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United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
April 24, 1997, Decided
[*533] COFFIN, Senior Circuit Judge. Appellant Sea Air Shuttle Corp. ("Sea Air") filed this damages action against the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. §§ 1346, 2671-2180, claiming that it was unlawfully deprived of the right to use seaplane ramps in the Virgin Islands and that the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) failure to enforce the law makes it responsible for the company's resulting economic hardship. The district court dismissed Sea Air's complaint on the ground that ] the Federal Aviation Act (FA Act) provides federal courts of appeals with exclusive jurisdiction to review FAA action, see 49 U.S.C. app. § 1486(a), 1 rendering Sea Air's FTCA complaint an improper collateral attack on the administrative [**2] process. We agree that the case must be dismissed, but rely primarily on an alternative reason.
The original protagonist in this case was Hurricane Hugo, which struck the United States Virgin Islands in September 1989 and led to the demise of the company that had been providing passenger air service between and among the various islands. Seeking to find a new airline to utilize the seaplane ramps it owned on St. Thomas and St. Croix, the Virgin Islands Port Authority (VIPA) in early 1990 issued a request for exclusive lease proposals. One of the eight companies that responded was Caribbean Air Services, Inc. (CAS), which later assigned its interest to appellant Sea Air.
[*534] It is undisputed that VIPA's staff considered the CAS proposal to be the most viable of the three [**3] bids recommended for further consideration by VIPA's Governing Board. See Sea Air Shuttle Corp. v. Virgin Islands Port Auth., 800 F. Supp. 293, 295 (D.V.I. 1992). The facts surrounding the various proposals, and the resulting decision of the VIPA board to offer an exclusive lease to a Sea Air competitor, Caribbean Airboats, Inc. (CAI), are fully detailed in the district court's thorough opinion in a related case, Sea Air Shuttle, 800 F. Supp. at 295-98, and it is unnecessary to repeat them here.
It suffices to say that appellant Sea Air was displeased with the outcome of the bid process, and, based on a federal statute barring exclusive lease agreements for the use of air navigation facilities, see 49 U.S.C. app. § 1349, 2 unsuccessfully sought access to the contested ramps. Sea Air then sued CAI and VIPA in the Virgin Islands federal district court based on federal, constitutional and Virgin Islands law. That action ultimately also proved unsuccessful, with the court ruling in March 1992 that VIPA was entitled to enter into an exclusive leasing arrangement with CAI. See 800 F. Supp. at 304-05.
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112 F.3d 532 *; 1997 U.S. App. LEXIS 8236 **
SEA AIR SHUTTLE CORPORATION, Plaintiff, Appellant, v. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant, Appellee.
Prior History: [**1] APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF PUERTO RICO. Hon. Salvador E. Casellas, U.S. District Judge.
Air, lease, district court, ramps, administrative process, federal statute, FA Act, Islands, appeals, damages, discretionary, facilities, funding
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