Aircraft in Peace and the Law


THIS is a useful attempt to put before the public the main issues of international law relating to the air. In every new development of modern invention, law-making authorities are faced with the difficult task of applying old principles to developments not contemplated when those principles were formulated, and with such a revolutionary departure as the modern aircraft there is a grave risk of deception by a false analogy. The British method has been to apply as far as possible the principles of the Merchant Shipping Acts to aircraft. The idea is lacking in boldness and imagination, for there is little parallel between the two forms of navigation in relation either to the problems of the navigators themselves, or to the rights and liabilities of the public at large. Generally speaking, however, a wise caution has been exercised by those who framed the International Convention. From another point of view the fundamental issue in aerial navigation is the sovereignty of the air, and on this England reserved her opinion. Continental Powers, without exception, clearly realising the serious military problems before them if all comers were allowed unrestricted flight above their territories, maintained in full their dominion in the air above their lands and territorial waters. England, on the other hand, had a different problem to face. No aerial highway of any importance crosses her frontiers in any part of the world, but nearly all the aerial routes which link up her scattered dominions do almost invariably cross the territories of other nations; she ought, therefore, her aerial experts maintained, to hold out for free flight.

Aircraft in Peace and the Law.

By Dr. J. M. Spaight. Pp. viii + 233. (London: Macmillan and Co., Ltd., 1919.) Price 8s. 6d. net.


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F., W. Aircraft in Peace and the Law . Nature 105, 483 (1920).

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