Overview

Gary Halbert is a partner in Holland & Knight's New York Litigation Practice Group, practicing out of the firm's Washington, D.C. office. Mr. Halbert is a former U.S. Air Force instructor pilot, military attorney and crisis communications director, and more recently, the General Counsel to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). His practice areas include supporting a variety of transportation clients in aviation accident litigation, transportation mass-disaster litigation, transportation accident claims, NTSB accident investigations, regulatory matters for aviation and other transportation modes, claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act, and other product and professional services liability matters. Since joining Holland & Knight, Mr. Halbert has assisted airlines, other operators, and manufacturers in more than two dozen U.S. and foreign accident investigations.

Immediately prior to entering private practice, Mr. Halbert served as the General Counsel to the National Transportation Safety Board, acting as the senior legal advisor to the Chairman of the Board and overseeing the provision of legal services to the agency. His office provided legal support for accident investigations in all modes of transportation, procurement and leasing activity, fiscal law matters, and the agency’s human resources function, and oversaw the board’s review on appeal of enforcement proceedings undertaken by aviation and marine regulatory agencies. Mr. Halbert also supervised the NTSB’s administrative and civil litigation, legislative drafting and ethics programs. He drafted two of the agency's reauthorization requests to Congress.

Mr. Halbert joined the NTSB after retiring in the grade of Colonel from the United States Air Force, where his diverse operational and staff assignments included service as a military instructor pilot in jet aircraft, commander of student classes going through pilot training, executive officer to a wing commander, and as a judge advocate in progressively responsible positions. His military legal assignments embraced both civil and criminal law functions, including installation claims officer, hospital attorney and criminal prosecution roles. Mr. Halbert handled Federal Tort Claims Act claims for alleged medical malpractice of almost $120 million during his time as legal counsel for a large military hospital, and in a subsequent senior counsel role, devised a strategy that achieved completion of an $18 million military family housing project at no additional cost to the Air Force, after the prime contractor defaulted. Mr. Halbert served as the senior legal officer at two installations, including one of the Air Force’s larger bases, and supervised 14 legal offices with 180 attorneys and staff for an overseas command responsible for 21 installations in seven European countries. At Air Force headquarters in the Pentagon, he oversaw the Air Force Judge Advocate General’s attorney assignments and human resources division for an attorney workforce of over 1,300 attorneys. He also served as the Executive Officer to the Judge Advocate General. In his final Air Force assignment, he served as the director of the Air Force’s strategic and crisis communications office.

Mr. Halbert has accumulated approximately 1,500 flight hours in military jet aircraft, single engine general aviation aircraft and sailplanes.

He is a frequent speaker on interacting with the NTSB investigation process following a major transportation accident, whether it’s an aviation, railroad, pipeline, hazardous materials, marine or highway accident. He is an expert on the NTSB statutory and regulatory structure and investigative process, having supported every major investigation undertaken by the NTSB over his five-year tenure as General Counsel.

Representative Experience

  • Lead counsel for the business aircraft manufacturer in multiple alleged product liability wrongful death lawsuits in multiple federal and state court jurisdictions arising out of a fatal aircraft accident in the United States with $500 million at risk. Successful challenges to personal jurisdiction and invocation of statute of repose led to favorable settlements.
  • Lead counsel for the business aircraft manufacturer in multiple alleged product liability wrongful death lawsuits in multiple state court jurisdictions arising out of a fatal aircraft accident in Europe with $15-20 million at risk. Successful challenges to personal jurisdiction and invocation of state statute of repose led to dismissal.
  • Lead counsel for the business aircraft manufacturer in an alleged product liability hull loss lawsuit arising out of a fatal aircraft accident in Africa with $9 million at risk. Successful challenges to warranty claims, use of Uniform Commercial Code defenses and invocation of federal statute of repose led to dismissal.
  • Co-counsel for an airline in a federal lawsuit alleging the airline negligently caused a passenger’s heart attack and emotional distress arising out of a seat assignment dispute with $1 million at risk. A successful motion to dismiss invoking federal preemption, among other arguments, led to dismissal with no appeal.
  • Lead counsel for an airline in a state court lawsuit alleging negligent infliction of emotional distress through negligent operation of an aircraft leading to a fatal accident and property damage on the ground with $3 million at risk. Successful elimination of certain counts and motion challenges under state law regarding zone of danger liability led to favorable settlements.
  • Lead counsel for a former corporate owner of an aircraft in a state court lawsuit alleging toxic tort injury and alleged product liability for injury to a pilot of an aerial survey aircraft with $1-2 million at risk. The case was voluntarily dismissed against Holland & Knight’s client in the face of a motion to dismiss on federal statute of repose grounds.
  • Lead counsel for the military aircraft manufacturer in an alleged product liability wrongful death lawsuit in state court jurisdiction arising out of a fatal aircraft accident in the Indian Ocean with $8 million at risk. Successful challenges under the military contractor defense, among other defenses, led to a favorable settlement.

