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Aviation Law Area of Practice: Careers in the UK

by Charles Nwabueze
Reading Time: 6 minutes


Reading Time: 6 min

What is Aviation Law or Aerospace Law?

Aerospace or Aviation law covers almost every issue that relates to flight, air travel, airport operations, aircraft navigation and maintenance, air traffic control safety, pilot licensing requirements, and the legal and business concerns of the aerospace industry. Aviation law quite often overlaps with several laws such as travel and admiralty laws, given their shared focus on activities that happen in unclaimed territories like international air space and outer space. 

Aviation law is also largely a matter of international law due to the international nature of air travel and the international consensus that space, the moon, and other planets should not be subject to ownership claims by any individuals or nations. However, aviation law is also a matter of the British government. In the UK, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is the body in charge of regulating all aspects of the aviation or airspace industry in the UK.

The Leading Law Firms in this area

Top law firms in this area include:

  • Norton Rose Fulbright
  • Clyde & Co 
  • DLA Piper 
  • HFW 
  • Kennedys
  • Bird & Bird
  • Stephenson Harwood
  • Holland & Knight 
  • Herbert Smith Freehills
  • Ince 
  • Knights plc

Type of Clients 

Clients include ship owners, aircraft controllers, aircraft manufacturers, aircraft owners, the CAA, companies that maintain aircraft facilities, passengers and pilots.

What kind of Work is involved?

Aviation lawyers get involved in work that most times can be described as exciting. There are various niches in aviation law that a lawyer can sink his teeth into. For example, a lawyer may choose to work solely on aviation accidents, while another on aviation business. 

Consequently, the kind of work that an aviation lawyer gets involved in will depend on whether he or she is a specialist or a generalist. However, some of the work involved may include 

  • Investigate circumstances surrounding an aviation accident’s cause
  • Review accident and incident reports deciding whether the cause of an accident may have been as a result of things like faulty equipment, pilot error, negligence of flight service station employees or negligence of air traffic controllers

Aviation lawyers often work on a team of experts to investigate accidents that involve aeroplanes or helicopters. They may work on cases of aviation disasters that take place around the world. Apart from all these, an aerospace lawyer’s work also includes helping clients to purchase aircraft; an aviation lawyer helps structure the aircraft’s ownership and operation to comply with the CAA and other transportation requirements, minimize liability and minimize taxes while maximizing tax deductions.

Duties of an Aviation Lawyer

An aviation lawyer is a specialized lawyer who works with legal issues related to aviation. Aviation lawyers have hands-on experience in this particular area of the law, making them better equipped than non-specialized lawyers to deal with complex aviation matters including regulations and practices. An aviation lawyer’s duties may include:

  • Assisting clients with all business aviation matters including different complex processes and transactions.
  • Helping clients with the financing, purchasing, selling, or leasing of aircraft. 
  • Advise clients about their legal rights and obligations when disputes arise out of their contracts
  • Help to resolve airport lien foreclosures
  • Deal with issues concerning insurance coverage
  • Advise on warranty claims
  • Help clients comply with all the necessary laws governing aviation law in the UK and beyond

Typical Working Day

On a given day, an aviation lawyer may be called to travel to a different country to help investigate an accident that involved aeroplanes or helicopters. The destinations that they visit might be in places easily accessible or in places that are not so accessible.

A different day might see the lawyer at the office researching and reading up on the vast regulations and standards that the CAA enforces in the UK to make sure that the client does not fall foul of any of them. On another day the lawyer may be taking steps to help their client (air carrier) obtain an operating licence. Much time will be spent drafting agreements and contracts, interpreting agreements and helping to resolve contract disputes.

Consequently, a day in the life of an aviation lawyer could range from an exciting to a not-so-exciting day at the office. 

Average Earnings of an Aviation Lawyer

The average salary for an aviation Lawyer is £65,992 per year in London. Aviation lawyer salaries can start from £47,994-£52,106. The pay is affected by the employer that the aviation lawyer works for. For example, the average Civil Aviation Authority Litigation Lawyer’s yearly pay in the UK is approximately £80,000, which is 55% above the national average.

