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HMRC internal manual

VAT Transport

The supply of ships and aircraft: aircraft: definition of an aircraft

There is no current legal definition of an aircraft but as a guide the (now repealed) Air Navigation order of 1954 (SI 1954/829) Article 73(1) defined an Aircraft as:

includes all balloons (whether captive or free), kites, gliders, airships and flying machines.

It further defined flying machines as:

means an aircraft heavier than air and having a means of mechanical propulsion.

The current Air Navigation order 2005 (SI 2005/1970) has no such definition but does contain a ‘classification of Aircraft‘ under Schedule 2 Part A which includes in it a similar list as the 1954 order but also refers to aeroplanes (landplanes, seaplanes, amphibians and self-launching motor gliders), power lift (tilt rotor) and rotorcraft (gyroplanes and helicopters) under the term flying machine.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines an aircraft :- ‘flying machines collectively‘.

For the purposes of Group 8, aircraft includes:

  • aeroplanes (civil or military)
  • helicopters
  • airships
  • drones (unmanned craft)

For the purposes of Group 8, aircraft excludes:

  • space craft
  • satellites
  • missiles
  • hovercraft (treated as ships).