On 24-25 May, Carneys Aviation Specialist Bradley Hayward attended the Manfred Lachs Conference on the Regulation of Emerging Modes of Aerospace Transportation (REMAT) in Montreal, Canada. The conference was jointly hosted by the McGill University Institute of Air and Space Law and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The conference was a forum for the discussion of matters affecting the regulation of new types of aerospace vehicles which have the ability to operate more-or-less seamlessly in airspace as well as in outer space. The recently unveiled spacecraft by Virgin Galactic, headed by Sir Richard Branson, is an example of such a vehicle.
The topics that were discussed during the conference included:
- Personnel licensing;
- Certification of aerodromes (or should it be ‘spaceports’?);
- Airworthiness and Space worthiness of the vehicles; and
- Aspects of air/space traffic control.
Brad presented a paper, Space Flight Rules: Rules of the Air for an Unlimited Sky,which discussed the legal & regulatory issues arising from the application of the current ‘Rules of the Air’ to space travel.
Article 12 of the Convention on International Civil Aviation allows the ICAO to make international standards as to the rules of the air which apply to ‘aircraft’, and does not specify the altitude at which the Rules will cease to apply. As it currently stands, an aircraft flying in outer space appears to be regulated under the Rules of the Air, despite its extreme altitude.
Operations in outer space are quite different to those in airspace, and so may require a different set of rules. It is proposed, then, that a new set of flight rules be introduced, to operate alongside the current sets of ‘Visual Flight Rules’ and ‘Instrument Flight Rules’, perhaps called the ‘Space Flight Rules’. The Space Flight Rules could be used by aircraft destined for outer space, and would contain rules appropriate to the level, or ‘layer’, of outer space in which the aircraft operates. This ‘layered’ approach to the Space Flight Rules would allow nuanced rules to develop, appropriate to the special circumstances of operations in each layer. The first layers to be developed should be rules for application to the aircraft whilst it is in airspace, and then another layer for application in suborbital space.
The content of any rules for such operations will take some time, perhaps decades, to develop, but it was argued that the development of those rules should be considered as being within the jurisdiction of the ICAO.
All presentations made at the conference, including Brad’s presentation on Space Flight Rules, are available from the conference website at http://www.icao.int/Meetings/REMAT/Pages/default.aspx.