.

The truth is that these aviation attorneys are simply doing the right thing in an effort to garner information while it is fresh, and collecting evidence before it becomes lost or confused. Without exception every aviation attorney I have ever dealt with has been professional, knowledgeable and helpful. Because so many are pilots these aviation lawyers know how important it is to get things right.

Another contribution aviation lawyers make is that, through their extensive examinations regarding aircraft accidents, they sometimes come up with much better answers as to why a particular aircraft crash occurred, and their work advances aviation safety for all of us.

An aviation attorney can also be very helpful when pilots run afoul of the FAA. If you have ever had the experience of dealing with a bureaucracy, then you know how difficult it is to navigate those waters. Most of us are at a disadvantage when working with someone at the FAA where the investigators posses all of the knowledge and rules and the pilot is groping in the dark. A good aviation attorney not only knows the law, but usually has a good grasp on the rules and regulations the FAA is seeking to apply to a particular event.

Another area where a good aviation attorney can be helpful is when a pilot is dealing with a medical certificate issue, where somehow the pilot has completed his information and inadvertently either included or excluded some information that has caught the eyes of the FAA and suddenly find themselves without a valid medical certificate, making it impossible for them to fly their aircraft.

The good news is that a competent aviation lawyer can navigate those waters for the pilot and secure the best result given the particular circumstances. So, instead of criticizing aviation attorneys, we need to embrace, encourage and support their efforts to protect both the pilot’s and passenger’s rights when things go wrong.

After all, it is important that we get the best legal assistance available when dealing with problems, and aviation attorneys work hard to help keep aviation advancing, and in protecting everyone in aviation.

Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch!

JetAviator7

It’s hard to replace the gray matter that is inherent in every human being. No computer can do it quite that well yet.

— General John P. Jumper, USAF Chief of Staff, ‘Air Line Pilot’ magazine, April 2007


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