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Aircraft legislation and applicable law

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Aircraft legislation and applicable law

Old 8th Apr 2021, 09:16
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Aircraft legislation and applicable law

Being one of the lucky guys out there still flying on a regular basis to different countries, I was recently confronted with an awkward situation.

What law is applicable inside the aircraft once on the ground, doors open? Recently we opened doors in a certain country and a person eventually walked in without wearing a mask. The reply was "in this country we don't have such a law". I did remind the guy that the aircraft was not registered in his country, so in theory, the laws of his country don't apply anymore, it's the registration that counts, he has to adapt. I'm usually a friendly solution finder, and after a little chat he went out and looked for a mask without further problems.

Then I suddenly realised we are flying aircraft registered in different countries. Which raised the question: if something would happen, what laws are applicable? The laws of the AOC, or the laws of the country of registration? Which lead me to conclude... my ATPL theory days are long gone...
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Old 8th Apr 2021, 09:43
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My theory days gone too but I think you were right to take your diplomatic stance and I think it is the laws of the registered country that applies. A bit like a foreign embassy. Depends how big & ugly the border was too.
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Old 8th Apr 2021, 10:01
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The reply was "in this country we don't have such a law". I did remind the guy that the aircraft was not registered in his country, so in theory, the laws of his country don't apply anymore, it's the registration that counts, he has to adapt.
The argument is completely moot. When that person bought the flight ticket, they agreed to terms of carriage of your airline, which most likely includes a clause that the passenger will obey instructions from the crew, particularly those related to safety of the aircraft and its occupants. Should they fail to do so, you have a very good case for denying them further travel. Aircraft current location and country of registration don't make any difference.

Glad you got it sorted out in a friendly manner, though.
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Old 8th Apr 2021, 10:24
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Once you're inside another country's territory, be it on the ground or in their airspace, that country's laws are applicable. The fact that the aircraft carries your homecountry's registration doesn't matter a lot in this respect, that only really starts to become important once you're in international airspace. The point made by FlyingStone is more important here, the conditions of carriage as laid down by your airline can be applied to this situation. If he had not complied, you would also have had a reason to remove him as he was not willing to follow the crew's instructions. Also, once you had left the airspace of that particular country, their laws would no longer apply and the passenger would then have had to follow the laws from the state of registration.

Edited to add: The Tokyo Convention (1963) might be of interest here, but that was put in place to deal with situations where a conflict between various laws would exist, when the location and therefore the applicability of a state's laws would be unclear or for situations in international airspace. If there is no uncertainty about the jurisdiction, there is no need to use that convention.

Last edited by Jhieminga; 8th Apr 2021 at 10:42. Reason: added info
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Old 8th Apr 2021, 10:51
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I may be wrong, but the OP's description doesn't sound like it was a passenger.
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Old 8th Apr 2021, 10:51
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I think that the Tokyo convention was put in place so that, if a crime is committed on board you don't have to land to have it dealt with. You can have it dealt with on arrival, without a lack of jurisdiction complaint. i.e. I committed this crime over France - you have to try me in a French court for it, your UK court doesn't have jurisdiction! Well, if the aircraft is UK registered, the UK court does have jurisdiction.
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Old 8th Apr 2021, 11:02
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That is one of the convention's purposes, but there are more, such as the problem of travelling across various borders while a crime is committed.

