Civilian aircraft ought to avoid areas of potentially hazardous military operations. In the vicinity of hostilities, civilian aircraft must comply with instructions from the military forces regarding their heading and altitude.
- The first sentence of this Rule is based on Para. 72 of the SRM/ACS. The second sentence is based on the principle contained in Para. 73 of the SRM/ACS.
- If a civilian aircraft, flying in the vicinity of hostilities, disregards instructions emanating from the military forces concerning their heading and altitude, it places itself at risk of being fired upon because it may be perceived as a threat.
- A civilian aircraft ought to maintain a constant listening watch on frequencies identified for that purpose by relevant NOTAMs (see Rule 55 (a)).
- As far as civilian airliners are concerned, see Rule 60.
- Rule 54 deals with civilian aircraft. As far as neutral State aircraft are concerned, they enjoy sovereign immunity that must be respected by Belligerent Parties (see Para. 3 of the Commentary on Rule 48 (b) and paragraph 1 of the Commentary on Rule 174). Sovereign immunity, however, does not imply permission for a neutral State aircraft to enter the airspace of a Belligerent Party without consent. Even in international airspace, although clearly entitled to sovereign immunity, neutral State aircraft cannot ignore the hazards of military operations by Belligerent Parties in wartime. Hence, if they do not comply with instructions from the military forces of a Belligerent Party — where military operations are underway — they expose themselves to a greater risk of being attacked.
- The second sentence of Rule 54 applies to “the vicinity of hostilities”. When a civilian or other protected aircraft enters an area of potentially hazardous military activity, it must comply with a relevant NOTAM (see Rule 56).
- In non-international armed conflict, Rule 54 applies to civilian aircraft and to State aircraft other than military aircraft. Aircraft operated by non-State organized armed groups are civilian aircraft. They are not protected against attack when they are being used for military purposes (see Rule 27).
- In non-international armed conflict, a non-State organized armed group cannot issue legally binding instructions to civilian aircraft. An aircraft that fails to comply with instructions from military forces (either government forces or non-State organized armed groups) in an area of military operations is, however, clearly placing itself at greater risk and therefore the commander of the aircraft would be well advised to comply with even those instructions that might come from a non-State organized armed group.
Categories: I: Safety In Flight