Aviation Litigation

Aviation Litigation


Hunton Andrews Kurth has been an influential presence in the legal airspace for decades.

As counselors to Howard Hughes, Jr., our lawyers fended off a 1947 Congressional investigation of the Hercules airplane (commonly known as the “Spruce Goose”) and guided the 1966 public offering of Hughes’s ownership in Trans World Airlines. Today, our firm provides a full range of legal advice to the aviation and aerospace industries in areas such as:

  • Aviation Finance Structuring
  • Corporate Finance, Transactions, Governance and Regulatory Compliance
  • Aviation Litigation
  • Bankruptcy Counsel
  • Airport Bond Financing

Competition, capital demands and change, including economic downturns and international terrorism, are among pressures and risks our clients face. Our experience includes managing these challenges with practical solutions for a range of clients including:

  • Airlines, aviation and aerospace companies
  • Aircraft manufacturers and component manufacturers
  • Aviation industry lenders and investors
  • Airport authorities
  • Facility operators

Our extensive industry background ranges from negotiating technology agreements and strategic transactions to complex international and public financings to defending manufacturers in product liability and toxic tort litigation.

Aviation Finance Structuring

We represent air carriers, lenders and investors in numerous complex financial transactions, including leveraged leases, debt offerings, restructurings, financings and securitizations. The range of our transactional work reflects the airline industry’s competitive evolution since deregulation and includes:

  • Leveraged Lease Transactions—We have represented institutional debt participants and owners in numerous leveraged lease transactions for passenger and cargo jets. Practice highlights include:
    • We participated in the first and several follow-on dual currency leases for a Dutch airline, denominated in guilder debt and dollar equity.
    • We helped bank and institutional lenders restructure an airline’s fleet mortgage.
    • We represented a multinational bank as the debt participant in a $150 million aircraft leveraged lease deal.
    • We assisted airlines in a $100 million revolving bank credit facility fully secured by aircraft, engines and parts as collateral. We also counseled the airline on a securitization transaction backed by aircraft lease pass-through certificates and another securitization transaction valued at more than $218.5 million.
  • International Aircraft and Airport Finance—Participated in such deals as aircraft finances and leasing for an Indian airline, airport privatization bid for an Indian communications company, and financing for a US defense company’s air traffic control systems for Indian airports.
  • Cross-Border Securitizations—Represented the rating agency in the first cross-border securitizations of airline ticket receivables from three airlines in Mexico and Chile.
  • Publicly Issued Debt—Represented an American airline in offerings of convertible debt as well as in a restructuring of debt that added collateral of spare parts and aircraft engines.

Corporate Finance, Transactions, Governance and Regulatory Counsel

Our strategic and comprehensive corporate counsel to airline carriers and industry participants includes a full range of regulatory issues. It focuses on issues such as:

  • Securities disclosure
  • Corporate governance
  • NYSE-regulatory compliance
  • Transactions
  • Rule 144A offerings
  • Employment policies
  • Document retention

Representative matters and counsel include:

  • Public Company Representation—Represent an American airline in all aspects of Securities Exchange Commission and NYSE compliance.
  • Environmental Regulatory Guidance—Handle complex environmental issues involving airport fuel and maintenance operations, including propylene glycol discharges, and above and underground fuel storage tank contamination. We conduct due diligence and issues evaluation on these environmental liabilities. Our clients have included a foreign investor considering the purchase of a US carrier, a US carrier regarding its operations, and fixed-base operators and airports.
  • Executive Jet Timeshares—Conduct negotiations for timeshares on executive jet aircraft timeshares for individual clients. 
  • Antitrust—Complete representation on antitrust compliance involving mergers, acquisitions and other business combinations.
  • FAA Regulations—Counsel on Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) permits and regulations covering air charters and contract carriers.
  • Commercial Litigation—Represent regional airline carrier in an arbitration against a major airline carrier over the interpretation of various aspects of the contracts governing the parties' relationship.
  • Transactional Counsel—Counsel an American airline in technology-related transactions with numerous hardware and software companies.
  • Acquisition Counsel—Represent an American airline in acquisition of interests in several airline services companies.
  • Technology Licensing and Agreements—Represent an American airline in transactions to acquire and support the hardware, software, technical services and online operations that form the company’s business infrastructure. These include Web hosting agreements, software license agreements and technology consulting agreements for the website and for their worldwide operations.
  • Telecommunications Transactions—Counselors to an American airline in multimillion-dollar, multi-year telecommunications transactions with major international software vendor.
  • Technology Ventures—Guide an American airline in major technology initiatives with two technology companies involving a master agreement establishing a hardware and software alliance between the companies.
  • IP Counsel—Representation of an American airline in intellectual property matters. 
  • Travel Industry Vendor Programs—Helped a global hotel chain negotiate a reservations software development. We also counseled on an outsourcing agreement for their worldwide reservations system, and represent the fulfillment program, its frequent flyers equivalent program. 

Aviation Litigation

Hunton Andrews Kurth has historically had well-known, long-standing litigation relationships with significant players in the aviation industry.

For over four decades, our lawyers have been trying and winning aviation accident cases on behalf of leading manufacturers of aircraft, component parts and affiliated products. In addition, we have handled significant commercial litigation (in district court and in arbitration) on behalf of top aviation industry companies. Aviation manufacturers have also looked to us to defend toxic tort cases arising from work performed on aircraft and aircraft components.

We are both familiar with and experienced in handling the legal, regulatory and investigative considerations that are unique to the aviation industry. In addition to our trial counsel, we bring a preventive perspective to our litigation services, often helping clients to identify practices and procedures to help mitigate future liability risks.

Beyond our successful trial record, our lawyers are responsible for several landmark appellate decisions in aviation law. Among them:

  • In perhaps the most-cited Fifth Circuit case on general jurisdiction principles, our lawyers achieved the dismissal of all claims against our client, a general aviation manufacturer.
  • In a very significant Fifth Circuit case on the government contractor defense, our lawyers won dismissal of all claims against our client, the manufacturer of a military trainer airplane.
  • In a case of first impression in Texas, our lawyers won dismissal of all claims asserted in this employment case against our client, a corporate aircraft fractional ownership company, based on federal preemption under the Airline Deregulation Act.

Airline and Aviation Bankruptcy Protection

We represent clients on both sides of the table in national air carrier bankruptcy cases. As debtor’s counsel to America West in its Chapter 11 bankruptcy, we advised on debtor-in-possession financing and on the subsequent reorganization plan.

Our creditor work in airline bankruptcies is extensive and includes: 

  • Represented a Canadian airline as an investor in Continental Airlines on its emergence from Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
  • Counseled ABN in the Chapter 11 bankruptcy and Chapter 7 liquidation of a US commuter air carrier, a California commuter carrier.
  • Advised the official committee of creditors in the bankruptcy of an air cargo company.
  • Represented a global bank, as the agent of the senior secured bank lender to a commercial air carrier in the company’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Airport Bond Financing

Our experience in bond financing for airport improvements includes serving as disclosure counsel for the City of Houston: 

  • Issue of $65 million in Airport System Subordinate Lien Revenue Refunding Bonds during 2001.  
  • Assisted in issuing $675 million in Airport System Revenue bonds during 2002 for ongoing capital improvements at George Bush Intercontinental and Hobby airports.
  • Prepared the offering documents for both bond issues, and crafted their disclosure language to address the difficult issues of 9/11’s effect on the Airport System’s operations and financial performance.



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