For more than three decades, Morrison & Foerster has assisted aviation and airport clients around the world in an array of complex financial, operational, regulatory, and litigation challenges. We have advised on virtually every substantive area of law that affects aviation and airports, including complex aviation cases; airport facilities planning, construction, and development; concession agreements; airport management agreements; airport and airline lease and use agreements; airport rate-making methodologies; aviation and communications technology; and equipment acquisition and aircraft financing. Our clients are as diverse as the substantive issues they face, and include construction and development clients, international financial institutions; major airlines; one of the world’s largest air cargo companies; several major U.S. public airports; national governments; international airport operating companies; and aircraft manufacturers.

Our Advantages

  • We possess one of the preeminent practices in airport development, representing public airports and private entities in the development and operation of airports, including development at LaGuardia International Airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, San Francisco International Airport, Los Angeles International Airport, and San Diego International Airport; representing a consortium of airlines in the successful privatization of the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico; advising private consortia on concessions for airports in several Latin American nations; and advisory work with the World Bank on private-sector participation in airport operations.
  • We advise carriers on mergers and acquisitions, as well as government investigations, in the United States and across the globe. We have partners that are former Department of Justice officials experienced in the aviation sector, who can provide insight and perspective for our clients in these matters.
  • We serve logistics providers in vendor and customer contracting for transportation, warehousing, and related services; we also advise on regulatory compliance and government contract bidding.
  • We advise clients in matters involving intellectual property and technology and related services, including structuring and negotiating technology transactions. Our work encompasses collaborations, joint ventures, licenses, supply agreements, distribution arrangements, and outsourcing transactions.
  • For decades, we have handled complex aviation investigations and litigation matters of all types, ranging from transport-category aircraft accidents to military aircraft crashes to general aviation accidents. We have several attorneys with extensive military and civil aviation backgrounds.
  • We are active in many industry organizations, including Airports Council International – North America, the ABA Air and Space Law Forum, the SMU Air Law Symposium, and the International Aviation Women’s Association (IAWA).
Southwest Airlines Terminal Renovation
Represent Southwest Airlines on its $500 million renovation of Terminal 1, its home at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). The project contemplates a virtual replacement of the operating areas of Terminal 1, while keeping Terminal 1 running. The project required restructuring Southwest’s Terminal 1 lease agreement, obtaining approvals and consents from the City of Los Angeles, and structuring and negotiating an innovative and highly-customized syndicated conduit financing arrangement.
Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (San Juan, Puerto Rico)
Advised a consortium of major airlines in negotiations with the Puerto Rico Ports Authority and Puerto Rico Public-Private Partnerships Authority in connection with the privatization of the San Juan Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport. Those negotiations led to a landmark $2.5 billion public-private partnership, consisting of a 40-year lease to operate and improve the airport, and 15-year use agreements with the major airlines operating at the airport. Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport is the first sizable airport privatized under a Federal Aviation Administration pilot program. The deal closed in February 2013 after securing FAA approval and was named “North American Transport Deal of the Year” in 2013 by Project Finance magazine.
San Diego County Regional Airport Authority
Served as counsel to the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority since its establishment.  We advised the Authority on compliance with all state and federal laws relating to the establishment of the operation of the Authority, such as the Brown Act and the Political Reform Act, as well as California public contracting laws and public employment laws.  We handled the transfer of the airport, its assets, personnel, and operations from the Port of San Diego to the Authority.  We drafted new codes and policies to guide the new Authority’s activities, including its Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program and related concession plan for SAN.  In addition, we successfully resolved claims the Authority had inherited under construction contracts for the Quieter Homes Program. We continue to assist the Authority on a wide variety of matters, including its first Airport Master Plan and Environmental Impact Report on that Plan, both adopted in May 2008, and the construction of Terminal 2 West, as well as litigation with the exclusive FBO operator.
Southwest Airlines Airport Midway Privatization
Advised Southwest Airlines, the leading carrier at Midway Airport, in negotiating the terms and conditions under which the airline would agree to the privatization of the airport by the City of Chicago, including a new 25-year Use Agreement for the airline’s lease and utilization of the airport after privatization, and the Concession Agreement under which a concessionaire/operator would be granted a 99-year lease of the entire airport.
San Francisco International Airport Master Plan
Served as special counsel for the San Francisco International Airport in its $2.4 billion comprehensive long-range Master Plan to expand its capacity by 40%.  The project involved air quality, wastewater treatment, and noise issues; the construction of major transportation infrastructure; clean-up of contaminants spilled on the site; accommodation of wildlife habitat; negotiations with neighboring communities regarding the project’s social and economic effects; the successful defense of a major lawsuit brought to prevent the expansion; and the financing of project improvements. 