If the person who came on board was not a passenger, then the situation is somewhat different. As I mentioned, the local laws in the state where you were parked at the time apply so he may have been within his rights to refrain from wearing a mask. I'm guessing here, but situations such as these can most likely only be sorted out if your airline has agreements in place between them and the handling agency and airport at that location. In the interest of avoiding further infections etc. the company can stipulate that all persons who have to enter the aircraft while parked wear masks, but this needs to be agreed between the companies involved. The argument that the state of registration's laws apply can't help you I'm afraid. If that were the case, you could park your aircraft on the airport in say Dubai and do all sorts of things inside that aircraft that Dubai's laws don't permit. Do not expect a local judge to accept that argument!
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Old 8th Apr 2021, 11:08
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You are right, the person was not a passenger.
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Old 8th Apr 2021, 11:43
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Under the Tokyo Convention the powers of the aircraft commander are not recognised until all the external aircraft doors are closed following embarkation.
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Old 8th Apr 2021, 12:42
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That puts me in mind of a situation I was involved in in the early 1980s when I was FEO.
It seems that we had a bad guy on board wanted by the Oz Commonwealth. The Commonwealth Police with a high powered lawyer came up the the flight deck just prior to start to tell us about their problem. My first reaction was, what problem? We're still parked here in Oz, just cuff him and off you go. The lawyer said that no, not so simple coz he has legally departed from Oz, we're not sure of our powers and we want this pinch to be totally legitimate.
They then assured our Cpt that it is unarguable that he has assumed command when all doors are closed and he has issued his first lawful command. They provided a script which we, the crew, followed.
The boss said "Before Start Checklist" which we ran and completed than he said, to me, "Start 4". When I selected ground start and had a positive rotation he then said "Discontinue the start" which I did. Next he ordered the Comm Police to remove pax (name) form the aircraft which they proceeded to do after assuring us that we were fireproof and this guy had no legitimate complaint about his arrest and me to instruct the FSD to reopen door 1L. The boss filed a company report for the courts.
Certainly something different that day as we headed for SIN.
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Old 8th Apr 2021, 12:44
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If this was a member of the handling agent's staff, there may be something in their Contract with your airline that sets out codes of conduct, behaviour, standards, working on (or about) the aeroplane in accordance with the rules and laws of the state of registry, AOC, airworthiness certificate state of issue etc.
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Old 8th Apr 2021, 12:50
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In my opinion the local laws of the country where an aircraft is parked apply.
The state of registration of the aircraft only really becomes relevant once the flight has departed, if at all.
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Old 8th Apr 2021, 15:34
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From my experience in Germany reading many LBA manuals and ANO's as far as i'm aware, when the doors are closed the law of the land goes down to registration of the aircraft but that's is only for the occupants of that said aircraft (effectively a seal), once doors are open you must adhere to the law of the state to which you have landed.

A/C is on ground in ALC
D- registered, German law will apply when doors are closed & A/C is sealed
when doors are open Spanish laws are then enforced.

as for the situation you encountered if it is not the state law then you have no legal right to exercise, however the commander does have overall say who can be onboard the aircraft, I think what was lacking was a little respect, with current events as they are the person could have simply put a mask on during their time onboard.
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Old 8th Apr 2021, 23:26
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Surely the applicable laws would be moot in this case. Like any premises, it might be expected to impose rules to be followed by its clientele which may be more restrictive, but not less restrictive, than the laws of the governing jurisdiction. "Don't make a noise in my library"; "don't wear shoes in my mosque"; "you must wear a mask in my aircraft".

Follow my rules or you're not coming in.
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Old 9th Apr 2021, 15:24
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This ICAO document provides a good overview of both the Tokyo Convention and the Montreal Protocol and its purposes: https://www.icao.int/MID/Documents/R...c%2010117).pdf
In para 2.4.2. the definition of 'in flight' for the purposes of both Tokyo and Montreal is provided. Note that neither convention/protocol excludes any criminal jurisdication exercised in accordance with national law. I think that you can translate that as: any offences that take place on the ground in a third country can be dealt with by the national laws of that state, but Tokyo/Montreal allows the state of registration to assume jurisdiction over the situation and prosecute accordingly. Montreal adds the option for the state of landing to do this.

Under these conventions, the Captain has some additional authority to deal with unruly behaviour and such, but this does not (fully) extend to the situation as described above, that of a (I presume) ground handler or similar entering the aircraft while on the ground in another state than the home state.
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