In what is believed to be the first legal challenge to the Federal Transportation Mask Mandate filed by aviation workers themselves, a group of commercial airline pilots filed suit Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Washington against the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, asking a judge to strike down the mandate.
In the 61-page complaint, 10 pilots from six states and four different airlines argue that forcing them to obstruct their normal breathing harms their health and endangers aviation safety.
The suit comes in the wake of last week’s decision by the Biden Administration to extend the mask mandate another month beyond its expiration date of March 18. The group is asking the court to vacate the mandate and permanently enjoin the federal government from ever issuing it again.
“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,” lead plaintiff Janviere Carlin of Massachusetts, a pilot for JetBlue Airways, said in a statement.
“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 lawsuit is at least the 18th legal challenge filed against the mandate, but apparently the first by airline workers.
“As pilots for major airlines, we have seen up close and personal the chaos in the sky created by the (mandate), 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.”