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I’m writing a novel about a superman protagonist. He is the only super in the world, and the first. Some friendly ETs gave him a skinsuit that can withstand speeds of up to 4,000 mph, and he uses it to fly everywhere. However, he refuses to go through the hassle getting a pilot’s license, since he has nanosecond reflexes and therefore can avoid any accidents.

My question is, does it seem appropriate that some nations would prohibit him from flying over their airspace? Say, some European nations like France, Italy, Germany, the UK, for example?

Also, if they did forbid him to fly over their countries, what is the maximum altitude under their jurisdiction? The Kármán line, maybe? I ask so he could fly over those countries without getting into trouble.

EDIT: Here's one solution he uses to go to Basel, Switzerland, where he has a visa-- Overflight

Hell, with nanosecond reflexes, he could fly 10 feet over the terrain, avoiding all obstacles in his way :). His blast wave, however...

EDIT2: For various reasons (long story), the super is very unpopular worldwide. So for any reason, to bar him would make him even more a pariah. For propaganda purposes it may behoove some nations to at least make the attempt.

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  • $\begingroup$ It might be difficult to justify shooting down a Benevolent super. Was any of this ever covered in the Superman comics? Would radar or other detection systems be able to get a target lock, at those speed and ranges, on a human body? $\endgroup$
    – FlaStorm32
    Commented Dec 5, 2023 at 12:26
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    $\begingroup$ I don't think a pilot's license would be needed - a flying man is not an aircraft. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 5, 2023 at 14:21
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe I should edit that his alien made skinsuit cannot be detected by radar and leaves no sonic boom, so it would be very difficult to detect him. He could fly at low altitudes, so he wouldn't be visible for very long. Although not impossible, so he's taking a chance. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 5, 2023 at 15:51
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    $\begingroup$ @catsteevens It would be a significant point that the super can or can not be detected by radar. You can't prosecute what you can't see. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Commented Dec 6, 2023 at 1:44
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    $\begingroup$ From what point of view, please? How could it not be appropriate for any jurisdiction to enforce its own laws? Quite separately, how might any jurisdiction go about enforcing the relevant laws? Beneath either, why would your guy not go to Civil Aviation HQ in every jurisdiction on the planet and do what it took to get a licence? Beneath even that, how does the skin-suit fly, whatever speed it might withstand? $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 13, 2023 at 21:50

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Brazillian here. Under brazillian law, since around 1998 the armed forces can take down what they consider to be hostile aircraft. And since 2019, they no longer need authorization from the president nor an air force high-ranking official.

There are some criteria to be met in order for an aircraft to be considered hostile. The TL;DR is that you are hostile aircraft if you can fly (seriously, the law used to list balloons and paragliders as possible targets for takedown) and any of the following is true:

  • you don't identify (or misidentify) yourself;
  • you knowingly put people or property in danger;
  • you pack weaponry, without written authorization from the armed forces.

If your hero has the courtesy to fly around with a transponder and happens to be even slightly popular among brazillians, the government will grant him passage and authorization to carry (and possibly use) weapons while flying. They will even spare him the red tape.

Otherwise... I don't think Brazil has much in the way of taking him down (we might have bought a dozen hypersonic missiles from the US and EU at some point), but dude had better not spend a night on brazillian soil. If the military doesn't get him, the organized crime will get him and deliver him to the military. And the usual treatment given to people who think they are above the forces is anal rape with a broomstick. Sadly and unfortunately, as well as much to our national shame, this is not a joke by any means. I mean it. This is so entrenched in our culture that we don't even flinch anymore when this is shown in a movie.

As to the minimum altitude the hero would have to be flying incognito while not pissing the brazillian air force off, that would be higher than 24,500 ft (~7,468 m) above sea level AND not passing through any airway.

Regardless of treating the hero as a friend or a foe, his case is so special that the brazillian government probably would not require him to have a pilot's license.

As far as other countries in South America go, the vibes I get is that the lower than GDP and HDI, then obviously the less capacity they would have to catch or counter the hero, but also the less friendly they would be. Argentina, Chile and Uruguay would probably follow Brazil in how to deal with him, might even team up. Venezuela on the other hand won't be able to do a thing and will absolutely hate the hell out of the guy, as in a scheduled 2-minutes-hate show on TV on a monthly basis. French Guiana will at the very least demand that he be careful when passing by since they often send rockets to space on behalf of the ESA, the european equivalent to NASA. Keep in mind that French Guiana is part of France and thus messing up with it is messing up with the EU and NATO.

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    $\begingroup$ French Guiana would not launch rockets on behalf of the EU, first because French Guiana is actually part of France and hence part of the EU, and second because the EU does not have rockets to launch. The rockets launched from the westernmost department of France belong to ArianeGroup, which is a French aerospace company. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Dec 5, 2023 at 7:19
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    $\begingroup$ "If the military doesn't get him, the organized crime will get him " They might try, but as per the description, they'd have no chance to succeed if he was uncooperative. $\endgroup$
    – vsz
    Commented Dec 5, 2023 at 8:36
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP thanks, I've fixed that part. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 6, 2023 at 0:20
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    $\begingroup$ I don't think radar can pick up a flying person, but we don't have actual flying people to test it against. $\endgroup$
    – Nelson
    Commented Dec 6, 2023 at 1:24
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    $\begingroup$ @Nelson we do in real life, he's called Yves Rossy. And even if we didn't have Rossy, we do have man-sized balloons and big birds. Speaking of which - "radar-invisible" bombers are not really invisible to radars, they just register as big birds. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 6, 2023 at 1:42
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I think countries would not want to make a ruling they cannot enforce. If he has those sorts of reflexes and speed, they can't shoot him down without risking more than they gain. He could take out a 5 million dollar fighter or a bunch of satellites just by throwing stones at them at 4000 mph.

