The opinion of the court was delivered by: NICHOLAS TSOUCALAS
This is an action brought by plaintiff Pan American World Airways, Inc. ("Pan Am") against defendant The United States of America, and defendant The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey ("Port Authority") to recover for several million dollars in damages allegedly sustained by the right-wing engine and hull of a Pan Am DC-10. The damage to the engine and hull allegedly occurred because of ice ingestion, after the wing-engines of the DC-10 were thrown into reverse thrust while the aircraft was taxiing at John F. Kennedy International Airport ("Kennedy Airport" or "JFK").
A trial commenced in this Court on January 23, 1991 and continued on January 24, 28 and 29, 1992. The case was tried non jury in respect of all claims against the United States of America and to the jury in respect of all claims against the Port Authority. On January 29, 1991, immediately after plaintiff rested, the United States moved under Fed. R. Civ. P. 52(c) for judgment on partial findings, and the Port Authority moved under Fed. R. Civ. P. 50(a) for judgment as a matter of law. Having heard all the testimony and arguments of counsel, this Court found that the plaintiff failed to sustain its burden of proving a prima facie case against the United States and the Port Authority. Accordingly, both motions to dismiss were granted.
In the opinion of the Court, the Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law set forth below, including those stated on the record at the close of trial and which are hereby adopted, incorporated and restated, are dispositive.
1. The parties stipulated to the following facts:
a. At all relevant times the plaintiff, Pan American World Airways, Inc. ("Pan Am"), was and is a corporation duly organized under the laws of the State of New York. Pan Am is a domestic and international air carrier, certified under the Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR) Part 121 carrying passengers and cargo for hire.
b. At all relevant times the defendant, the Port Authority, was and is a body corporate and politic created by a compact between the States of New York and New Jersey with the consent of the Congress of the United States of America.
c. The Port Authority generally operates, controls and maintains certain facilities, in both the states of New York and New Jersey, including John F. Kennedy International Airport ("JFK" or "Kennedy Airport"), which is located in Jamaica, Queens, City and State of New York. Certain portions of the facilities may be operated or controlled by others using the facilities.
d. Pan Am and the Port Authority entered into a written agreement dated as of January 1, 1953 pursuant to which Pan Am leased certain premises at Kennedy Airport. Pursuant to that lease, as amended, and other agreements between Pan Am and the Port Authority, Pan Am continues to lease certain premises at Kennedy Airport from the Port Authority.
e. Pursuant to the terms of the aforementioned January 1, 1953 agreement, and other agreements, Pan Am was and is authorized and entitled to use the public aircraft facilities at Kennedy Airport. The public aircraft facilities include certain runways and taxiways at Kennedy Airport.
f. The defendant United States, through the Federal Aviation Administration, employed and still employees individuals (referred to collectively as Air Traffic Controllers) to provide Air Traffic Control services at Kennedy Airport.
h. Pan Am aircraft No. 65 was a type DC-10. Pan Am aircraft No. 65 was equipped with three jet engines, one on each wing and one in the tail.
i. The engine on the right wing of the aircraft was manufactured by General Electric Company and was type CF6-6D. That engine was designated by the serial No. 451-291. That engine had been leased by Pan Am from American Airlines.
j. Among the taxiways which are part of the public aircraft facilities at Kennedy Airport were three taxiways designated on January 16, 1984, as Yankee ("Y"), Echo ("E") and Foxtrot ("F").
k. The following cockpit crew was on Flight 219A on January 16, 1984: (1) Captain Stephen D. Bellows, pilot in command; (2) First Officer Jon K. Piper, second in command; (3) Flight Engineer Oscar Jennings Hill.
1. The aircraft braking system was operating normally at all times at issue.
2. This action arises from a taxiway incident involving a Pan American World Airways, Inc. DC-10 aircraft ("DC-10", or "Flight 219A" or "the Aircraft") and sanding vehicles operated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
3. The incident, which occurred on January 16, 1984 at Kennedy Airport, resulted in substantial damage to the Aircraft's No. 3 (right) engine and associated components, as well as to the hull of the DC-10.
4. The damage occurred when the Captain of Flight 219A, allegedly believing that Port Authority sanding vehicles were going to collide with the Aircraft, attempted to stop the DC-10. According to the Captain, snow and ice on the taxiway rendered the Aircraft's wheel brakes ineffective in stopping the Aircraft, and he elected to employ reverse thrust in an attempt to stop the Aircraft from sliding into the vehicles.
5. According to Pan Am, the Aircraft engine and hull were seriously damaged by the use of reverse thrust because of ice ingestion.
6. The Port Authority sanding vehicles never collided with the DC-10.
B. Weather and Airport Conditions
7. Flight 219A originated at Logan Airport, Boston, Massachusetts on the morning of January 16, 1984 and landed at JFK at 8:58 AM EDT.
8. Weather at the time of the incident was reported to be: cieling 2500 feet broken, visibility 8 miles, temperature 17 degrees F, with winds from the north at 8 knots.
9. Kennedy Airport had experienced snow and freezing temperatures during the previous week. As was reported in aviation weather reports and a Notice to Airmen ("NOTAM") in effect on January 16, 1984, all taxiways and ramps at JFK had a thin coating of ice over compacted snow and ice.
10. The flight crew of the Aircraft received the NOTAM and was aware of the conditions at the airport.
11. As previously stated, the flight crew of Flight 219A consisted of Captain Stephen D. Bellows, First Officer John K. Piper, and Flight Engineer Oscar J. Hill.
12. Captain Bellows was seated in the cockpit's left front seat at the time of the incident.
13. Captain Bellows was familiar with aircraft operating and radio communication procedures at JFK. He had operated aircraft at that airport on numerous occasions, and he had operated on the airport many times previously when ...