Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

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Bob Ferguson

AGO 1951 No. 196 - Dec 20 1951
Attorney General Smith Troy

POWER OF STATE AERONAUTICS COMMISSION TO EXPEND MONEY FOR GASOLINE AND OIL USED BY DESIGNATED AIRCRAFT OWNERS WHILE CONDUCTING AERIAL SEARCH AND RESCUE OPERATIONS AT THE REQUEST OF THE COMMISSION.

State Aeronautics Commission has power to expend money for air search and rescue operations.

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                                                               December 20, 1951

Honorable Charles Chester, Director
Washington State Aeronautics Commission
3132 Arcade Building
Seattle 1, Washington                                                                                                 Cite as:  AGO 51-53 No. 196

Dear Sir:

            This is to acknowledge your recent letter requesting our opinion as to whether the State Aeronautics Commission is empowered to expend money for gasoline and oil used by designated aircraft owners when they are conducting aerial search and rescue operations at the request of the commission.

            Our conclusion is that the Aeronautics Commission may properly expend money for such aerial searches and rescue operations.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            The Aeronautics Commission was created by chapter 165, Laws of 1947 (Rem. Supp. 1947, secs. 10964-81 to 10964-114).  The purposes of this act are declared in section 2 in the following language quoted in part:

            "It is hereby declared that the purpose of this act is to further the public interest and aeronautical progress by providing for the protection and promotion of safety in aeronautics * * *"

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            In respect to the powers of the commission it is authorized by section 7 to "* * * have general supervision over aeronautics within this state."

            In section 21 it is provided in part as follows:

            "The Commission may perform such acts, issue and amend such orders, make, promulgate, and amend such reasonable general rules, regulations and procedures, and establish such minimum standards, consistent with the provisions of this act, as it shall deem necessary to perform its duties hereunder; all commensurate with and for the purpose of protecting and insuring the general public interest and safety, the safety of persons operating, using or traveling in aircraft or persons receiving instruction in flying or ground subjects pertaining to aeronautics, and the safety of persons and property on land or water, and developing and promoting aeronautics in this state."

            We feel the above provisions indicate that the commission is intended, and empowered, to do whatever is reasonably necessary to promote the safety of persons using the airways of the state.  Although the statutes do not expressly provide for air search and rescue operations, it, nevertheless, appears to us that this type of activity is in the public interest, and is one means of providing for the protection and promotion of the safety of aeronautics, as declared in section 2 of the act.

            In section 21, quoted in part above, the commission is empowered to adopt rules and regulations for the safety of persons operating, using, or traveling in aircraft.  The commission is further empowered to adopt rules relative to the safety of persons on land and water.  This section gives the commission broad rule making powers, and accordingly, should receive a liberal interpretation.  We think, therefore, that it would be within the scope of the commission's rule making power to adopt appropriate rules or regulations pertaining to air search and rescue operations.  It appears to us that air search and rescue operations are a valuable and practical means of providing for the safety of persons operating, using, or traveling in aircraft.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            Accordingly, you are advised that in our opinion the commission has power to expend money for air search and rescue operations.

Very truly yours,

SMITH TROY
Attorney General