United Air Lines, Inc. v. Mahin

PETITIONER: United Air Lines, Inc.
LOCATION: Allegheny County District Court

DOCKET NO.: 71-862
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1972-1975)
LOWER COURT: Supreme Court of Illinois

CITATION: 410 US 623 (1973)
ARGUED: Nov 08, 1972
DECIDED: Mar 05, 1973

Mark H. Berens - for appellant
Robert J. O'Rourke -

Facts of the case


Media for United Air Lines, Inc. v. Mahin

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 08, 1972 in United Air Lines, Inc. v. Mahin

Warren E. Burger:

We'll hear arguments in 71-862, United Air Lines against Mahin.

Mr. Berens, you can proceed whenever you are ready.

Mark H. Berens:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

This is a Commerce Clause case.

The question presented is whether Illinois in conformance with that clause, may impose its Used Tax on all fuel loaded by United Air Lines, aboard its aircraft about to leave the Chicago airports on interstate and foreign flights.

As found by the trial court and confirmed by the Illinois Supreme Court, the facts can be stated very briefly.

All of the fuel is purchased by United from Shell Oil Company at Shell Oil’s terminal in Northern Indiana at which point, delivery occurs and title and risk of loss transfers from Shell to United.

From there, United arranges transportation by common carriers, principally a pipeline to O’Hare and Midway airports in Chicago.

The fuel is stored at those airports on the average from two to six-and-a-half days of which about two days is required to remove impurities secreted during the transportation.

The fuel is then loaded into United’s aircraft.

Potter Stewart:

Is it brought from Indiana to the Chicago airports by truck?

Mark H. Berens:

Mainly by pipeline for Jet fuel.

There are trucking operations to Midway because the volume is much less there.

Now, the truck as well as pipeline is common carrier and the contracts are between those carriers and United.

The fuel is loaded into United's --

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

How long did you say, it remained at the airport before it was loaded aboard --

Mark H. Berens:

A minimum of two, a maximum of 12 days, the average is two to six-and-a-half.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

And this is to clean the impurities and substance?

Mark H. Berens:

Approximately two days are required to settle the fuel and filter it.

The remainder of the time is really coordinating transfers of the fuel -- the scheduling of the transfer with the flight operations.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

Meaning that there maybe quantity is more than aircraft probably need?

Mark H. Berens:


There are several days on hand.

They pump a large amounts, the jet fuel is pumped three times a month to O’Hare, the other fuel to Midway is carried by a truck on almost a daily basis.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

And the quantity loaded on a particular aircraft differs, does it depending on how much --.

Mark H. Berens:

A great amount.

There is variation depending on its destination and depending on how much fuel it came in with.

It can range from, and it's in poundage rather gallons in the air industry from a couple thousand to 60-70,000 lbs of fuel.

This fuel is loaded, almost always immediately just prior to the departure of the aircraft.

None other fuel involved in this litigation is used locally or in interstate flights.