The FAA Is Overstepping Its Authority

The FAA Is Overstepping Its Authority

© David Burton 2014


     On July 22, 2014, the Federal Aviation Administration issued a directive to all U.S. airlines banning all flights to or from Israel. This was in response to a single incident that posed a dubious threat to aircraft and passengers traveling to or from Israel.

     “The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is the national aviation authority of the United States. An agency of the United States Department of Transportation, it has authority to regulate and oversee all aspects of American civil aviation.” (Ref. 1)

     The FAA is divided into four "lines of business." Which are: [1]

     Airports - plans and develops projects involving airports, overseeing their construction and operations. Ensures compliance with federal regulations.

     Air Traffic Organization - primary duty is to safely and efficiently move air traffic within the National Airspace System.

     Aviation Safety - Responsible for aeronautical certification of personnel and aircraft, including pilots, airlines, and mechanics.

     Commercial Space Transportation - ensures protection of U.S. assets during the launch or reentry of commercial space vehicles.

     These four "lines of business" do not give the FAA authority to suspend flights to or over foreign countries. What the FAA should be doing is issuing warnings to airlines and passengers of potentially dangerous regions for aircraft operations. The decision of whether or not to fly to or over these potentially dangerous sites should be left to the airlines and the airline passengers! The FAA has assumed too much authority and too much power. It should stick to its proper roles: oversee the nation's airports; oversee domestic air traffic control; certify American aviation personnel and aircraft; ensure protection of U.S. assets during the launch or reentry of commercial space vehicles; issue safety notices and warnings to the aviation industry and travelers.

     The FAA action imposed a complete ban on U.S. flights into Israel, not just a partial ban and not just an advisory or the standard “should avoid” language. This ban against flying into Israel’s Ben Gurion airport was imposed after a piece of shrapnel – created when Israel shot down a rocket fired by terrorists in Gaza – hit an Israeli home about a mile from the airport, it was not the rocket itself which struck near the airport and it wasn’t a rocket that could have hit a jet airliner. The FAA action, besides being an apparent overstepping of its authority, was totally disproportionate to the incident.

     Former mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry both flew into Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport in spite of the FAA ban. They had the right to make their own decisions, as should every air traveler. The FAA telling fliers and airlines that they could not fly to Israel because of perceived danger is no different than the government telling you that you are forbidden to cross a street because of the unlikely chance of your being hit by a car. That’s a personal choice that you and I make every day – and I don’t need no stinkin’ government agency to act as if I am a 3-year old child who needs some government bureaucrats to act as my mother.

     The Federal Aviation Administration action “ordered U.S. carriers to stop flying to or from Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, prohibiting them from traveling through Israel’s largest airport after a rocket landed nearby.
      - - -
     {In a much more appropriate action,} “The State Department issued a warning . . . advising [emphasis mine] U.S. citizens to delay ‘non-essential travel to Israel and the West Bank,’ . . .
      - - -
     “Israeli officials had called for the FAA to allow flights to resume, sentiments that were echoed in the U.S. . . . {F}ormer New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that he would fly to Israel on El Al — which maintained service to and from Israel — to protest the FAA’s decision.
     “’The flight restrictions are a mistake that hands Hamas an undeserved victory and should be lifted immediately,’ he said in a statement posted on his Web site. ‘I strongly urge the FAA to reverse course and permit US airlines to fly to Israel.’” (Ref. 2)

     “Senator Ted Cruz had suggested that, given the above geographical situation, the ban was tantamount to an economic boycott of the country. . . .
     “. . . {If} the passengers’ security was the sole consideration, was the ban warranted? . . . An elementary calculation shows that the odds of any given plane being hit, while landing, on the ground or taking off from Ben-Gurion, is of the order of one in a million. (The odds of hitting a plane, in midair, are at least an order of magnitude smaller than that.) [emphasis mine] Moreover, that estimate is based on several worst case assumptions: There is no doubt that Ben-Gurion is a prime target for Hamas. However, due to limitations inherent to their rocket arsenal, no more than one such rocket has been dispatched, per day, in the general direction of the airport. The rockets cannot be targeted with precision. A best case scenario for Hamas . . . implies that any future rockets targeting the main terminal would land anywhere within a {~ 2 mile radius} of it. The odds of hitting even a large plane, such as a Boeing 777, within a circle of that radius, are roughly three in 100,000. . . .
     “. . . as with other densely populated parts of the country, the airport is . . . protected by at least one Iron Dome unit, and the missile defense system has, since 2012, consistently been reported to intercept 90 percent of incoming rockets. However, we assume . . . that this effectiveness measure is grossly overestimated, so that a single Iron Dome unit is capable of intercepting only half of its targets.
     “Finally, any given plane spends no more than two out of every 24 hours on or near the ground. Multiplying the odds of these independent events results in the above worst-case risk estimate of one in a million.
      - - -
     “. . . using the most recent Statistical Abstract of the United States report, between 2000 and 2010, the average personal death risk from a motor vehicle accident in the United States was 133 per million, roughly 100 times the risk the FAA was supposedly protecting US passengers against with its ban on Ben-Gurion. The FAA should have known better!” [emphasis mine] (Ref. 3)

