Is my Business Part of the Critical Infrastructure? [Does the California “Stay-Home” Order Apply to Aircraft Parts Distributors?]

Yesterday, California ordered its residents to stay at home in response to Covid-19.  That order provided an exception for person who are needed to “maintain continuity of operations of the federal critical infrastructure sectors.”  But this raises questions in the minds of many in the ASA community: are we needed to “maintain continuity of operations of the federal critical infrastructure sectors?”  Or, more succinctly, which aviation businesses are excepted from the “stay-home” rules in California?

It is likely that other states will follow this model, providing an exception to “stay-at-home” or “shelter-in-place” rules for people who are necessary to the critical infrastructure sectors identified by the federal government.

The federal government’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has identified 16 critical infrastructure sectors.  One of these is “Transportation and Logistics.”  There is not a precise definition of who is covered under this list- instead it offers a list of examples.  The critical infrastructure sectors examples clearly include:

  • Those who repair and maintain aircraft (repair stations and maintenance personnel)
  • Air transportation employees, including air traffic controllers, ramp personnel, aviation security, and aviation management
  • Workers necessary for the manufacturing of materials and products needed for transportation
  • Manufacturers and distributors (to include service centers and related operations) of packaging materials, pallets, crates, containers, and other supplies needed to support manufacturing, packaging staging and distribution operations
  • Employees of firms providing services that enable logistics operations, including cooling, storing, packaging, and distributing products for wholesale or retail sale or use

The “air transportation employees” category is a bit vague, but other listed provisions can help interpret this language as it applies to aircraft parts distributors.

One of the categories listed is “Employees of firms providing services that enable logistics operations, including cooling, storing, packaging, and distributing products for wholesale or retail sale or use.”  This is clearly meant to include those who offer logistics services for goods, but the logic of this category could be applied to aircraft parts distributors as well.  If distributors of groceries are included in the critical infrastructure list, then those who are distributing the parts needed to keep aircraft flying are likely included as well.

Another provision that should influence our analysis (indirectly) is the fact that manufacturers and distributors of packing materials are part of the critical infrastructure because they enable distribution operations.  This seems to suggest that distribution operations are part of the critical infrastructure.

CISA makes it clear that the critical infrastructure focus is on maintaining the businesses and services that enable continued economic and social vitality.  There is a focus on critical functions.  This is not focused on maintaining business as usual.  So it is likely that many aircraft parts distributors are part of the critical infrastructure, but not all of their functions will be considered critical.

  • The AOG desk is likely going to be critical
  • Sales contacts that allow needed aircraft parts to be identified and supplied will probably be likewise critical
  • Anyone who is picking aircraft parts from a warehouse is similarly likely to be considered critical
  • Anyone who is shipping those aircraft parts is similarly likely to be considered critical

The distributor’s marketing department is probably not part of the critical infrastructure.  And I hate to say it, but the legal department may not be part of the critical infrastructure, either.

Ultimately, each business must examine its role in the transportation marketplace to identify whether it serves a role as part of the critical infrastructure.  One way to pose the question would be to ask “If we all stopped performing the function that I perform, then would this ground aircraft in America?  If the answer is “yes,” then you are probably part of the critical transportation and logistics infrastructure.

Here are some shortcuts questions for aircraft parts distributors:

  • Do you have an AOG desk?  If the answer is “yes” then they likely remain critical, and the support structure necessary to permit them to support aircraft is also critical.
  • If you stop supplying aircraft parts (or other goods) then could one or more cargo transportation aircraft be grounded?  If the answer is “yes” then the personnel necessary to support aircraft are critical.  Remember this also includes general aviation cargo aircraft!
  • If you stop supplying aircraft parts (or other goods) then could one or more passenger aircraft be grounded?  If the answer is “yes” then the personnel necessary to support aircraft are critical.  Remember this also includes special purpose aircraft like medical evacuation aircraft, law enforcement aircraft, etc.
  • Do you have hazmat-trained shippers?  If the answer is “yes” then they are also critical because hazmat personnel are also considered to be part of the critical infrastructure (but if you stop shipping then obviously these personnel may stop being critical for your operation).

About Jason Dickstein
Mr. Dickstein is the President of the Washington Aviation Group, a Washington, DC-based aviation law firm. Since 1992, he has represented aviation trade associations and businesses that include aircraft and aircraft parts manufacturers, distributors, and repair stations, as well as both commercial and private operators. Blog content published by Mr. Dickstein is not legal advice; and may not reflect all possible fact patterns. Readers should exercise care when applying information from blog articles to their own fact patterns.

One Response to Is my Business Part of the Critical Infrastructure? [Does the California “Stay-Home” Order Apply to Aircraft Parts Distributors?]

  1. Pingback: Stay-at-Home Laws: How Do they Affect Aviation? | ASA Web Log

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