Category: Shahram Shirkhani

Drone operators facing consequences for not obeying aviation laws

Drone operators facing consequences for not obeying aviation laws

Drones, also known as unmanned aircraft vehicle (UAV), have to follow rules just like any other aircraft. They actually go by a set of regulations designed specifically for UAVs flown for recreational and sport purposes. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and some state-level regulations are put in place to limit the use of UAVs and in some states even to prohibit its use altogether. There have been documented cases where drone operators demonstrate reckless behavior and put at risk the safety or violate privacy regulations from the FAA’s perspective. But what happens when the drone operators are more interested in the footage they are getting off their camera, than the flight itself? This is why growing concerns have led authorities to implement and enforce the regulations and laws regarding UAVs, including its registration, fly zones and activities. It is far from being strictly regulated nationwide, but this has brought to the attention of most the gaps in the current laws and regulations, due to the novelty of it all.

Hollywood faces privacy issues and this might just help celebrities

In California, the law enforcement has had to arrest drone operators for flying over prohibited publicly-owned spaces like public beaches and adjoining open spaces such as piers, golf courses, parking lots and even pools. That’s not all. The law also states that horse paths and hiking trails are also protected. This will actually benefit many Hollywood stars that own properties in these areas and will be able to enjoy their privacy without concerns of drone paparazzi barging in on them.

Showing reckless behavior in New York City

In New York, there have been cases of people flying their drones outside of the allowed areas to do so. In one case there was even an arrest because someone flew a drone over the stadium where a U.S. Open match was going on at the moment. It ended up crashing into some of the empty stands, so luckily no spectators were injured, but that didn’t get him off the hook. The owner was still charged with “reckless endangerment, reckless operation of a drone and operating a drone in a New York City public park outside of a prescribed are for doing so”

Fourth of July adventures

There are tons of videos on YouTube of drone flights, and this is what is greatly concerning law enforcements because of some of the places where these drones are flying and what they are attempting to do. There is one in particular of a drone flying through fireworks that even led authorities to make a public announcement. Hobbyists don’t require permission to fly drones, but were urged to “obey the law” by the FAA.

Penalties for not registering your drone

As of December 2015, the FAA has notified that all drones that weigh .55 pounds or more have to be registered with the hopes of creating awareness in operators and a sense of accountability when it comes to how and where they are flying their drones. Not complying with this regulation will lead to civil fines of up to $27,500. Additionally, if found to be incurring in criminal activity with the drone, the penalties could go as high as $250,000 or even imprisonment.

Trying to reach new heights

In many parts of the country there have also been reports of fines and arrests for drones flying over the height limit of 500 feet above the ground. In case, in L.A. it is now also illegal to fly a drone within five miles of an airport without the required permissions or within 25 feet of another person. The violation of these regulations can have consequences of a fine of up to $1,000 or six months imprisonment, since it’s now considered a misdemeanor. An incident a couple of years ago, where a drone flew over the crowd coming out of the Stanley Cup when the Kings won would now be illegal for example, along with a number of other flights that were routinely occurring before the new laws were enforced.

An arrest with a twist

Now, we’ve seen all these cases that involve the arrest or fine of drone owner, what happens when the drone is the victim? In this case, a man in New Jersey in the attempt to defend his privacy shot down a neighbor’s drone. The man was charged with “possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose and criminal mischief”. But this certainly raises a lot of questions. Could this be considered self-defense, since the drone was flying in the air space of his private property? The new laws that develop as drones become part of everyday life are yet to be seen, but what is clear is that there has to be a way of regulating the up and coming generation of drone owners so that drone flight doesn’t generate any public disturbances, violates our basic privacy rights and abide by the necessary laws.


Excuse me, please bring me my nuts!

Excuse me, please bring me my nuts!

Flight Attendants, also called Cabin Crew, Hostess, Stewardess or Steward, Trolley Dolly, Cart Tart and even glorified waitresses, are highly under-appreciated by passengers. What they don’t know, is that they are not there to simply serve them and attend to their every whim; they are there required by FAA law to lookout for the safety and security of passengers and to ensure that everyone follows security regulations.

