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United States v. Causby

Airspace Rights

Airspace rights are those rights one has to the air above the land he or she owns. As Justice Douglas noted in the Supreme Court's United States v. Causby opinion, common law from time immemorial had held that ownership "extended to the periphery of the universe . . . But that doctrine has no place in the modern world."

In the United States, the federal government has control over its airspace; each state has jurisdiction over its own respective airspace; and landowners enjoy airspace rights over their property. Though the landowner possesses air rights, federal law guarantees freedom of travel throughout the nation's airspace.

It does not follow, however, that the landowner has no rights where flyovers are concerned. If an aircraft generates excessive noise or flies over the landowner's airspace in an improper manner--say, strafing a farmer's barn--then the landowner certainly has legal recourse. Such violations of airspace rights constitute trespassing.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1941 to 1953United States v. Causby - Legal Background, The Case At Hand, High Court Affirms, Black Dissents, Airspace Rights