Sky Baby

By: Sophie L.

I bet you’ve never thought about it, what nationality you’d be if born on an airplane.  Now, you have to understand that the security would never let you on an airplane while pregnant… but suppose you’re already on a plane toward Egypt from China, and you are passing over Iran. Right then, your baby decides it wants to be born – let’s say you’re right above Iran Airspace on a Chinese plane, but you’re and American parent going to Egypt. What nationality would your baby be? would it be Chinese, American, Iranian, Egyptian?  There is an ancient doctrine that says “Cuius est solum, eius est usque ad coelum et ad infers”, which means, “Whoever owns the soil, it is their’s all the way up to heaven, and down to hell.”  Now, of course this isn’t true – currently, air space only goes up to the clouds because no one owns the clouds… but ultimately it comes down to where you are: some countries say 43 miles up, some say 99. All legal authorities differ.

When traveling above the oceans, because no one owns the oceans, you are geopolitically nowhere… or everywhere. There is a certain part of law that says if your ship is French, (or any other nationality) then while onboard, you are legally in France.  If this is true, it would mean that if you have a baby on a plane registered in Switzerland you have to abide by Swiss law.  This also means that sometimes the baby gets citizenship for the country that the plane was registered in, and sometimes takes the citizenship that the parents have. So, if I were to be born on an airplane flying over America with foreign parents, I would be granted American citizenship.

I thought that this is an interesting topic. Although it is not relevant to any of us directly, it really does make a difference in what citizenship really means to us.  We all are officially American, but what does that mean? Just that we were born here, on this soil, or that we are invested into it? We have no jobs or anything specifically tying us down… so what, precisely makes us American? This is a rhetorical question, but it does bring up some very interesting thoughts.


The beautiful, fluffy cloud image above was found here!


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