Executive Jet Aviation v. City of Cleveland

PETITIONER: Executive Jet Aviation
RESPONDENT: City of Cleveland
LOCATION: American Trust & Security Company

DOCKET NO.: 71-678
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1972-1975)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

CITATION: 409 US 249 (1972)
ARGUED: Nov 15, 1972
DECIDED: Dec 18, 1972

Erwin N. Griswold - for respondents
Phillip D. Bostwick - for petitioners

Facts of the case


Media for Executive Jet Aviation v. City of Cleveland

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 15, 1972 in Executive Jet Aviation v. City of Cleveland

Warren E. Burger:

We'll hear arguments next in 71-678, Executive JET Aviation against Cleveland and others.

Mr. Bostwick you may proceed.

Phillip D. Bostwick:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

This case on certiorari to Sixth Circuit calls upon this court to resolve any records out of the conflict between the Third Circuit in an opinion of the court below.

The issue presented is whether the Federal courts have maritime jurisdiction over airplane crashes in navigable waters where the tortuous conduct is alleged to have occurred on land.

The facts in this case are under perjury undisputed.

The petitioners are the owner and operator of a corporate twin-engine jet aircraft, known as the Falcon.

They and their aircraft prepared to takeoff from Burke Lakefront Airport at Cleveland, Ohio on July of 1968.

Burke Lakefront is owned and operated by the respondent city of Cleveland, Ohio and is built on a fill and the navigable waters of Lake Erie.

On the day in question, the aircraft was piloted by two pilots and had a crew of one stewardess and was prepared to takeoff to pick up passengers in Maine.

There is some question in the record as to the clearance given to the pilots before takeoff.

It our position that the questions of tributary negligence not being before this Court, those matters are irrelevant, however they have been raised in the respondent's briefs.

In any event there is no question about the fact that the pilots did see -- could not see the other end of the runway before takeoff, could not see that the last third of the runway was covered by a flock of seagulls and did receive a clearance for takeoff from the air traffic controllers in the tower, from respondent Dicken who is employed by the United States government.

The aircraft took off.

Shortly after liftoff, the pilots noticed for the first time the sea of seagulls.

As the plane approached the seagulls, the flock rose, the aircraft struck many of the birds, 314 of the seagulls were found on the runway alone.

Thereafter, birds were ingested into the engines of the Jet, the engines flamed out and the pilot prepared for a ditching.

He raised the landing gear and prepared for a crash landing.

On the way down, the aircraft landing gear did strike the top of a pickup truck parked near the airport perimeter fence and broke the barbwire of the perimeter fence.

And there is an appendix of photographs to this case which shows the damage done to the vehicle and the fence, birds on the runway for the whatever use it maybe to the Court.

In any event the aircraft continued in flight and impacted in the navigable waters of Lake Erie.

When airborne again, it impacted a second time where it sank in what has been undisputed navigable waters, something in depth of an excess of 45 feet.

There is also a photograph, I believe it's photograph three showing an X out in the lake when the aircraft submerged the pilots and stewardess miraculously were not injured or killed.

They exited from the aircraft and a small craft picked them up.

The coastguard came, there was an effort made to put a line around the aircraft and pull it towards shore and the place where they succeeded in dragging it is the second X on the photograph.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

It was a Jet?

Phillip D. Bostwick:

It was a Jet, yes sir.

It was a corporate jet, a small Falcon jet owned by Executive Jet Aviation and used for purposes of transporting business and other persons?

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

And the only persons aboard were the crew?

Phillip D. Bostwick:

The crew were deadheading if the Court pleased to pick up some revenue paying passengers at another airport.