Lessons in Air Races from Star Wars Resistance

Star Wars Resistance does a wonderful job honoring the flying spirit of air races and test pilots, with homages to Chuck Yeager, “Pancho” Barnes, the Happy Bottom Riding Club, Fireball XL5, and classic anime such as Starblazers, Robotech, and Area 88. It is also pure Star Wars fun.

Star Wars Resistance takes place on the Colossus, a fuel super tanker that functions as a city-state island on the ocean planet Castilon. The Colossus exists to support an economy built upon air races and gambling.

Air racing is a highly regulated activity on Earth. In the United States air races are governed by FAA regulations and local laws. Examples of local regulations include special events requiring use of the airport for air shows, air races, fly-ins, sky diving, require the approval of the Airport Manager and compliance with all FAA regulations. Carson City, Nevada Code of Ordinances Sec. 19.02.020.040. Permits can also be required for events with more than ten aircraft or thirty people. Buckeye, Arizona Code of Ordinances Section 22-1-5.

The procedures for applying for an air race are outlined in FAA Order 8900.1 and directs applicants to use FAA Form 7711-2, Application for a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization. The Accreditation Process outlined in FAA Order 8900.1 includes the following multiple steps:

Pre-application

Formal Application

Document Compliance

Demonstration and Inspection

Accreditation

The required documents for the application include at least the following:

1) Management résumés.

2) Operation manual.

3) General Maintenance Manual (GMM) (as applicable).

4) Aircraft qualification.

5) Minimum pilot qualifications and experience.

6) Pilot qualification (air race card) training program.

7) Air race security plan.

8) Safety operating rules and procedures which include Safety Management Systems (SMS) and/or risk management practices.

9) All air racecourses proposed.

10) Airport analysts and feasibility/airport requirements.

11) Race format and description.

12) Race control procedures.

13) Onsite surveillance plan for validation.

14) Emergency response plan in accordance with Volume 3, Chapter 6, Section 1, subparagraphs 3143A18) and H) and 3144A1), B1), C12).

15) Event management plan, in accordance with Volume 3, Chapter 6, Section 1, subparagraph 3144B1).

There is no question watching a Rodian, Ithorian, and Snivvian, prepare operation manuals and emergency response plans for a closed course air race would be tons of fun, however, it is highly unlikely we will see that in Star Wars Resistance

Can Kaz Recover Damages if Injured in the Fireball? 

Air racing is an inherently dangerous activity. The Resistance pilot and spy Kaz inadvertently found himself in a race within one day or arriving on the Colussus. Pilots who are injured in air races have an extremely difficult time recovering any damages because of the doctrine of primary assumption of risk. The issue for Kaz is whether he assumed the inherent risks of air racing based on his “knowledge and experience” as a pilot. Goodlett v. Kalishek, 223 F.3d 32, 37 (2d Cir. 2000).

In a decision denying a surviving family member’s case for the death of a pilot in an air race, the Court explained that in that lawsuit, “[t]he risk of a fatal crash, whether as a result of a midair collision or some other cause, plainly inheres in one’s participation in this sport, as is evidenced by the fact that there had been several accidents in previous air races that resulted in death or serious injury to pilots and the fact that the sponsoring Association explicitly warns pilots that there is a risk of midair collisions (and that such collisions “usually” result in the deaths of both pilots).” Goodlett, at *37-38.

Kaz flew a plane named the Fireball, which required extensive repairs in order to be flight ready. Moreover, the former pilot turned mechanic Yeager warned Kaz that the Fireball could live up to its name. Kaz had actual knowledge of the risks of flying based on his military experience; knowledge of the second-hand parts used to repair the Fireball; and was told by Yeager not to push the engines in order to avoid an explosion. Based on Kaz’s knowledge of the Fireball and experience as a fighter pilot, the doctrine of primary assumption of risk would bar Kaz from recovering for any injuries he sustained in racing the Fireball around the Colossus.

However, nothing would blow a spy’s cover like a lawsuit…