  • For a Part 121 airline in an accident investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) following a non-fatal landing accident
  • For a cargo handler in an accident investigation by the NTSB following a fatal Part 121 aircraft accident
  • For a manufacturer in a U.S. Marine Corps safety investigation and accident investigation following a fighter aircraft non-fatal accident
  • For a Part 121 airline in a criminal investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) into an aircraft theft from maintenance parking
  • For a manufacturer in a U.S. Navy unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) safety investigation and accident investigation following a UAV accident
  • For a manufacturer in a U.S. Air Force UAV safety investigation and accident investigation following a UAV accident
  • For an aircraft component manufacturer in an accident investigation by a foreign accident investigation authority under International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Annex 13 following a non-fatal aircraft accident over the Indian Ocean
  • For a manufacturer in a U.S. Air Force UAV safety investigation and accident investigation following a UAV accident.
  • For a Part 121 airline in an incident investigation by the NTSB following a taxiway landing
  • For a Part 121 airline in an incident investigation by the NTSB following a taxiway overflight event
  • For a Part 121 airline in an incident investigation by the NTSB following an inflight terrain clearance alert
  • For a Part 121 airline in an incident investigation by the NTSB following an inflight turbulence event
  • For a Part 121 airline in an accident investigation by the NTSB including an NTSB public hearing following a non-fatal aircraft accident
  • For an aircraft component manufacturer in an accident investigation by a foreign accident investigation authority under ICAO Annex 13 following a fatal aircraft accident in Sweden
  • For a Part 121 airline in an incident investigation by a foreign aviation investigation authority under ICAO Annex 13 following a non-fatal aircraft incident in the United Kingdom
  • For a Part 121 airline in an accident investigation by a foreign accident investigation authority under ICAO Annex 13 following a non-fatal aircraft accident in South Korea
  • For a business jet manufacturer in an accident investigation by a foreign accident investigation authority under ICAO Annex 13 following a fatal aircraft accident in Africa
  • For a business jet manufacturer in an accident investigation by a foreign accident investigation authority under ICAO Annex 13 following a fatal aircraft accident in Europe
  • For a Part 121 airline in an incident investigation by the NTSB following a prolonged, non-fatal turbulence event
  • For a maintenance, repair and overhaul facility in a criminal investigation by the U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General and FBI into the sale of stolen and misrepresented (unapproved) aviation components
  • For a Part 91 government services contract operator in an accident investigation by the NTSB following a fatal midair accident
  • For a space plane manufacturer in an accident investigation by the NTSB following a fatal flight test accident
  • For a Part 121 airline in a criminal investigation by the FBI into an attempted aircraft theft during overnight parking
  • For a Part 121 airline in an accident investigation by the NTSB following a non-fatal aircraft accident
  • For an airport in an accident investigation by the NTSB including an NTSB public hearing following a fatal aircraft accident
  • For a Part 121 airline in an accident investigation by the NTSB including an NTSB public hearing following a fatal aircraft accident
  • For a Part 121 airline in an accident investigation by the NTSB following a non-fatal aircraft accident
  • For a Part 135 air tour helicopter operator in an accident investigation by the NTSB following a fatal helicopter accident
  • For a Part 135 air ambulance helicopter operator in an accident investigation by the NTSB following a fatal helicopter accident
  • For a Part 121 airline in an accident investigation by a foreign accident investigation authority under ICAO Annex 13 following a fatal aircraft accident
  • For a business jet manufacturer in an accident investigation by the NTSB following a non-fatal production flight test accident
  • For a business jet manufacturer in an accident investigation by the NTSB following a fatal flight test accident
  • For a private vessel owner in a marine casualty investigation by the NTSB and U.S. Coast Guard following a dock-side fire and total hull loss
  • For the maritime operator in a marine casualty investigation by the NTSB and U.S. Coast Guard following a fatal accident
  • For a pipeline operator in an investigation by the NTSB following a fatal pipeline release

Credentials

Education
  • The University of Texas School of Law, J.D., with honors
  • United States Air Force Academy, B.S., with distinction
  • National Defense University, M.S., with distinction
Bar Admissions/Licenses
  • District of Columbia
  • Virginia
  • Texas
Court Admissions
  • U.S. Supreme Court
  • U.S. Federal Courts
  • All State Courts in Texas
  • All Courts in the District of Columbia
Memberships
  • American Bar Association
  • American Bar Association, Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section, Aviation and Space Law Committee, Vice Chair
  • Federal Bar Association
  • Order of Daedalians
  • Administrative Law Review Advisory Board
  • Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC) Bar Association
  • International Air & Transportation Safety Bar Association (formerly the National Transportation Safety Board Bar Association), Past President
  • Air Force Association
  • United States Air Force Academy Association of Graduates
  • Aero Club of Washington
  • Air Force JAG School Foundation, former Board of Trustees Member
  • Royal Air Force Museum, American Foundation, Board of Directors
Honors & Awards
  • Holland & Knight Pro Bono All-Star, 2020
  • Outstanding Services Award, American Bar Association Military Pro Bono Project, 2018
  • Holland & Knight Public and Charitable Service All-Star Award, 2017
  • The Best of the Best USA, Aviation, Legal Media Group's Expert Guides, 2017
  • Guide to the World’s Leading Aviation Lawyers, Legal Media Group’s Expert Guides, 2014-2020
  • Chambers USA - America's Leading Business Lawyers guide, Transportation: Aviation: Litigation, 2017-2021
  • Who's Who Legal: Transport, Aviation Contentious, 2015-2021
  • The Legal 500 USA, Transport: Aviation and Air Travel - Litigation and Regulation, 2020, 2021
  • The Legal 500 USA, Industry Focus - Transport - Aviation and Air Travel, 2017
  • The Legal 500 USA, Dispute Resolution: Product Liability, Mass Tort and Class Action - Aerospace/Aviation, 2016
  • Order of the Coif

Publications

Speaking Engagements

News