Clyde & Co, a leading aviation firm pays £80,000 to their newly qualified lawyers; this payment is subject to growth as the lawyer gathers more experience under his or her belt. At Norton Rose Fulbright the pay is considerably higher with the newly qualified lawyers getting £105,000.

Skills Necessary to Be Successful 

Because aviation lawyers can represent clients in both civil and criminal matters, the skills that they will need will overlap with other sectors of law:

  • A well of knowledge about all the relevant laws can help aviation lawyers bring about a more effective case and a larger settlement for the client
  • Aviation lawyers need to be commercial aware because they are dealing in an area that is heavily regulated; such awareness will help them offer astute advice that will allow their clients to stay ahead of the market or in line with the regulations.
  • Ability to negotiate: there will be contracts, claims, settlements and so forth that will need the lawyer’s excellent negotiation skill
  • An aviation lawyer should have great communication and presentation skills because he will be communicating on behalf of his client or to his client in one form or the other.
  • The ability to work under pressure is also paramount: For example, it takes a lawyer with a cool head to work when an aviation disaster has occurred. 
  • Teamwork: Aviation lawyers need to be able to work with a team of colleagues/experts such as applied mathematicians and engineers to deliver great services to their clients.

Work-Life Balance in Aerospace Law

While aviation law can get crazy for a lawyer, the work/life balance is reasonable. At quite a few law firms, a great level of importance is attached to making sure that the well-being of the lawyers and the opportunity for them to balance work and life is paid attention to. As such, aviation lawyers can and do have a life outside work, and can pursue several hobbies that they choose. 

On the other hand, you should know that regardless of what we have just said, aviation lawyers in the City will most likely be working from somewhere around 9 am till about 8 pm. This is like the new normal in the City. For example, leading aviation firms, Norton Rose Fulbright has a start time of 9: 07 am and an average finish time of 8: 38pm. 

How Do I Become One?

You should first obtain a three-year law qualification or non-law degree followed by an SQE preparation course. After this, you need to follow the solicitor pathway. This will include taking the LPC which you must complete. Upon completion, you need to commit to a two-year training contract.

People can also become an aviation barristers by getting a law degree or a non-law degree (with a conversion course); after which they’ll need to complete a Bar Practice Course (BPC) and then a year-long pupillage.

The training contract should be at law firms or chambers specialized in aviation.

Who will be a Good Fit?

There’s rarely a dull moment in the life of an aviation lawyer! You’ll be a good fit for this area of law if you are or have:

  • Knowledge of the aviation and space sector
  • Good analytical & logical reasoning skills
  • Knowledge of technology
  • Inquisitive
  • Good time management skills
  • Ability to work in a team
  • An interest in soaking up information
  • Good at written communication
  • Knowledge of the law and legal procedure
  • Objectivity
  • The ability to work long hours – being able to work from 9 am to 9 pm is no joke

Future Sector Developments

The aviation sector continues to witness the impact of the pandemic, as legislation and regulatory guidance are issued to enable various parties in the industry to adapt to the different world that COVID has brought about. For example, most countries still require that passengers produce a negative COVID test before travelling or upon arrival. It remains to be seen how long countries will keep this guidance in place.

Furthermore, the impact of aviation on the environment has continued to major in discussions around the world. For example, it’s a major issue in the proposed Heathrow expansion. In line with this, the EU is aggressively advancing with the new proposal being made by the EC for the Single European Sky initiative. The scheme’s objective is to reform the European airspace to a more efficient and environmental-friendly one. 


Charles is a writer, practising lawyer and personal trainer who loves learning and developing himself. He graduated from Middlesex University, London with eight first-class grades in the second and third years of his law degree, and received a postgraduate offer from Cambridge University. He loves strength training, boxing and encouraging people to succeed in their pursuits (legal ones)
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