Among their many duties on board they are in charge of: attending preflight briefings on details of the flight such as weather conditions, evacuation procedures (they must be able to evacuate a full aircraft of unrehearsed people in 90 seconds or less!) and length of the flight; ensuring that adequate supplies of food, beverages and emergency equipment are on board and properly working; assisting in cleaning the cabin between flights; demonstrating the use of safety and emergency equipment; ensuring all passengers have seat-belts fastened, seats are locked in the upright position, and all carry-on items are properly stowed in accordance with federal law; serving and sometimes selling beverages, meals, or snacks; taking care of passengers’ needs, particularly those with special needs; reassuring passengers during flight, such as when the aircraft hits turbulence; administering first aid to passengers or coordinating first aid efforts, when needed; and directing passengers in case of emergency, dealing with unruly passengers, directing evacuations and sometimes even fighting fires.

Doesn’t sound like a waitress’ job description anymore, right? Flight attendants actually have great responsibility and that is without mentioning that they are the ones who have to face the passengers, answer questions and listen to complaints. And we haven’t even started on all the requirements they have to meet to actually get hired by an airline. Let’s take a look at this noble occupation through history.

The first name for this position was “steward” taken from maritime transport terminology. Their job description was the same as stewards in ships and trains. Heinrich Kubis was the world’s first flight attendant, in 1912, caring for passengers on board a Passenger Zeppelin LZ-10 airship called Schwaben; way before fixed-wing airliners were large enough to actually carry a steward.

In the 1920’s, Imperial Airways (UK) had cabin boys, but it wasn’t until 1926 that the US Stout Airways employed the first stewards to work on Ford Trimotor planes on flights between Detroit and Grand Rapids, Michigan. In 1928, Western Airlines and then Pan American World Airways, in I929, employed stewards to serve food.

Up until the 1930’s, this position was occupied by men. But then, United Airlines hired the first female flight attendant named Ellen Church, a 25 year old registered nurse. Most other airlines followed this example and started hiring women nurses to serve as stewardesses or air hostesses.

By 1936 women had taken over the job.  But it wasn’t an easy job to get; you had to be a single woman to be considered for the position. If while working on an airline you got married, you were fired. Women who were divorced or widowed were considered but only if they had no children.

However, despite having a proper nurse degree and marital status, there were also physical requirements you had to meet. The height and weight of each stewardess was fairly strict as well. A woman would have to weigh between 100-118 pounds and be between 5’ and 5’ 4” tall, she had to be within the ages of 20 and 26. In addition, she had to have 20/40 vision and not wear glasses.

Flight Attendant_aviation_law_shahram shirkhani
Image courtesy of momo at

These requirements have become more lenient over time.

Firstly, during WWII, nurses enlisted in the armed forces, so the “having to be a nurse” requirement had to be dropped and airlines opened the position for women in general. Then in 1968, the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) declared the age restrictions for the job to be Illegal sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The rule of only hiring women was lifted in 1971 and the marriage restriction was eradicated throughout the 80’s. Finally, in the 90’s, the weight restrictions were relaxed, although today, there are still height and weight restrictions due to safety reasons. An acceptable height for anyone working as a flight attendant (for most airlines) is between 4’11” to 6’1”. Overall, their weight must be proportional to their height.

Lastly, in the fall of 2003, Congress established a flight attendant certification requirement in the Vision 100-Century of Aviation Reauthorization Act. The Act requires that after December 11, 2004, no person may serve as a flight attendant aboard an aircraft of an air carrier unless that person holds a Certificate of Demonstrated Proficiency (certificate) issued by the FAA. This certificate shows that a level of required training (through their employer) has been met and has passed a proficiency check. It has two ratings, Group I and Group II. Either or both of these may be earned depending upon the general type of aircraft, propeller or turbojet, on which the holder has trained.

