Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Aircraft Definition:

An object used for flight through the air.

Related Terms: Air Law

The applicability of homeland security statutes often hinge on the definition of the targets of such legislation, the term aircraft has been frequently defined in domestic statutes and international treaties.

For example, the 2009 version of Canada's Aeronautics Act:

"... any machine capable of deriving support in the atmosphere from reactions of the air, and includes a rocket."

In Gowan, the plaintiff was the beneficiary of a life insurance policy; the insured had died while hand-gliding (also called hang-gliding) on a kite or hang glider. In the vacuum of a statutory or contractual definition, Justice Limerick of the New Brunswick Court of Appeal adopted these words to describe an aircraft:

"... any contrivance used, or designed for navigation of or flight in the air, except a parachute or other contrivance designed for such navigation but used primarily as safety equipment (and) ... a weight carrying machine or structure for flight in or navigation of the air either by the buoyancy of the structure or by the dynamic action of the air against its surfaces - used of airplanes, balloons, helicopters, kites, kite balloons, orthopters, and gliders but chiefly of airplanes or aerostates.

"... the ... hang kite or glider ... was a device designed to carry one person in flight through the air by the dynamic action of the air against the kite's surfaces and that it was a form of aircraft."


  • Aeronautics Act, Revised Statutes of Canada 1985, Chapter A-2
  • Gowan v North American Life Assurance, 85 APR 187 (1981)

Categories & Topics:

Always looking up definitions? Save time with our search provider (modern browsers only)

If you find an error or omission in Duhaime's Law Dictionary, or if you have suggestion for a legal term, we'd love to hear from you!