Ready for Take-Off: www.luftfahrtrecht.at

Comprehensive information on Austrian air law including commentaries is now available online for the first time. This provides lawyers and aviation professionals with access to an extensive, up-to-date collection of legislation, court rulings and commentaries. The database has been created as part of an Austrian Science Fund FWF project within the framework of the Translational Research Program. The project fills the gap left by a legal commentary discontinued 30 years ago and also takes into account the impact of Austrian accession to the EU on national air law.

Navigating through the maze of Austrian air law is made easier by a digital aid. © Use of this photo for editorial purposes is free of charge, subject to attribution: Sigmar Stadlmeier

The cockpit of modern aircraft is at the cutting edge of technology. The latest information concerning the airframe and its surroundings is available digitally, allowing pilots to make extremely well informed decisions. The situation for "pilots" of the Austrian air law is somewhat different as information was until now available in printed format only and was out-of-date in some cases. A project at the Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria (JKU), in cooperation with the Institute of Austrian and International Air Law in Graz, has now brought the documentation of air law in Austria into the 21st century.

All Things Legal
All information relevant to Austrian air law has been compiled in a single database for the first time as part of the project. However, that step alone did not go far enough, as project leader Prof. Sigmar Stadlmeier of the Institute of International Law and International Relations at the JKU explains: "As well as bringing all of the pieces of legislation together, we wanted to create a platform which would enable links to additional information, constant updating and easy access. An online solution proved ideal." After four years of project work, key parts of the database are now complete and the platform www.luftfahrtrecht.at already has over 4,000 registered users.

This solution was urgently required. Firstly, commentary – the explanation of legal texts – on Austrian air law was discontinued 30 years ago. Secondly, Austria’s accession to the EU has fundamentally changed the basis of the applicable legal provisions. Outlining the complexity of the legal provisions now applicable, Prof. Stadlmeier says: "The legal framework of civil aviation in Austria is based on four main sources. Firstly, the standards and recommendations of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Secondly, the standards of the Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA) which still exist, thirdly, EU law and, fourthly, Austrian national law."

Legislative Power
However, the complexity of air law is also explained by other factors. The situation is even more complex in view of the fact that - in contrast to the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) in the European Union - neither the ICAO nor the JAA have legislative authority but instead only provide the basis for national legislation. In case of uncertainty about the interpretation of national law, the texts of the ICAO and JAA provide valuable information. Prof. Stadlmeier explains: "We have therefore started to provide commentaries on the legislation and links to recommendations and guidelines which led to its adoption. This is the only way to ensure the database provides a genuinely comprehensive overview." The production of the database is therefore divided into two major phases. The legal material was initially identified, evaluated, digitalized and linked, while commentaries are now being added in the ongoing second phase.

The project supported by the FWF helps to ensure that pilots, flight instructors and lawyers in the field now have access to comprehensively processed information. Air law and its interpretation concerns almost everyone. Whether it is lost baggage or flight delays, the claims of air travel passengers against the airlines (and vice-versa) are governed by this framework.

Scientific contact
Prof. Sigmar Stadlmeier
Johannes Kepler University Linz
Institute of Public International Law and International Relations
Altenberger Strasse 69
4040 Linz, Austria
T +43 / 732 / 2468 - 8274
sigmar.stadlmeier(at)jku.at

Austrian Science Fund (FWF)
Mag. Stefan Bernhardt

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Vienna, 20th December 2010