Nowadays, flight attendants are trained in emergency passenger evacuation management; use of evacuation slides/life rafts; in-flight firefighting; first aid; CPR; defibrillation; ditching/emergency landing procedures; decompression emergencies; crew resource management and security for specific types of aircraft and must take new training for each type of aircraft on which they are to work. And as a result of the incidents on September 11, 2001, all flight attendants are now trained in physical protection in the events of emergencies and to be offensive during attacks, rather than obeying hijackers’ commands.

So, hopefully the next time you are on board a plane and feel the urge to start complaining about the flight attendant not bringing you nuts, you will think twice about this person’s true job and how they have prepared to be there.




The first official and registered flight by engine was performed in the United States in December the 13th of 1903. The author of it, Orville Wright, the feat, getting the first flight sustained 12 seconds in the air while his brother and business partner Wilbur, was watching his short but successful progress. Without a doubt, a date and event largely known by all who are dedicated to aviation and essential to mention it as a starting point for the evolution of American aviation, and consequently, the future General direction of American Civil Aviation (FAA). Actually 17 years had to pass until the creation of an organism that was responsible for the development of air transport, it was not until the middle of the 1920’s decade that the U.S. Commerce Department (Ministry) urged the creation of an internal agency, which was called the Aeronautics Branch, not only to develop and ensure the safety standards of safety regulations, but also to promote and maintain air commerce, establish new air routes and air traffic standards, the operation and maintenance of AIDS for air navigation and licensing of pilots and aircrafts certifications. With the Aeronautics Branch the objectives and the future Federal Aviation Administration databases were going to be born.


In 1934 and due to the growth the aviation industry was experiencing, The Aeronautical Branch was reorganized in an external office and it was renamed the Bureau of Air Commerce, which reflected the weight that this new Government Office was acquiring within the Ministry of trade and the growing importance of aviation in the nation.

It was then when they began to have more initiatives to organize the industrial skeleton and the operating environment that was being created around this new mean of transport. Among these initiatives, the Bureau encouraged a group of airlines to establish the first centers for Air Traffic Control (ATC) despite not yet having direct contact by radio with the flights.

Naples Airport_Air traffic control tower and Atitech building_aviation_law
Image courtesy of Elliott Brown at

A traffic control was being born by only using maps, blackboards and direct phone calls to other traffic control centers, radio stations, and airline dispatchers. These first centers were in the regions of denser air traffic at the time, these were: Newark (NJ), Cleveland (OH), and Chicago (IL). This centers also worked on the planning and scheduling of flights, once these were standardized and implemented, commercial air transport began to become more professional and organized, taking on a new height, no pun intended.

Airlines and air routes began to grow, however, air safety did not evolve at the same speed, it remained a problem and an ill-managed federal responsibility. The management of towers at the airports and other similar functions were carried out by local government authorities, operating independently and without integral control, several fatal accidents were happening so it became evident that the Department of Commerce had to unify its inter-operability in all air traffic centers.

A control tower in the 1930’s.

It was the year of 1938 when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt finally signed a new law to create a new independent body called the Civil Aeronautics Authority or CAA that would have authority over air traffic in all the national territory, in addition to regulate rates and air routes throughout the country. The unification of tasks and responsibilities in a single agency did not last long, just before the eve of the entry of the United States to the Second World War, the CAA split into two agencies: The CAB (Civil Aeronautics Board) for the areas that regulated safety on airplanes, the investigation of accidents and the economic regularization of the airlines and The CAA which held its ATC responsibilities like the aircraft pilot certifications, the enforcement of safety, and the development of airlines extending their creation to include them in the operation of the control towers inside the airports.

In the times right after the war, the ATC became a permanent federal responsibility at most airports. The Congress gave the CAA the additional task of administering the Federal-Aid Airport Program, the first program of financial assistance in times of peace that was exclusively aimed at promoting the development of the civil airports in the nation, with this program the use of the radar was introduced and this helped the boom in commercial air transport to explode.

So air traveling is not new but is not old, it gradually became a science that only a few can master after a lot of studying. Airplanes are currently the second transport mode most used in the world, right after the train, it can carry all sorts of goods and people to their intended destination in the shortest time possible for today’s standards. It is very safe and let’s face it, it is not that comfortable sometimes.