So they'd either try and get him on their payroll, or assassinate him. He would be a significant security threat to all countries he's not affiliated with, and even them if he gets upset one day.

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    $\begingroup$ They could threaten him with enormous fines, and dock his international companies huge amounts of money (he has vast wealth) and hassle him if he dares enter their country. Otherwise, he's invulnerable, so no bodily harm can be applied to his person. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 5, 2023 at 0:26
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    $\begingroup$ @catsteevens Don't mess with Superman's "innocent" companies, or he'll wipe you off the face of the planet. Look up "Operation Praying Mantis" sometime; it was an analogous situation. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 5, 2023 at 1:16
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I'm going to answer this in the American Context.

They would Absolutely prohibit him from flying over certain areas. In particular those that end in 51.

The current Altitude restriction for R-4808N (The restricted area that Area-51 sits inside) is Unlimited Source. Deadly force is authorized in that region and considering the Patriot Missile system is capable of shooting down Hypersonic Missiles - and so your super would be liable to be shot down.

I know other nations have restricted Air Spaces for Military use, I'm not sure if any of them though have the same degree of Secrecy that Area-51 has (or the same degree of 'shoot first, ask later'), but certainly they would be within their rights to extend their sovereignty from the ground up to as far as you are concerned - forever.

Also - The CAA/FAA are not known to have a sense of humour or leniency when Safety is involved. They would almost certainly point out that even if your Super Hero could avoid an accident, the other aircraft may take evasive action that would in-turn cause an accident. And should they have a sudden rush of Amnesia and decide not to worry about it (extremely doubtful) - all it would take would be for one near-miss and they would absolutely ground him, throw the book at him and imprison him.

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    $\begingroup$ How could they enforce it if he was uncooperative? $\endgroup$
    – vsz
    Commented Dec 5, 2023 at 8:34
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    $\begingroup$ @vsz - through superior firepower, holding family members hostage - there's many options $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 5, 2023 at 8:49
  • $\begingroup$ Comments from the OP mention he is completely invulnerable to human weaponry. Therefore he could escalate much further than any human government could. $\endgroup$
    – vsz
    Commented Dec 5, 2023 at 8:58
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    $\begingroup$ @catsteevens - Nanosecond reflexes won't help - the Blast wave from a high explosive moves faster than he does (1850 m/s vs 1788 m/s). However, if he is completely invulnerable to any Government intervention by force - then you've answered your question - they could try but they aren't going to be successful. A Fine by the government is ultimately backed up by the fiat of Force. If you refuse to pay the Fine, then people with Guns come and either seize your property to pay it or put you in jail. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 5, 2023 at 19:24
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    $\begingroup$ @JasonGoemaat - Well, yes, because at time of writing, no person has achieved unpowered flight. Jetpacks capable of more than 30 seconds flight are considered by the FAA as experimental ultralight aircraft - and therefore all the usual aircraft rules apply. You could make the argument that an alien skinsuit that allows flight is essentially a Jetpack (something a human wears to achieve sustained flight) and therefore he would be considered for the purposes of legislation. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 6, 2023 at 5:12
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They wouldn't bother banning him.

At that speed, they have nothing that can catch him. Being small and non metallic, radar would have a hard time picking him up.

Next they might require his help for a rescue mission one day and finally would they really want to piss off someone who is basically a living god?

Laws are only useful if you can enforce them and against a "superman" they're not.

They'd write him a special exemption cause they so magnanimous and appreciative for his assistance.

enter image description here

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Governments would not want the precedent that superhumans can ignore the law at will. So lawyers would check if the super is legally flying or not.

If I jump up and down, or even do a long jump, I'm legally not flying. I'm doing sports. If I jump from a ledge with an open umbrella, I'm not flying, even if the 'parachute' affects my trajectory. But there are legal definitions when 'harmless fun' starts to become an unpowered hang glider or a paraglider. It may well be that none of the checkboxes for a nanolight apply. Or the government argues that if it quacks like a duck, it is a duck and try to regulate the flight. In addition to any related immigration offenses.

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Does he have wants? needs? preferences? standards? Or does he just take everything by force and doesn't care about anything or anyone other than his own id?

The original "Superman" valued being seen as an honest, good, law-abiding person. A legal ruling which forbade him from doing something might be interesting from a story-telling perspective if it got in the way of some of his other standards - even if the government making the ruling couldn't enforce it in a toe-to-toe conflict.

Otherwise, if he cares about particular people, about politics, about the environment, wars, or his own privacy, governments that are angry at him could hold those hostage in lieu of direct enforcement. Sure, he could break them out once he found them, or create lots of trouble while looking for missing persons, but if he needs information (like where to find someone or who's holding them captive), he's going to need willing cooperation from other folks - and that means they'll have a bargaining chip to get him to comply.

Much of what's interesting about stories & characters comes from their limits. Think about what limits the character has - self-imposed or otherwise, and those will tell you how his rivals will try to control him. Those controls might or might not be justified in terms of flight restrictions, and might or might not be enforced the way those restrictions are normally enforced. Governments can get creative and declare him a "foreign power" or "persona non grata" or "threat to national security" or whatever as needed to justify non-standard actions. The more powerful he is, and the more he abuses that power, the more creative other powers will be in finding ways to exploit his limits.

If he has literally no limits, why would anyone read a story about him longer than "Veni, Vidi, Vinci"?

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  • $\begingroup$ Standard? Yes, he has standards. He was transformed from an ordinary, young American male. Limits? He has none, as far as strength, speed, flight... plus he’s invulnerable. Otherwise, I’ll worry about how to write within those constraints, and whether anyone will read my tale. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 6, 2023 at 19:46

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