‘Intercontinental Space Flight – Learning from the Concorde’ understands that intercontinental earth-to-earth flights by spacecraft may operate in a legal quagmire where either or both space law or aviation law might apply. However, to the extent that the object of the flight is the intercontinental air transport of paying passengers, air law is more likely to apply to such flights. In such an event, any operator planning to offer inter-continental flights by spacecraft should learn from the difficulties the Concorde faced in launching supersonic trans-Atlantic flights to the United States in the 1970s. Despite the fact that the Concorde’s manufacturers had sought a US type certificate for the aircraft in 1965, it was not until Braniff, a US carrier, began to work with Air France and British Airways to operate Concorde between Washington and Dallas that Concorde’s fortunes improved.
The complexity of the legal arrangements, which enabled Concorde to operate between Washington and Dallas, required the re-registration of the aircraft and the issuance of a US type certificate for Concorde. The issues examined during the issuance of the US type certificate cleared the path for a quarter century of US-Europe Concorde service.
Since that incident, environmental and noise standards have become more stringent and issues such as social license require genuine commitment to deal with societal concerns. This is the context in which inter-continental space flight will operate, and the lessons of the Concorde’s entry into the US market provide useful guidance.Air and Space Law