Airline pilots are suing over the Federal mask mandate saying that their inability to breathe is making it dangerous for them to operate an airplane. Also mentioned in the lawsuit is the chaos in the sky created by the thousands of reports to the Federal Aviation Administration of unruly passenger behavior caused by incidents, all of which were related to masks. It has gotten so bad, that the pilots themselves are saying that the wearing of face masks is making it dangerous to fly. Now how confident do you feel getting on an airplane under these conditions?
A lawsuit filed March 15 by 10 commercial airline pilots to strike down the Federal Transportation Mask Mandate was docketed by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia today and assigned to District Judge Christopher Cooper. The stamped complaint and docket are attached.
Four of the pilots reside in Florida: Gregory Ramola in Orlando, Nathan Town in Lithia, Jean-Michel Trousse in Fort Lauderdale, and Collier Yarish in Vero Beach.
A group of 10 commercial airline pilots from six states filed suit against the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention to strike down the Federal Transportation Mask Mandate, arguing forcing them to obstruct their normal breathing harms their health and endangers aviation safety. It’s the first legal challenge to the FTMM filed by airline workers.
Pilots filed the 61-page complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia just hours after the Senate voted 57-40 to repeal the mask mandate and one day after 17 members of Congress sued CDC in Kentucky. They charge CDC and its parent agency, the Department of Health & Human Services, with seven violations of the law and Constitution. The pilots, who work for four U.S. airlines, ask the court to vacate the mandate and permanently enjoin the federal government from ever issuing it again.
Lead plaintiff Janviere Carlin of Massachusetts, a pilot for JetBlue Airways, said the Biden Administration’s fourth extension of the FTMM, announced March 10 and effective until April 18, forced pilots to take legal action. She described the lawsuit as “patriotic” and “the right thing to do” to protect aviation safety.
“When the pandemic was in its early phases, we took a wait-and-see approach with regard to the mask requirements, but most of us realized right away that they were in direct conflict with our legal and innate obligation to conduct safe flights,” Carlin said. “Our pilot license is directly linked to our medical certificate. Those requirements touch each of us individually, so we each came up with our own ways of making sure that we were always safe and legal for flight. But unfortunately, that always put us in conflict with the mask mandate.”
The pilots’ case is at least the 18th lawsuit attacking the legality of the FTMM but the first by airline employees who are commandeered by the federal government to enforce the mask mandate.
“As pilots for major airlines, we have seen up close and personal the chaos in the sky created by the FTMM, with thousands of reports to the Federal Aviation Administration of ‘unruly’ passenger behavior since the FTMM took effect Feb. 1, 2021 – nearly all of which have been caused by incidents related to masks,” the complaint states. “We have serious concerns about the safety implications of the mask mandate, none of which were studied by CDC or HHS as the policy was rushed into place only 12 days after the inauguration of a new president who made a national mask mandate a top campaign promise – even though he acknowledged it was likely unconstitutional.”
Cristina Field of South Carolina, a pilot for PSA Airlines (American Eagle), said the group is suing CDC because the agency did not factor in pilots’ unique situations and health requirements in rushing the FTMM into place in a matter of days.
“As airline pilots, we trust our governing organizations to have our best interests in mind,” she said. “When it comes to masks, due diligence wasn’t performed to assess the effects on our physical and mental health. I perform risk/benefit analysis daily as part of my job, and I know the risks of wearing a mask outweigh any benefits. We want to make sure the forced wearing of masks goes away, never to return.”
Jeffery Chandler of Maryland, a pilot for Southwest Airlines, said it’s important for the public to understand that pilots are required to pass a medical exam every 6-12 months to maintain their licenses.
“FAA’s standards for medical certificates are published in the Code of Federal Regulations,” he said. “But nowhere do the regulations have any language addressing the effects of masking, nor has the government conducted any studies.”
Chandler said pilots are obligated and entrusted to individually make continuous decisions about their fitness to fly.
“Understanding the importance of our health, pilots must protect ourselves and flight attendants from the damages and dangers of wearing a mask for no other reason than to project a message of compliance,” he said.
In their complaint, the 10 pilots assert CDC has no legal authority to require that passengers and workers wear masks because Congress has never enacted such a law, the agency failed to observe the mandatory notice-and-comment procedure before ordering the FTMM, CDC did not submit the FTMM to Congress and the comptroller general before it took effect, the mandate applies to intrastate travel and overrides all 50 states’ no-mask policies in violation of the 10th Amendment, and the FTMM violates federal law prohibiting the mandatory use of any medical device (such as a face mask) unauthorized or approved under an Emergency Use Authorization by the Food & Drug Administration.
CDC and HHS “ignored countless scientific and medical studies and articles showing that face masks are totally ineffective in reducing coronavirus spread but are harmful to human health in at least 68 ways,” according to the complaint. “Congress never intended for the Executive Branch to have the authority to promulgate this policy – and even if it did, it’s unconstitutional. CDC and HHS may not exercise their authority in a manner that is inconsistent with the administrative structure that Congress enacted.”
This case is believed to be only the second against the FTMM filed by workers in the transportation sector (a Chicago Uber driver sued to end the mask mandate last year) and the first by airline staffers.
Beth Ellis of Massachusetts, a pilot for JetBlue, said it’s insulting that she’s highly trained and trusted to fly a $45 million jet and be responsible for passengers’ lives, but the government doesn’t allow her to make her own health decisions.
“My job as a pilot is to aviate, navigate, and communicate,” she said. “With a mask on, my peripheral vision is obstructed and my glasses fog, making aviating and navigating impossible. Communication with a mask makes it difficult for the other pilot and air traffic controllers to understand me, leading to confusion and potential errors. Safety is at risk when unnecessary stress is added to a situation. I shouldn’t have to worry about being disciplined for not consenting to wear a medical device that makes me sick, when safety is my priority.”
Carlin said there’s no reason for the federal government to continue forcing masks only in the transportation sector when all 50 states have abolished their mandates.
“There’s plenty of evidence to back up that masks do very little, if anything, to prevent the spread of any virus, and the fact that the mandate was just extended again only for public transportation and for no understandable reason, we finally decided that this needs to be brought to court,” she said. “We need to stop being harassed so that we can continue to safely do our jobs legally without worrying about being fined by TSA and/or harassed by the police, our coworkers, or even our companies ever again. Safety is always first. Masks reduce flight safety; they in no way improve it.”
The pilots’ complaint focuses on how they are exempt from masking while on duty in the cockpit because the Federal Aviation Administration acknowledges it’s hazardous to safety, but yet they are still expected to block their breathing while commuting to work as passengers, in airport terminals, and before departure, causing all sorts of health ailments.
“We are prohibited from operating an aircraft during any period of medical deficiency. However, we are required to comply with the FTMM, which causes known medical deficiencies,” the pilots wrote. “The FTMM forces us to obstruct our oxygen intake, causing diminished mental and physical capacity.”
Finally, the pilots express concern that CDC and HHS ignore that the mask mandate recklessly endangers aviation safety and security by causing numerous disruptions in the cabin – a fact most major airlines have cited in calling for abolition of the FTMM.
“The defendants fail to take into account that in addition to the millions of Americans who can’t safely obstruct their breathing because of a medical condition, tens of millions of Americans vehemently object to anyone ordering them to wear face masks,” they wrote. “The FTMM worsens transportation safety as some people violently stand up for their right to breathe freely, and many flight crews have become increasingly hostile to any passenger who dares remove his/her mask for any reason.”
The case is Carlin v. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia).
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