Journal of Air Law and Commerce


The Journal of Air Law and Commerce, a quarterly publication of the School of Law, is the oldest scholarly periodical in the English language devoted primarily to the legal and economic problems affecting aviation and space.

Since its foundation at Northwestern University in 1930 and move to SMU in 1961, the Journal of Air Law & Commerce continues to publish articles addressing domestic and international problems of the airline industry, private aviation, space, and general legal topics with a significant impact on aviation. Articles are written by distinguished lawyers, economists, government officials, and scholars. The Journal also publishes editorial comments written by students. Readership is worldwide with more than 2,300 subscribers in 54 countries.

The Journal sponsors SMU’s annual Air Law Symposium on selected problems in aviation law. More than 500 aviation lawyers and industry representatives attend the Symposium annually.

Recent Articles in Volume 88, Issue 4 (2023)

The U.K.’s ‘Appetite’ for Space: An Increased Craving!

By Sarah Jane Fox – Launching into space was once the pursuit of super-power nations, who, during a period of international tensions, competed to be the first—the first into space and the first to the Moon. While the United Kingdom (U.K.) had a similar appetite it never achieved a space launch from its national soils, often thwarted by political and economic constraints. This said, the U.K. has played a key role, working alongside other nations in technological advancements related to space. This paper revisits the historical legacy of the U.K.’s space ventures and its space policies before comment is made to the current strategy and future vision. [...]

On Who Should Pay When Orbital Debris “Trickles-Down” in a Tragedy of the Low Earth Orbit Commons

By Michael B. Runnels – In March 2023, NASA released the most rigorous and wide-reaching orbital debris analysis in the space law literature that provides a cost-benefit analysis of removing orbital debris from low Earth orbit (LEO), a region of the Earth’s environment with no environmental regulation. NASA contextualized the motivation in releasing this report as rooted in the exponential growth of the commercial satellite industry, noting that “the number of tracked and untracked debris in LEO is projected to grow . . . even if no new satellites are launched into space, yet launch traffic is likely to increase in the coming decade compared to recent history.” Similarly, in a May 2023 Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report, the CBO argued that the “number of satellites operating in LEO has increased significantly in recent years, driven in large part by commercial [satellite] constellations,” which are networks of identical satellites whose orbits and positions are coordinated to accomplish a given mission, such as providing global broadband internet. [...

The Cape Town Convention Offers Registered International Interests Providing Maximal Security to American Lessees of Aircraft

By B. Patrick Honnebier – This paper focuses on the acquisition of aircraft by United States-based airlines. At present in the U.S., airlines are faced with a fierce competition, and to commercially survive, they keep advertising that they operate modern and safe aircraft. Since the beginning of aviation, there does not exist a fully state-owned “flag carrier” in the U.S. On the contrary, the commercial airlines market has always been in the hands of private undertakings. Traditionally, the airlines themselves have arranged the acquisition of their fleets of aircraft. For this purpose, they have to obtain loans from private banks and other non-governmental financial institutions. A substantial amount of credit is annually extended to realize the acquisition of the costly aircraft. The credit is generally supplied through a “purchase-money loan” that is secured on the aircraft. This practice is called asset-based financing. In the U.S., the aircraft which are operated by the local airlines have generally been acquired by means of international finance and lease transactions.. [...]

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Journal Coordinator
Lisa Ponce

Mikey Sanders  

Jenny Hulse

Managing Editor
Cameron King

Air Law Symposium Editors
Kellie Maguiness
Cole Connor
Reese Glusing
Jillian Smoorenburg


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Related links

Annual Air Law Symposium

SMU Annual Texas Survey

SMU Law Review

SMU Law Review Forum

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