The Federal Aviation Act (“Act”) provides that a person who knowingly and willfully violates any provisions of the Act, a regulation prescribed or order issued by the Secretary of Transportation, or any term of a certificate or permit issued under the Act will be punishable[i]. Also, a separate violation occurs, for each day the violation continues.
The Federal Aviation Act also prescribes punishment for a number of specific acts. A person who, knowing that information is false, gives false information about an alleged attempt being made or to be made to do an act that would violate any provisions of the Act will be liable for a civil penalty for each violation[ii].
Pursuant to 49 USCS § 46303, an individual, when on an aircraft, has a concealed dangerous weapon that is or would be accessible to the individual in flight is liable for a civil penalty for each violation.
When an aircraft is involved in a violation of any provisions of the Act and the violation is by the owner of or individual commanding the aircraft, the aircraft is subject to a lien for the civil penalty[iii].
An aircraft subject to a lien may be seized summarily and placed in the custody of a person authorized to take custody of it under regulations of the Secretary of Transportation [iv].
A civil penalty may be collected by bringing a civil action against the person subject to the penalty, a civil action in rem against an aircraft subject to a lien for a penalty, or both[v].
49 USCS § 46306 provides the registration violations involving aircraft not providing air transportation. Pursuant to 49 USCS § 46306 (b), general criminal penalty arises if a person:
- knowingly and willfully forges or alters a certificate issued;
- knowingly sells, uses, attempts to use, or possesses with the intent to use, such a certificate;
- knowingly and willfully displays or causes to be displayed on an aircraft a mark that is false or misleading about the nationality or registration of the aircraft;
- obtains a certificate by knowingly and willfully falsifying or concealing a material fact, making a false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement, or making or using a false document knowing it contains a false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry;
- owns an aircraft without proper registration;
- knowingly and willfully serves or attempts to serve in any capacity as an airman without an airman’s certificate authorizing the individual to serve in that capacity; or
- operates an aircraft with a fuel tank or fuel system that has been installed or modified knowing that the tank, system, installation, or modification does not comply with regulations and requirements of the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration.
49 USCS § 46307 provides that violation of the national defense airspace is an offense. A person will be punished under the Act, if the person[vi]:
- with intent to interfere with air navigation in the U.S., exhibits in the U.S., a light or signal or in a way likely to be mistaken for a true light or signal, at an air navigation facility;
- after a warning from the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, continues to maintain a misleading light or signal; or
- knowingly interferes with the operation of a true light or signal.
A person will be subject to punishment, if the person in violation of a regulation or requirement related to the transportation of hazardous material prescribed by the Secretary of Transportation[vii]:
- willfully delivers, or causes to be delivered, property containing hazardous material to an air carrier or to an operator of a civil aircraft for transportation in air commerce; or
- recklessly causes the transportation in air commerce of the property.
Pursuant to 49 USCS § 46314, a person will be subject to punishment, if s/he knowingly and willfully enters, in violation of security requirements, an aircraft or an airport area that serves an air carrier or foreign air carrier.
Under the Federal Aviation Act, aircraft piracy is a criminal offense. The offense of aircraft piracy has four elements[viii]:
- seizure or exercise of control of an aircraft;
- by force, violence, or intimidation, or the threat thereof;
- with wrongful intent; and
- within the special aircraft jurisdiction of the U.S.
In Dixon V. United States, 592 F.2d 329 (6th Cir. Mich. 1979), the court held that the critical element of the crime of aircraft piracy is the aircraft seizure.
[i] 49 USCS § 46316.
[ii] 49 USCS § 46302.
[iii] 49 USCS § 46304 (a).
[iv] 49 USCS § 46304 (b).
[v] 49 USCS § 46305.
[vi] 49 USCS § 46308.
[vii] 49 USCS § 46312.
[viii] 49 USCS § 46502.