Landowners’ Rights in the Air Age: The Airport Dilemma

If Lord Tennyson had been a student of the common law, he might well have qualified his poetic foresight of “the heavens fill[ed] with commerce” by some cautious reference to the complaints of landowners below against the “pilots of the purple twilight, dropping down with costly bales.” The result doubtless would have been poorer poetry but a far more accurate forecast of the problems to confront mid-20th century lawyers. Although the phenomenal growth of civil aviation since the first World War has opened up a host of difficulties, the only ones of concern in this article are those presenting the conflict of interest between the operators of aircraft and the owners of land over which they fly. I should also emphasize from the outset that I do not offer a definitive study. My aim is far more modest-to put in perspective a battery of acute problems which await solution.