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Sep. 30th, 2005

A car takes off from private land at 14 feet off the ground using thrusters and flies over the highway, and fires accelerator thrusters, making it go forward at approximately 300 miles an hour, for one mile.

Were any laws broken?

Update:
MCL 259.2 (e) defines an aircraft as follows:
(e) “Aircraft” means any contrivance used or designed for navigation of or flight in the air.

MCL 259.9 (d):
(d) “Vehicle” means any device in, upon, or by which a person or property is or may be transported, except an aircraft.

They do not define flight, and do not state altitude at which one would be considered flying rather than hovering. If the car was a stock car, save for the minimal addition of some sort of thrust producing device to render it airborne, would it be considered an aircraft? Consider the legal status of a hovercraft.

Research links:
http://www.michiganlegislature.org/
http://www.faa.gov/
http://www.gpoaccess.gov/uscode/
http://www.gpoaccess.gov/cfr/
and last but not least: Article I, Section 8, Clause 3 of the United States Constitution

And of course, it is understood that your answers are not legal advice, whether or not you are a lawyer.

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Comments

( 28 comments — Leave a comment )
dankaye
Sep. 30th, 2005 03:44 pm (UTC)
A strong case for Reckless Endangerment could be made.

You would also be violating the car's warentee (by tampering with the engine in a way other than basic maintainance).
noweb4u
Sep. 30th, 2005 04:22 pm (UTC)
Michigan's reckless endangerment laws are not only specific to the act (?!?! - we're talking like "reckless endangerment while transporting minors in boats" and shit like that (yes I made that up)) but seem to hinge on the act that you didn't carefully plan and engineer what you're doing.

It would simply void the warranty, if any. That's not illegal.
dankaye
Sep. 30th, 2005 04:38 pm (UTC)
Ok, you're still operating the vehicle under motor vehicle laws, since it's intentionally at an altitude less than an aircraft. That being said you're still bound to driving laws, such as control of speed.

Also, what variety of fuel do the thrusters use? In some cases you may also need a HAZMAT in order to "transport" it. This would mainly be filed against the operator as a scare tactic, but we're discussing acedenics and nor application, so it's a moot point.

Also bear in mind that if any other vehicles are on the highway you're opening yourself to liability. It becomes endangerment the moment another vehicle sees your deliberate aerodynamic stunt, because you have a reasonable expectation of their being distracted from their driving by you.
noweb4u
Sep. 30th, 2005 04:48 pm (UTC)
But at 14 feet you're above the legal height for a motor vehicle. So you can't be a motor vehicle, no part of you is below the legal max height, right?
dankaye
Sep. 30th, 2005 04:59 pm (UTC)
While it's a murky area, you're either fish or fowl.

Either you've modified a motor vehicle to be an aircraft or still a motor vehicle.

If you're trying to be an aircraft, you were too close to the highway (14' is dangerously low)
or
you're throwing a series of traffic laws out the window.

Motor vehicle would take precedence.
dankaye
Sep. 30th, 2005 05:04 pm (UTC)
..and after the prosecuting attorney stops staring in disbelief, he/she/they will make your life unhappy.
noweb4u
Sep. 30th, 2005 05:31 pm (UTC)
Alright, but the real purpose of the question is, if I had a billion trillion kazillion dollars and all the time in the world, and had the resources to take it to the US supreme court if need be, would there be a grey area for me to slip through? Is it possible that I am neither?
jayj79
Sep. 30th, 2005 06:07 pm (UTC)
if you had a billion trillion kazillion dollars, why not just contact the authorities and discuss your plan. I'm sure some arrangements could be made.

Or take it out west to the salt flats, where you wouldn't have to worry.

but then, they would take the "rebel" aspect out of it, I suppose.
noweb4u
Sep. 30th, 2005 06:32 pm (UTC)
It's not so much rebellion as it is trying to find loopholes in the law that would allow you to do something awesome.
dankaye
Sep. 30th, 2005 06:37 pm (UTC)
Not at all.
Even if you hired a staff of engineers to make an entirely dissimilar device that functioned as a hovercraft and had no wheels it would either be classified as either a vehicle (which must obey traffic laws) or an aircraft (which muct comply to federal avaition rules).

Sorry dude, you'd be violating a law or ten.
noweb4u
Sep. 30th, 2005 06:41 pm (UTC)
well but figure it this way - a vehicle does not have to follow traffic laws when not on the public streets. Can you elevate yourself off the public streets and thereby make yourself exempt from the vehicle code? Or find that you're not quite on the road, and not quite an aircraft?
dankaye
Sep. 30th, 2005 06:48 pm (UTC)
The instant you leave private land, you're subject to public vehicular codes.

