A Federal Aviation Administration employe who was passed over for promotion was given a new day in court yesterday by a federal appeals panel that said she demonstrated a prima facie case of reverse discrimination.

The ruling by a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond reversed a ruling by U.S. District Judge Claude M. Hilton of Alexandria, who dismissed the complaint brought by Julia A. Lucas.

Lucas, who is white, had sought a promotion at the FAA's Leesburg Flight Service Station; the job went to a black woman.

Lucas contended, among other things, that the woman who was promoted lacked one of the job requirements; that Lucas' answers in a subjective interview were detailed and job-specific while those of the successful applicant were general, and that the woman who was promoted had received a temporary assignment that was not advertised in the usual way.

A prima facie showing of discrimination requires that the complainant be a member of a protected group, be qualified for the opening, be unsuccessful in getting the job and that the job remain vacant, the panel said.

Lucas met the first three tests, the panel said. But she had to produce other evidence that race was a factor in the promotion because the job was filled, the panel said. She met that requirement by showing higher qualifications, questionable use of subjective interviewing and irregular acts of favoritism to the woman who was promoted, the panel said.