Who is in Charge of a Crime Committed in an Airplane?

Who is in Charge of a Crime Committed in an Airplane?

Without doubt the invention of the plane has been one of the most important devices of mankind. Since the Wright brothers’ attempts to flight in 1903 to much has happened in the history of aviation. Under the turbulent times our modern and globalized society is facing every day, the aviation laws have been changing and adapting to our continuous evolving civilization. Given the fact that our modern societies are affected by crime, and there are special regulation sand institutions to deal with criminal activities, what can we say when a crime or unruly behaviour is committed in an airplane?

In the period 2007-2014 there were over 38,230 reported cases of unruly passenger incidents on board aircraft in flight. These incidents include violence against crew and other passengers, harassment and failure to follow safety instructions.

Unruly passengers are a very small minority. Incidents on board aircraft in commercial service have become a significant operational issue faced by airlines, flight and cabin crew on a daily basis. These incidents threaten flight safety and security, impact the travel experience of other passengers and lead to significant costs and operational disruption for carriers.

The Convention on Offences and Certain Other Acts Committed On Board Aircraft, commonly called the Tokyo Convention, is an international treaty, concluded at Tokyo on 14 September 1963. It entered into force on 4 December 1969, and as of 2015 has been ratified by 186 parties. However, there are cases where criminal jurisdiction may be exercised by a state other than the State of Registry. These are usually matters that are critical to the safety of the flight as well as national security.

The Convention is applicable to offences against penal law and to any acts jeopardising the safety of persons or property on board civilian aircraft while in-flight and engaged in international air navigation. Coverage includes the commission of or the intention to commit offences and certain other acts on board aircraft registered in a Contracting State in-flight over the high seas and any other areas beyond the territory of any State in addition to the airspace belonging to any Contracting State. Criminal jurisdiction may be exercised by Contracting States other than the State of Registry under limited conditions, viz, when the exercise of jurisdiction is required under multilateral international obligations, in the interest of national security, and so forth.

The Convention requires States Parties to establish penal jurisdiction over offences affecting in-flight safety committed on board its registered aircraft, requiring contracting states to take custody of offenders and to return control of the aircraft to the lawful commander. It also authorizes the aircraft commander to impose reasonable measures, including restraint, on any person he or she has reason to believe has committed or is about to commit such an act, when necessary to protect the safety of the aircraft.

This 50-year-old Convention has served the industry well. However, a Diplomatic Conference was held in 2014 to consider proposed revisions to the Convention to ensure that it is an effective deterrent to unruly behaviour. The result was the Montreal Protocol 2014 which makes important changes to the original Tokyo Convention. The Protocol extends the jurisdiction over offence to the destination country of the flight in addition to the country of aircraft registration. This closes a loophole which allowed many serious offences to escape legal action.

The agreed changes give greater clarity to the definition of unruly behaviour (such as including the threat of or actual physical assault, or refusal to follow safety-related instructions). There are also new provisions to deal with the recovery of significant costs arising from unruly behaviour.

This Protocol is good news for everyone who flies – passengers and crew alike. The changes, along with the measures already being taken by airlines, will provide an effective deterrent for unacceptable behaviour on board aircraft.

A total of 22 States will need to ratify the Protocol before it will enter in to force. IATA (International Air Transport Association) has played an important role in the development of the text of the new Protocol since 2009 and we are now advocating for governments to urgently ratify it.

At the 70th IATA AGM in June 2014, the industry unanimously adopted a set of core principles for dealing with the issue of unruly passenger behaviour. The principles call on governments to ratify the Montreal Protocol 2014 so they have the legal powers at their disposal to ensure unruly passengers face the appropriate consequences of their actions. Airlines, airports and others must work together to implement the right procedures and train staff to respond effectively to such instances.

Image courtesy of BreakingTravelNews at

By adopting the Montreal Protocol 2014, States have publicly recognised the increased frequency and severity of unruly passenger incidents and the inherent threat to safety, security and good order on board aircraft. The Protocol represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity for governments to put in place an international legal instrument which gives them the means to deal with unruly passengers more effectively and to deter future incidents. Therefore, urgent and widespread ratification of the new Protocol is needed. Taken together with measures being implemented by the airline industry, this will lead to a safer and a more pleasant air travel experience for all.