San Francisco International Airport Runway Reconfiguration
Advised San Francisco International Airport on possible reconfiguration of its runways, which encompassed a wide range of environmental, finance, and regulatory issues. These included issues related to permitting, wildlife habitat, contracts, relationships with local authorities, federal and state regulation of airport operations, public and private financing, and the impact of the improvements on neighboring communities.
Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
Advised on the implementation of key elements of LAX’s multibillion-dollar Master Plan, including land use, environmental, California Coastal Commission, and other regulatory issues.
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport
Advise the City of Atlanta and its Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport (the busiest in the world) in the negotiation of new Lease and Use Agreements to govern airline and airport finances, development, and operations at the airport, including a capital improvement program running into the billions of dollars, as well as federal regulatory and complex real estate and financing contracts. 
Alaska Airlines Flight 694 (Ginena)
Scored a defense verdict for Alaska Airlines in a case brought by a group of first-class passengers who were removed from Alaska Airlines Flight 694 on September 20, 2003. The flight was headed from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Las Vegas but diverted to Reno in order to remove the passengers. We obtained summary judgment of several claims based on the Warsaw Convention, but the remaining claims proceeded to trial. After a three-week trial, the jury of seven returned a unanimous defense verdict on all counts.
Cessna Caravan 208 Icing Accidents
Representing Cessna Aircraft Company as national coordinating counsel in individual personal injury and wrongful death cases pending in various jurisdictions in the United States arising from accidents involving Cessna Caravan 208 aircraft flown in alleged icing conditions.
Gol Airlines Flight 1907 Litigation
Represented Honeywell International Inc. in a lawsuit involving a mid-air collision between a Boeing 737-800, operated as Gol Airlines Flight 1907, and an Embraer Legacy 600, operated by ExcelAire Services, over the Amazon jungle, Brazil, on September 29, 2006. The accident resulted in the deaths of 154 passengers and crewmembers. Cases were brought in seven different districts, and we were successful in obtaining consolidation of the cases for MDL treatment in the Eastern District of New York. In late July 2008, the motion to dismiss the cases to Brazil for forum non conveniens was granted. The Brazilian carrier is settling the cases with claimants in Brazil. On appeal, the District Court's dismissal of the consolidated actions was affirmed by the Second Circuit. A four week international arbitration conducted in London under the law of England and Wales before a three member tribunal then followed to apportion liability for the accident among certain defendants. The arbitration resulted in a finding Honeywell was without fault for the accident and an award of costs against certain defendants in favor of Honeywell.
Chinook Helicopter Crash off Greece (In re Greek Chinook)
Represented Honeywell International Inc. in litigation arising from the crash of a Boeing Chinook helicopter off the coast of Greece in the Aegean Sea on September 11, 2004.  The accident claimed the lives of the 17 passengers and crew on board the helicopter.  This litigation involved multiple international jurisdictions, Death on High Seas Act (DOHSA), and a difficult causation investigation.  We defended claims involving alleged defects in the helicopter’s engines, FADEC and AFCS.  The lawsuits filed in the Greek courts in Chalkidiki, where the accident occurred, were settled.  The remaining cases were filed in the U.S. and consolidated in federal court in Philadelphia.  Those cases were also settled on terms favorable to the client.
Learjet 60 Crash
Represented a component manufacturer in six consolidated cases involving the crash of a Learjet on September 19, 2008, as well as separate action in Columbia, South Carolina, brought by the operator for the hull loss and loss of use. The plaintiffs include former Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker and celebrity disc jockey DJ AM, who both survived the crash but were critically injured. The two pilots and other two passengers were killed. The plane was headed for Van Nuys, California. The cases were filed in Los Angeles, California. The cases settled on terms favorable to our client.
Chinook Helicopter Crash in Afghanistan (Getz v. Honeywell)
Obtained summary judgment based on the government contract defense for Honeywell International Inc. in litigation arising from the crash of an Army special operations Chinook in Afghanistan on February 17, 2007.  Eight people died and 14 were injured when the special operations Chinook crashed while returning from a mission pursuing a member of Al Qaeda.  In August 2011, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the decision ruling that Honeywell and the other government contractor defendants were not liable for the crash.

Chambers USA 2015
National: Transportation: Aviation Litigation


Legal 500 US 2015
National: Product Liability & Mass Tort Defense: Aerospace & Aviation


Here is what they say about us:

“Very good client service: their advice is prompt and to be relied upon. Their knowledge of the sector is excellent.”
(Chambers USA 2015)

“The ‘client-focused’ team at Morrison & Foerster LLP is ‘full of top-tier’ talent.”
(Legal 500 US 2015)

“I see them as being extremely strong and competent in analytical writing and advocacy skills.”
(Chambers USA 2014)

“The firm is noted for its ‘strong defense counsel’ and ‘deep industry knowledge’, and also comes recommended as ‘the “go to” firm for complex litigation for aviation manufacturers and airlines’.”
(Legal 500 US 2014)

Zane O. Gresham
Senior Counsel
San Francisco
(415) 268-7145

William V. O'Connor
Partner
Los Angeles
(858) 720-7932
San Diego
(213) 892-5341

“Very good client service: their advice is prompt and to be relied upon. Their knowledge of the sector is excellent.” 
(Chambers USA 2015)

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