Recently, an incident involving an aircraft in Shah Alam has been hovering all over social media due to the absurd nature of the whole situation. The incident, which was captured on video by an anonymous resident, showed a helicopter landing on a field in the Selangor capital, purportedly to send a child who was seen disembarking from the aircraft to school.
The Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM) has since released a statement saying that it will lodge a report with the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM) regarding the incident. Furthermore, the police said that it would leave it to CAAM to investigate the matter as it is within the latter’s jurisdiction.
Of course, flying a private aircraft is not a crime in Malaysia but like the rest of the world, civil aviation has strict regulations. One can’t take off, fly or land an aircraft willy-nilly but must possess valid permits and permissions from the relevant authorities.
So, what possible legal implications can the helicopter operator face for the incident? Well, do remain seated, fasten your seatbelts and join us as we fly through the relevant laws and regulations to find out.
Civil Aviation Directive 2 – Rules of the Air
As investigations are still ongoing regarding the incident, we can only speculate as to what potential rules breach the helicopter operator committed. Based on the video, the main point of contention is flying the aircraft in the residential area and landing it on the field.
Specifically, the helicopter must get a permit to fly land on the field at the Shah Alam residential area and it must be part of the aircraft’s flight plan. This regulation is stipulated under chapter 3 of the “Civil Aviation Directive 2 – Rules of the Air”.
According to article 220.127.116.11 of the directive, a flight plan is the “information relative to an intended flight or portion of a flight, to be provided to air traffic services units.”. As per article 18.104.22.168, this information, among others, includes the route to be followed and the destination aerodrome.
The latter is of importance here, as article 1.4 of the directive defines an aerodrome as a defined area on land or water (including any buildings, installations and equipment) intended to be used either wholly or in part for the arrival, departure and surface movement of aircraft. Furthermore, aerodrome is also defined “any area of land or water designed, equipped, set apart or commonly used affording facilities for the landing and departure of aircraft;” by Section 2 of the Civil Aviation Act 1969.
Hence, should the residential field be considered to not be an aerodrome by the authorities or if the helicopter didn’t have a permit to land on the field if it’s considered an aerodrome as part of its flight plan, then the operator is deemed to have committed an offence.
Civil Aviation Regulations 2016
Accordingly, should it be found to not follow the stipulated rules of the air, the helicopter operator can be charged under Rule 77(2) of the Civil Aviation Regulations 2016. Rule 77 reads as below:
An offence under Rule 77 is considered a contravention under Part C of the Third Schedule of the Civil Aviation Regulations 2016, with the perpetrator facing action under Rule 206(3)(a) of the same regulations. Rule 206(3)(a) is as below:
As per the above, if the offence was committed by an individual, they may face a fine of up to RM50,000 or up to 3-year jail or both. Should it be committed by a corporate body, the punishment prescribed is up to an RM100,000 fine.
Besides that, the aircraft operator may face action for non-compliance with the Civil Aviation Directive. In the intro of the directive, it is prescribed that any person who contravenes its provision is deemed to have committed an offence and shall on conviction be liable to Section 24O(2) of the Civil Aviation Act 1969 below:
(1) Every notice, circular, directive and information issued under this Act or under any subsidiary legislation made under this Act shall be published by the Director General in such manner as in his opinion will ensure that the notice, circular, directive and information is brought to the attention of the person who has to comply with such notice, circular, directive and information.
(2) Any person who fails to comply with such notices, circulars, directives and information shall be guilty of an offence and shall on conviction be liable—
(a) where such person is an individual, to a fine not exceeding fifty thousand ringgit or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or to both; or
(b) where such person is a body corporate, to a fine not exceeding one hundred thousand ringgit.
Of course, as mentioned earlier, these are all mere speculations as investigations are still ongoing. Who knows, maybe the operator had a valid flight plan and is justified for the action or conversely, they may also be found to have committed other offences.