EC allays threat to cost-sharing
More positive news on the lobbying front in Brussels – the European Commission’s transport department, DG MOVE, is to lift some restrictions on cost-sharing which could have had a devastating impact on general aviation. It had been proposed that because money was changing hands, cost-sharing between GA pilots and passengers should be an illegal activity. However, following concerted work by IAOPA’s Brussels lobbyist Lutz Dommel and IAOPA executives, policy officers at DG MOVE have informed IAOPA that in the proposed Ops rules they have put in place the ability for up to six people to cost-share, one of whom must be the pilot. IAOPA Senior Vice President Martin Robinson said: “This is a major step forward and we are grateful to the policy officers for coming to this decision. We met with them at Aero Friedrichshafen and were very pleased to find that our work had borne fruit. Removing the ability to cost-share would have been a major blow to general aviation. Not only will it be allowed, but the maximum number of participants will be set at six – at the moment it is four in many countries, and in other states, the picture on cost-sharing has been confused. For many pilots, this single decision will have been worth AOPA membership many times over.”
IAOPA at Aero Friedrichshafen
Aero Friedrichshafen was a great success for IAOPA, and particularly for the AOPAs in Germany and Switzerland, who set up the AOPA stand and signed up many new members. There seems to have been a growing realisation of the threats posed by some of EASA’s rules, and of the fact that unless pilots make financial contributions for lobbying and professional help, the Agency is able to ignore their wishes. Martin Robinson said: “Many of the comments we received were very positive towards IAOPA and the work we are doing. There is a real understanding now of how IAOPA is structured and how the national AOPAs relate to International AOPA, and of how necessary it is for pilots to have a voice by being AOPA members.”
Transponder 24-month check rescinded
After several years of work by IAOPA, principally by Dan Akerman of AOPA Sweden, EASA has withdrawn the costly requirement for transponders to have their altitude encoder output checked every 24 months. IAOPA has maintained from the start that the check was unnecessary, and EASA now agrees.
The Agency has cancelled Airworthiness Directive 2006-0265, which was a copy of an FAA AD issued in 1999 mandating such checks. The FAA cancelled the AD when tests showed the repetitive checks were unnecessary. However, the UK CAA issued an AD of its own, identical except for the fact that it covered a far wider range of aircraft and equipment than the FAA’s AD. EASA then adopted the UK CAA AD. It is this mandate which has now been cancelled, effective from April 17th.
Martin Robinson said: “We owe Dan Akerman a debt of gratitude. His specialist knowledge, hard work and determination have saved every GA owner a substantial amount of money.
Dangerous goods – confusion and uncertainty
EASA’s decision to extend ICAO’s regulations on the carriage of dangerous goods to general aviation is causing endless trouble, with the Agency’s dangerous goods expert unable to give definitive answers to IAOPA’s questions on what pilots are allowed to carry, and what they can’t. IAOPA has sought rulings on whether pilots are allowed to carry, for example, a spare litre of engine oil, some deicing fluid or a couple of litres of two-stroke fuel for a boat, but EASA’s answers are far from clear.
In Montreal, ICAO has confirmed to IAOPA that the regulations were never intended to apply to GA – they were written only for international commercial flights. EASA’s baffling decision to make them apply to every small private aircraft hopping from one field to another is leading to a bizarre bureaucratic tangle. EASA, which has created a document over 1,000 pages long explaining what pilots need to know about dangerous goods, claims they have always applied to GA, but they have never been enforced.
In answer to IAOPA’s questions, EASA has stated that GA pilots may carry a spare battery for a laptop or cellphone, but only if they are protected against short-circuit. A container of de-icing fluid may be carried if it is “required to be aboard in accordance with the airworthiness requirements and operating regulations” and it must only be used on board by trained personnel. Similarly, a bottle of engine oil must be required under operating regulations for it to be legal. IAOPA has pointed out that neither are specifically required under airworthiness requirements or operating regulations, so can they legally be carried?
All this sounds pedantic, but it is important because European law says that anything that is not specifically allowed is illegal. (In contrast, American and British law presume anything to be legal unless it is specifically prohibited.) This means there must be binding legal guidance on every potentially dangerous substance.
IAOPA has asked whether it is possible to carry a few litres of fuel in a jerry can inside the aircraft. This is common practice in Scandinavia, where pilots flying to remote areas often take fuel for boats, snowmobiles or stoves, and Scandinavian countries have specific laws to allow it. EASA, however, says it is definitely illegal, and adds: “It doesn’t seem logical to go on board an airplane with a can of flammable substance that is not needed for the flight.” This more than anything illustrates EASA’s lack of knowledge and understanding of GA.
