Book Review: Who Owns the Sky?

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Who Owns the Sky? The Struggle to Control Airspce from the Wright Brothers On

by Stuart Banner (Harvard University Press)

Nowadays, aviation law isn’t something the average person thinks about, but when the Wright Brothers stunned the world in 1903 the phrase “aerial trespass” popped into the lay person’s lexicon–and trespass suits by worried landholders claiming control of their skies were soon to follow. In Who Owns the Sky: The Struggle to Control Airspace from the Wright Brothers On, Stuart Banner narrates the fascinating story of the challenged legal status quo cujus est solum ejus est usque ad coelum–he who owns the soil owns up to the sky–and lands at our current understanding of aviation law for landowners and nations respectively.  

The UCLA law professor has clearly done his homework: Banner documents an exorbitant amount of information about the changing proprietary values of our atmosphere over the past hundred years. Perhaps more importantly, Banner demonstrates that legal chronicles aren’t exclusively engaging to lawyers. This book is a fascinating read about a forgotten issue–unless, of course, you live next to an airport . . .what, what did you say?!

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