Now if you built a rocket-car and had permission to use a huge tract of private land (such as an airport runway or the parking lot of a business), the legal mayhem would begin. In the latter example you want to notify the local police so they can block the road near the private location. Failing to do so may put the city in an actionable position from failing to adequitely protect residents (since it's assumable that people would stop looking at the road and start watching the rocket-car).
noweb4u
Sep. 30th, 2005 07:37 pm (UTC)
If anyone had a duty to not distract drivers, there would be no strobe lights in storefront windows. I get distracted by cop cars too.

I'd take this a step further though - there's not a "when you leave private property you're on public roads rule", there's a "when you're on public roads...." rule. So you're not on the road. Now what?
dankaye
Sep. 30th, 2005 11:58 pm (UTC)
Yes, but you see a flying car is such an inherently attention-getting thing that it has a strong likelyhood of causing an accident, particularly when it's 14' off your port bow traveling against traffic at 300 miles per hour.

Also, once you leave private property you're subject to rules of the road (think public sector versus private sector). Not being ON one is likely a violation of some minor traffic offense (if not, they'll write one with you in mind).

dankaye
Sep. 30th, 2005 03:45 pm (UTC)
Is this a generis ponderance or is there a story here?
noweb4u
Sep. 30th, 2005 04:22 pm (UTC)
That's for me to know and you to fantasize about.
thegreatdoogie
Sep. 30th, 2005 03:59 pm (UTC)
depends. Is the car classified as a light plane? Did the driver have a pilots license? Did it fly along the highway, or perpindicular to it?
bjserven
Sep. 30th, 2005 04:23 pm (UTC)
more importantly... where was Daisy Duke in all this? ;)
noweb4u
Sep. 30th, 2005 04:26 pm (UTC)
It all hinges on how you define flight and aircraft, as well as motor vehicles. Assume for this purpose that we're flying parallel to it at altitude.
thegreatdoogie
Sep. 30th, 2005 06:39 pm (UTC)
Knowing your style Paul, I'm pulling these definitions straight out of the dictionary.

aircraft - A machine or device, such as an airplane, helicopter, glider, or dirigible, that is capable of atmospheric flight.

flight - The motion of an object in or through a medium, especially through the earth's atmosphere or through space.

Technically speaking, a car travelling along a highway, and never leaving the surface, could be considered capable of flight, as it's travelling thru the atmosphere.

However, irregardless of how you define things, such an act would be illegal under both motor vehicle and aircraft laws.

According to section 91.119 of the aircraft law,

Sec. 91.119 Minimum safe altitudes: General.

Except when necessary for takeoff or landing, no person may operate an aircraft below the following altitudes:

(a) Anywhere. An altitude allowing, if a power unit fails, an emergency landing without undue hazard to persons or property on the surface.

(b) Over congested areas. Over any congested area of a city, town, or settlement, or over any open air assembly of persons, an altitude of 1,000 feet above the highest obstacle within a horizontal radius of 2,000 feet of the aircraft.

(c) Over other than congested areas. An altitude of 500 feet above the surface, except over open water or sparsely populated areas. In those cases, the aircraft may not be operated closer than 500 feet to any person, vessel, vehicle, or structure.



I don't believe there is a legal definition of sparesely populated. If you're way out in the middle of nowhere, you could probably get away with it.

I think the bigger question is whether it could be considered an aircraft, or automobile. Either way tho, you'd be in violation of law. Aircraft-minimum height law. Automobile - illegal to leave the roadway on a public road (haven't found the law for this, but I got nailed with it once jumping the truck over a bridge).
mynameisnotreal
Sep. 30th, 2005 05:38 pm (UTC)
My hovercraft is full of eels.
noweb4u
Sep. 30th, 2005 06:34 pm (UTC)
hah
spheraice
Oct. 1st, 2005 09:44 am (UTC)
Basically, what it is....the FAA defines all airspace in the US as controlled. The only spots which are not controlled are over non-populated areas which do not have roads or population centers. You would be voilating many Federal Aviation Regulations punishable by many years of ass raping prison and the confiscation of the fun toy. This is the law :(
noweb4u
Oct. 1st, 2005 11:09 am (UTC)
This is why I mention the interstate commerce clause. If you are not affecting interstate commerce, how does the FAA have jurisdiction?
spheraice
Oct. 4th, 2005 01:00 pm (UTC)
airspace
They are the rulers of the sky. If you are in the air, your ass belongs to them. Doesn't matter if you are 20 feet, or 10,000 feet. Once you are in the air, you are under their jurisdiction.
spheraice
Oct. 1st, 2005 09:46 am (UTC)
oh yeah......something else of interest......for all objects flying below 10,000 has a speed limit max of 180 knots.
noweb4u
Oct. 4th, 2005 04:18 pm (UTC)
But you're ignoring the interstate commerce clause. If I leave the ground in Michigan, and go 1/4 mile,and touch the ground in michigan, carefully avoiding other aircraft engaged in interstate commerce, I don't see how the FAA has any legal basis to assert jurisdiction.
fflewddur
Oct. 1st, 2005 03:08 pm (UTC)
Sounds like somebody wants a Skycar... ;)
( 28 comments — Leave a comment )