To what extent can US states, territories, and subdivisions such as cities or counties exercise jurisdiction over aircraft flying overhead?
For example, could New Jersey set up aerial tollbooths and charge aircraft $1000 to fly over NJ in order to get from NY south to Baltimore and DC? Could Utah restrict alcohol sales when an aircraft is in Utah airspace?
What about enforcement? Could the Chicago Police deploy fighter planes to enforce a “2-engine maximum without a permit from City Hall” ordinance?
Also, how do aircraft handle sales tax for in-flight sales? If you order a beer in flight, do they use GPS and determine that you are flying over, say, Rockingham County, VA and charge you the appropriate county and state taxes?
I may be wrong on this, but I’m pretty sure airline travel is regulated by the Federal government for the reasons you mention.
Airports are definitely regulated by the cities, states and counties that they’re located in, but I’m pretty sure that once the plane’s in the air, it’s only Federally regulated.
I can’t cite any law or regulation, but I’ll note that sometimes when something special is happening in an area (say, an air show or big fireworks display) the FAA will restrict air traffic around that area. That’s the FAA, not the city or state.
At the end of World War II, the Supreme Court decided U.S. v. Causby, 328 U.S. 256 (1946), giving the federal government control over airspace needed for avigation. That came to mean all airspace above 2000 feet, and even lower altitudes near airports.
In addition, there’s a preemption problem. Unlike the lengthy history of both local and federal control of marine, road, and rail traffic, avigation has been closely regulated by the federal government since its beginnings. FAA regulations would probably be held to preempt almost any regulation or statute promulgated by a state or municipality.
I’m a flight instructor, not a lawyer. But I fly with some lawyers who do aviation law and here’s what they’ve told me…
As previously mentioned, aviation is federal. But local and state law can also come into play. Example: FAA regulations allow the dropping of objects from an aircraft if care has been taken to see that nobody is injured and nothing is damaged. However, it would be theoretically possible for local law enforcement to charge you with littering.
States and other entities also exercise some influence, if not control, over aviation in other ways. Fuel is taxed differently depending on where it’s bought. Airports can charge landing fees, which amounts to a toll. Another example: Stewart Airport in upstate New York didn’t used to charge landing fees to small aircraft. But when the Port Authority took over its operation they began charging.