The special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States is a jurisdictional requirement for an aircraft piracy offense proscribed by 49 U.S.C. § 46502(a), as well as for interference with a flight crew member or attendant, in violation of 49 U.S.C. § 46504, the "enclave offenses" criminalized in that jurisdiction by 49 U.S.C. § 46506, and the destruction of aircraft and aircraft facilities offenses of 18 U.S.C. § 32(a). An aircraft is in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States only while the aircraft is "in flight."
Included in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States, while "in flight," are the following:
(a) any civil aircraft of the United States;
(b) any aircraft of the United States armed forces;
(c) any other aircraft in the United States;
(d) any other (i.e., foreign) aircraft outside the United States which:
(1) has its next scheduled destination or last point of departure in the United States if the aircraft does, in fact, next land in the United States;
(2) lands in the United States having on board that aircraft an individual who has committed on that aircraft an offense as defined under the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft (also known as the Hague Convention), which offenses are criminalized under U.S. law by 49 U.S.C. § 46502(a) (formerly 49 U.S.C. App. § 1472(i))); or
(3) lands in the United States having on board that aircraft an individual who has committed against that aircraft an offense as defined by paragraphs 1(d) (destroying or damaging air navigational facilities or interfering with their operation, if such act is likely to endanger the safety of aircraft in flight) or 1(e) (knowingly communicating false information, thereby endangering the safety of an aircraft in flight) of Article 1 of the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation (also known as the Montreal Convention), which offenses are criminalized under U.S. law by 18 U.S.C. § 32(a)(3) & (6); and
(e) any other aircraft leased without a crew to a lessee who has his/her principal place of business in the United States, or, if he/she has no such business, has his/her permanent residence in the United States.
An aircraft is "in flight" from the moment when all external doors are closed following embarkation until the moment when one such door is opened for disembarkation, or in the case of a forced landing, until competent authorities take responsibility for the aircraft. 49 U.S.C. § 46501(1).
The "special aircraft jurisdiction" defined in 49 U.S.C. § 46501(2) (formerly 49 U.S.C. App. § 1301(38)) should be distinguished from the aircraft jurisdiction defined in subsection (5) of 18 U.S.C. § 7 (special maritime and territorial jurisdiction). See this Manual at 673.