     “The FAA's ban on U.S. flights to and from Israel's main airport . . . marks another blow to that country's economy and a success for Hamas militants, experts said . . .
      - - -
     “. . . {A} Hamas spokesman described the missile landing near the airport as one victory in the ongoing war between Hamas and Israel in Gaza.
     "’The resistance success in stopping the air traffic and isolating Israel from the world is a great victory for the resistance,’ {he} told Al-Aqsa TV.
     Another Hamas spokesman . . . said Hamas is targeting Ben Gurion Airport ‘because it's used by the Israel air forces.’
      - - -
     "{the mayor of Jerusalem} said ’The reality is that if Hamas goes 'boo' and you get scared, you're helping Hamas with its goals. - ‘That's what terrorists try to do. They try to terrorize you. - The best way to fight terrorism is exactly {to} go on with your normal life.” (Ref. 4)

     Another Hamas spokesman said in a statement quoted by Agence France-Press: “The success of Hamas in closing Israeli airspace is a great victory for the resistance, and is the crown of Israel’s failure,” (Ref. 5)

     Unfortunately, it’s clear that “the U.S. handed Hamas a victory by imposing an FAA ban on all flights to and from Israel, a foolish move that paralyzed Israel’s only international airport for a short time.
     “It was misguided from a security perspective to place Israel in the group of countries with FAA flight bans, which includes North Korea, Iraq, Somalia and Libya.
     “Ben-Gurion Airport uses the most sophisticated aviation security in the world, which protects flights from all threats, including Hamas rocket shrapnel landing outside the airport . . .
     "Such an economic sanction, which put Israel’s only global gateway under siege, not only incapacitated Israeli tourism and business travel for a short time, it emboldened Hamas and its terrorist activities.
     "Rather than isolate Hamas, which Egyptian, Arab and Western leaders have tried to achieve in the past year, the U.S. ban rewarded Hamas . . . [emphasis mine] (Ref. 6)

     Has the FAA and the U.S. Government learned a lesson from its misstep in banning flights to Israel because of a misconceived perception of danger and an inappropriate action in ordering a cessation of flights, rather than simply issuing a warning and an advisory, as the State Department often does? Apparently not.

     On August 8, 2014 the FAA issued the following announcement: “US operators are restricted from flying over Iraq due to armed conflict in the region.” (Ref. 7)

     It appears that the FAA has decided that it will determine what risks you and I are permitted to take when it comes to flying. Maybe they should just ban all commercial flights – period. After all, airplane accidents do sometimes occur and we stand the miniscule chance of being killed or injured in such an event. More logically, the U. S. government should ban the use of all automobiles. The chances of being killed or injured on U.S. highways are far greater than the chances of being killed or injured in an airplane accident and are far greater than the chances of being killed or injured flying to or from Israel. The U.S. government has no faith in the intelligence of its citizens or of the U.S. airline industry. The actions of the FAA and the U.S. government clearly show that they don’t believe that U.S. citizens and the U.S. airlines are capable of making rational decisions. Apparently, Uncle Sam knows what's best for its citizens!


  1. Federal Aviation Administration, Wikipedia, Accessed 8 August 2014.
  2. FAA bans U.S. airlines from flying to or from Tel Aviv, Mark Berman, The Washington Post, 22 July 2014.
  3. Was the FAA’s ban on flights to Israel warranted?, Awi Federgruen and Moshe Kress, The Jerusalem Post,
    4 August 2014.
  4. FAA ban marks Israeli setback, Hamas 'victory', Michael Martinezs, CNN World, 23 July 2014.
  5. Hamas Calls FAA’s 48-Hour Flight Ban to Tel Aviv a ‘Great Victory’, Sharona Schwartz, The Blaze, 24 July 2014.
  6. America should help Israel destroy Hamas' terrorist tunnels, infrastructure, Avi Dichter, Washington Examiner, 26 July 2014.
  7. Federal Aviation Administration,, Accessed 8 August 2014.


  14 August 2014 {Article 200; Govt_54}    
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