Smith, Gambrell & Russell, LLP’s Transportation Practice serves clients across all major industry sectors, including aviation, railroad, automobile manufacturing and trucking. We have represented trucking companies, bus lines and air carriers before both federal and state regulatory agencies. Our experience in common carrier representation includes general corporate work, securities matters, antitrust, taxation (federal state, and local), labor and mergers and acquisitions, as well as extensive regulatory activity.

Air Transport Law

Since the 1920s, Smith, Gambrell & Russell has been renowned for our specialty in aviation law. Our firm represented Eastern Airlines from its inception in 1927 until the merger with Texas Air Corporation in 1986. Over time, we have expanded our aviation representation to include lessors, financiers, aircraft owners and other airlines in their domestic and international aircraft transactions. We advise on direct purchases, sales and sale and leasebacks with a range of debt financing, leveraged and operating leases.

We currently represent, among others, Mesa Airlines, Avianca, Skybus, SAM, Frontier Airlines, VARIGLOG, Aires, vivaAeroBus, OceanAir, VIPSA, and Wayraperú in aircraft acquisition and financing transactions. Past airline clients have included Continental Airlines and Western Pacific Airlines in equipment financing transactions, Meridiana SpA in aircraft acquisition transactions, and Trans World Airlines in financing, restructuring and a prepackaged Chapter 11 reorganization case. In addition, we represent several manufacturers of specialized aircraft and aircraft parts, including Goodrich Corporation, and we formerly served one of the largest worldwide independent overhaulers of aircraft engines.

We also regularly represent major aircraft lessors and financiers of various types of flight equipment. Clients have included Bank of America, CIT Group, RPK Capital Management, Caterpillar Financial Services, Aerglobe Management Group, and TransAtlantic Aviation in connection with the acquisition, disposition, financing and leasing of various aircraft.

Railroad Industry

We serve major railroads on high-profile transactional, litigation and regulatory matters. Select examples of our attorneys’ transactional work include:

  • Acting as lead counsel for a class 1 railroad in connection with the $380 million acquisition of three railroads and a vessel transportation company.
  • Representing Canada’s largest freight railroad and intermodal transportation provider in the purchase of a railroad operating in the Chicago suburbs.
  • Representing a major North American railroad company in its $40 million acquisition of a Michigan-based short-line railroad operator.

Examples of litigation victories include:

  • Achieving summary judgment on all counts as lead defense counsel for Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway in an antitrust case involving allegations of tying, violations of the essential facilities doctrine, attempted monopolization, vertical foreclosure, coerced reciprocity and price fixing. The result was affirmed in the Ninth Circuit.
  • Successfully representing one of the largest American railway companies in an arbitration before the National Grain and Feed Association in a breach of contract dispute with a shipper.

Moreover, our firm has long served clients in the specialized area of real estate legal services for railroads. For example, we currently provide comprehensive real estate law representation to Norfolk Southern Railroad and its subsidiaries, including the Georgia Southern and Florida Railway. This work comprises large-scale real estate development, mixed use development, land use, permitting, zoning and environmental matters. We also promote the interests of our railroad clients in state legislatures.

Automobile and Bus Manufacturing

When a major Korean automobile manufacturer was considering Georgia as the location for its new assembly plant, the State of Georgia and various local governments promised a substantial package of incentives, including property tax abatements, to lure the company to the Peach State. The client ultimately chose Georgia and engaged our firm to make the promised tax abatements a reality. We worked with the local governments and the local development authority to put in place a $1.1 billion bond issue structured to provide the client with the property tax benefits. Since that initial transaction, our relationship has broadened to include ongoing representation and advice in a wide range of areas, including general corporate matters, incentives, immigration, tax, real estate, construction, customs, financing, labor and employment, intellectual property and government regulatory matters.

We have also represented Blue Bird Corporation, the nation’s largest school bus manufacturer, for 40 years. Matters have pertained to antitrust, products liability and environmental and regulatory issues. Given the nature of the passengers, school bus transportation is heavily regulated—through our work for Blue Bird we have gained considerable experience in regulations administered by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and investigations overseen by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).


We have extensive experience representing publicly held truckload and specialized common carriers in securities law matters, compliance issues, public offerings, private placements, general corporate law, selective regulatory matters and mergers and acquisitions.

Homeland Security and Government Affairs

Our attorneys draw on their experience working with federal government officials, including those at the Departments of Homeland Security and Transportation, to assist our clients with a wide array of homeland security and governmental affairs services. Additionally, we provide regulatory advocacy services for proposed regulations and compliance assistance on existing regulations that affect our clients. We have also assisted with preparing clients for testimony before the U.S. Congress.

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