The Diplomacy of Air Transport

GOVERNMENTS have always shown special concern over the means of transportation and communication at their disposal. This is particularly true of nations that regard themselves as World Powers. Such states can assure their national and imperial unity, their economic progress and their military power only if they possess reliable and speedy methods of transportation and communication. For this reason highways, railroads, shipping, cables and radio are the objects of special solicitude, regulation and protection, even by governments which in other ways practice a high degree of laissez-faire toward the economic life of their countries. Air transport is no exception to this rule. Indeed, since aircraft have become one of the most powerful weapons in war, air transport is governed much more by political and military criteria than, for instance, are railroads and cables. Air transport is an instrument of national policy.

This being the case, what rules and policies have nations adopted to control the establishment and operation of international air lines? Does, for instance, commerce in the air possess the same legal rights as commerce on the sea, or do special rules prevail for aërial navigation? And what have been the practical consequences of the legal principles that have come to govern international air commerce? These are questions which have arisen only in the last few decades. Yet, though in some respects the law and usage of the air have not been clearly defined, certain broad legal principles can now be regarded as well fixed.

These principles may be stated as follows: (1) Each state has complete jurisdiction over the air space above its territory, including territorial waters. (2) Each state has complete discretion as to the admission of any aircraft to the air space under its jurisdiction. (3) The air space over the high seas, and over other parts of the earth's surface not subject to any state's jurisdiction, is free to the aircraft of all states. As one can readily see, these principles mean in effect that international air commerce

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