What are the most important rulings on the convention on international civil aviation?

View from the airplane_aviation

Image courtesy of Nathaniel C. at

The Convention on International Civil Aviation (1944), also known as the Chicago Convention, was created to update the rules on aviation. It is the most important normative treaty related to international aeronautical public laws.

In 1944, with the end of World War II in the corner, United States promoted a Conference in order to update international agreements on civil aviation, stagnant since 1919 Paris Convention. The Conference was held in Chicago from November the 1st until December 7th of 1944, with the attendance of delegates from 52 States. At that time the civil aviation committee was awaiting the end of the war for its re launch, there had been great technological advances in aeronautics, US economic potential was in full swing, while the major European powers, the USSR and Japan were completely in debt, with a virtually destroyed civil aeronautics industry. This brought a showdown in between the U.S. which had a very strong economic position that was seeking a policy of free international air transport trade compared to the rest of the countries that wanted to adopt a protectionist policy to rebuild their economies and their aviation industries.

Finally, the agreement regulated in a liberal way the aspects of navigation and air traffic, together with the non-remunerated air traffic. The costly air transport was at the mercy of bilateral agreements between the United States, which would be reported within the ICAO.

It was agreed to establish a permanent body that would continue the task started in 1919, initially called the Provisional organization of International Civil Aviation, until it was renamed The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in 1947, this agreement was endorsed by the Member States.

Airplane at Centenial Airport_aviation
Image courtesy of Heath Alseike at

Here are the most important parts of the convention, The Air Navigation.

Article 1: All States have full and exclusive sovereignty over the airspace above its territory

Article 5: All civil aircraft can fly over the airspace of another State (1st freedom) and perform non-commercial technical scales on it (2nd freedom) without obtaining prior permission from that country. These freedoms are to be subject to the conditions of air navigation imposed by that State (for example military exclusion zones) and also the country may require the airplane to land and allow inspection inside the aircraft for security reasons.

Article 6: No scheduled air service may be operated over a territory without a permission or special agreement with such State.

Article 10: The State may require that foreign aircraft land on Customs’ Airports and allow the state to inspect them.

Article 12: Every State can keep its own rules of the air always and require them to aircrafts that are flying its airspace provided that they are consistent with the given statements in this agreement

Article 13: The laws of each State with regard to entry and exit of passengers or goods (customs, passports…) must be complied with during the arrival, the departure and the stay in that country.

Article 16: The authorities of every State have the right to inspect the aircrafts and examine the certificates and documents of the same

Article 24: Spare parts, oil, fuel, etc. from an aircraft entering one of the Member States of the Convention will be free of taxes provided that these are not discharged in that State.

Article 29: Aircraft intending to make an international flight must carry the following documents on board:

  • Certificate of registration
  • Certificate of airworthiness
  • Licenses suitable for every Member of the crew
  • Log-book.
  • Aircraft radio license.
  • List of passengers with their names and places of embarkation and disembarkation
  • Detail on the load being carried.


Image courtesy of Jonathan Cohen at

Article 30: The Aircraft that is flying over another State can only have a radio that has been previously approved by the ruling of the country in which the aircraft is registered. Radio operators shall bear the appropriate license that allows them to use it.

Article 32: Pilots and crew should carry certificates of suitability to perform their task, these issued by the State in which the aircraft is registered. However, a third party Member State may not recognize the certificates of suitability issued by another country.

Article 33: The certificates of suitability airworthiness, etc. Those are issued by a State and will be recognized by all the signatory States of the Convention only if such certificates meet minimum requirements imposed by this Convention.

Article 40: No aircraft, not even a personal one that has the certificates or licenses in order as previously specified, shall participate in international navigation, without the permission of the State or States in whose territory they fly on. The registration or use of such aircraft, or of any of its certificated aircraft parts, over a State that is not the one the aircraft’s original homeland will be at the discretion of the State in which the aircraft or part is being imported.