Prior to departure on the final leg of the aircraft’s
daily schedule, a Southwest Airlines dispatcher provided
the captain of Flight 2745 with a pre-flight information
packet. The packet contained weather-related
information, including a private meteorologist’s
forecast of moderate turbulence at 20,000 to 26,000 feet
and a number of PIREPs, one of which was a report of
severe turbulence at 20,000 to 22,000 feet over Windsor,
Ontario. Based on this information, the Southwest
Airlines dispatcher advised the captain of Flight 2745
to fly at 30,000 feet.
However, the captain elected to fly at 20,000 feet
because he had encountered turbulence above 24,000 feet
on the previous flight from Chicago to Cleveland. The
captain requested and received permission from the
controller at the Cleveland Center to fly at 20,000
feet; he did not inform his Southwest Airlines
dispatcher of his decision. Neither the dispatcher nor
the air traffic controller informed Flight 2745 of MIS
02, MIS 03 or the CWA that NWS meteorologist had issued
Flight 2745 took off from Cleveland Hopkins
International Airport at 9:40 p.m. Shortly thereafter,
the aircraft encountered a light to moderate bump, and
the pilots instructed the flight attendants to take
their seats. Within five seconds of the pilots’ order,
Flight 2745 encountered severe turbulence for
approximately fifteen seconds.
presumably had not had time to secure herself in a seat,
was injured and rendered unconscious during the episode.
Flight 2745 provided the air traffic controller with a
PIREP describing severe turbulence at 9:58 p.m. Several
physicians aboard Flight 2745 cared for LeGrande until
the aircraft landed at Chicago Midway International
LeGrande filed an administrative Claim for Damage,
Injury, or Death with the FAA. She sought $25 million
for her turbulence-related injuries. In her claim, Ms.
LeGrande alleged that the Federal Aviation
Administration, its employees, agents and
representatives, were negligent in that they breached
their duties under the rules and regulations governing
the performance of their job duties
The district court concluded that the United States,
through the FAA, owes a duty of reasonable care to an
aircraft, passengers, crews and cargoes in the
performance of air traffic control responsibilities and
that this duty includes warning pilots of certain
district court determined that the FAA had not breached
that duty here. Specifically, the district court
concluded that the duty owed by air traffic controllers
does not include an obligation to disseminate MIS
notifications to pilots because such weather products
are designed for traffic planning purposes rather than
for providing immediate navigational guidance to
aircraft already aloft.
The court further determined that the CWA issued before
the departure of Flight 2745 was not pertinent because
it was limited to airspace east of Cleveland through
which Flight 2745, heading west from Cleveland to
Chicago, did not travel.
The Circuit Court of
Appeals ruled that the district court correctly
determined that LeGrande had failed to establish that
FAA personnel breached any duty owed to her.
Additionally, the allegations of the NWS meteorologist’s
negligence are barred for failure to comply with the
statutory requirement that suit under the Federal Tort
Claims Act be preceded by an administrative complaint.
"Ms. LeGrande... has pointed to no statute, regulation
or other directive that imposes on FAA traffic
controllers the responsibility to transmit MIS weather
products to pilots. Indeed, a review of the governing
directives makes clear that no such obligation exists,"
Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Kenneth Ripple wrote.