What should you request? Applicable leases, relevant correspondence, emails, meeting agendas and minutes, memoranda reporting on meetings, voice mails, text messages, briefing papers, PowerPoint presentations, spreadsheets, charts, and any other records, electronic or printed, which relate in any way to your issue.
Take photos where applicable, but be sure to make notes on who took each photo including where, when, and on what device. Just as with other evidence, post each applicable photo against each of the rules that you think are being broken. An example of where photos help involves a corporate self-fueling operation that seeks to expand beyond its limitations and sell fuel to the general public without meeting the minimum standards requirements for an FBO. Photos of the shiny new fuel truck with logo on the ramp, price advertisements — and if you’re lucky — photos of the shiny, newly painted fuel truck fueling an aircraft on its ramp that is not one of its own will substantially assist your cause. The old phrase that a picture is worth a thousand words remains true to this day.
Also keep copies of applicable news media that contain useful statements and admissions (whether written or in video or audio form), and don’t forget to continuously monitor and save what is posted (and changed) on applicable websites and social media sites. This includes not only the website(s) of the offending entity, but also of its employees and any other witnesses you identify.
Social media sites are ripe with casual but potentially explosive comments by individuals discussing their glee over promotions, “fun” at the expense of someone else (you or your company), and other useful tidbits which can support your claim of wrongdoing. Remember that websites are more easily updated with each passing day, and unlawful statements may be posted one day and taken down the next.
Preserve that evidence and don’t miss the opportunity.
Organize, Organize, Organize
As you develop a chart or spreadsheet outlining each of the rules, their subparts, and each piece of evidence that you have in support, a good picture will develop of whether you have a viable claim. You’ll see holes where you have little or no required evidence to support your claim. You’ll also be forced to confront and test the evidence that you have.
Being intellectually honest with yourself, and being your own devil’s advocate, will go a long way toward understanding whether you have a claim which is worth your time and hard earned money to pursue. While the process described in this article is time consuming and at times frustrating and annoying, it’s a necessary part of good decision making. Perhaps even more important to your bottom line is that it will save you money by being more efficient with your and your lawyer’s time.
While lawyers and paralegals often perform the tasks proscribed above, there’s no reason why this extensive legwork cannot be completed up front by you (the FBO) using your own employees.
Stay tuned for the next article in this series, where we’ll describe what to do when your hard work demonstrates that the evidence actually matches up with the rules and establishes a violation.
About the author
Paul A. Lange founded and leads the Law Offices of Paul A. Lange, LLC, with offices in CT and NY. The firm practices nationwide and internationally in various aviation related legal matters, including airport development, financing, regulatory enforcement matters, and disputes.
Pilots Bill of Rights Public Law 112-153; FAA enforcement cases will change dramatically.