Wednesday, May 22, 2013
When teaching international aviation law, one of the themes I like to introduce early in the semester is the interaction between technology and law. How does society and the state respond to disruptive technological change? Given the relatively recent invention of air passenger transport and the even shorter history of the modern international aviation law system, it is possible to provide the students with a fair overview of how aviation regulation has evolved from its infancy to present day without absorbing too much lecture time. I try to return to the theme whenever appropriate throughout the semester, highlighting for instance the relationship between the invention of the jet engine and the subsequent desire for noise regulation. Until now, post-WWII technological changes in aviation have failed to provide the excitement I associate with those early philosophical debates over the "freedom of the skies" and the need to crafting a legal regime for an entirely new mode of transport. I wonder if that may be changing though, as all of this was brought to mind by a few recent articles I read that call attention to technological changes on the verge of upsetting the industry, and in particular, the regulatory structure governing it. The coming decade will require dedicated work from scholars, regulators and industry to properly incorporate these changes into the existing legal system.