To confuse matters further, EASA says national authorities are responsible for enforcing the dangerous goods provisions, and their interpretations of the rules may differ from one country to the next. IAOPA scontinues to try to win some clarification on these issues.
Sweden cuts tax on unleaded avgas
Lars Hjelmberg of AOPA Sweden has achieved a breakthrough in his long campaign to promote unleaded avgas, with the Swedish government proposing a tax reduction of nine cents a litre on unleaded compared with 100LL.
Lars, whose company Hjelmco Oil has been selling unleaded avgas for more than 25 years, has been working with the government for five years to make it financially advantageous for aircraft owners and pilots to switch to unleaded fuel. With the Swedish economy in better health than much of the rest of the world, the Minister of Finance Anders Borg now feels able to make the proposition to Parliament. The reduction will take effect from January 1, 2014.
Avgas, leaded or unleaded, used in other activities than recreational flights is already 100% free of energy taxes and 100% free of VAT in Sweden.
AOPA joins in concerted action on regulation
IAOPA has joined with organisations representing most facets of general aviation in Europe to collaborate more closely on political and regulatory issues facing GA. Martin Robinson was among those who met formally at Aero Friedrichshafen to discuss the issues and pledge to work more closely together, particularly on the European General Aviation Safety Strategy. The Safety Standards Consultative Committee, which advises EASA on regulatory issues, is forming a GA sub-committee, and the organisations intend to co-ordinate their approach on GA issues. Dr Michael Erb, Managing Director of AOPA Germany, is IAOPA’s representative, and he will play an important role in the work that this group undertakes. Apart from IAOPA the group includes the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, the European Council of General Aviation Support, the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association of Europe, the European Regional Aerodromes Community, the GA membership of the Aerospace, Space and Defence Industries Association, and Europe Air Sports.
UK – we must save the IMC rating
The British remain determined to preserve their unique IMC Rating despite EASA’s latest mandate that it be killed off because it does not fit with their harmonisation agenda. AOPA UK, and the Civil Aviation Authority, had asked EASA to allow the same flexibility as the JAA to permit the rating to continue, but EASA has announced that to do so “would contradict the general concept of a uniform European harmonisation”.
EASA’s decision represents one of the worst blows to safety suffered by general aviation. The IMC rating, a course of at least 15 hours’ flying, teaches new pilots to maintain control of an aircraft when entering IMC conditions, and return it safely to the ground using whatever aids are available. It has made a major contribution to the UK’s excellent GA safety rate – IAOPA figures show the fatal accident rate in the UK to be less than half that of Germany, and one-third that of France, which have similar levels of activity, despite Britain’s more capricious weather. In the 40 years the rating has been operating in the UK there has been only one accident in which an IMC rated pilot has been killed in IMC. Some 30,000 pilots have achieved the rating, and in many cases it has saved their lives.
Martin Robinson, who is Chief Executive of AOPA UK, said: “At a time when EASA itself is saying that inadvertent flight into IMC is one of the top killers of private pilots, it's hard to understand how they cannot allow a proven defence against this phenomenon to be extended to pilots in the UK, where the weather is even more dangerous to low-time pilots than elsewhere in Europe. We are not asking for it to be extended across Europe – we simply wish to be allowed to continue with it in the UK, and those among us who owe their lives to the rating are aghast that harmonisation should be seen to be more important than safety.”
EASA’s ‘opinion’ on instrument flying now goes to the ‘Comitology’ stage, which gives the UK CAA and IAOPA a last chance to find a way to preserve this lifesaving asset.
EASA data trawl questioned
Martin Robinson has met with Brian Simpson MEP, Chairman of the European Parliament’s Transport Committee, to discuss among other things EASA’s attempts to compile data on general aviation in Europe. EASA has been hampered by a lack of facts, particularly on GA, with states being reluctant to share information, and many states having compiled none. This has been partly responsible for the sort of wild-guess-based regulation for which the Agency has become known. The data EASA now intends to collect, however, betrays a lack of understanding of general aviation. For instance, it proposes to mandate that the activation of a stall warning be officially reported, every time. As Martin Robinson told Mr Simpson, activation of a stall warning on a GA aircraft, particularly when landing, is far from an unusual occurrence, and while it may have relevance in the air transport world it would not be useful to improve understanding of GA. IAOPA is seeking that private aircraft under 5,700 kg be exempted from this and other similar mandates. Mr Simpson is sympathetic; unfortunately he is not standing for re-election next time.
UK General Aviation Report can now be filed online
From today there is a simple way to submit your GAR online via the AOPA UK website. This is the culmination of many months of liaison between John Murray, on behalf of AOPA UK, and the various UK Agencies involved. The Home Office end of the system will correctly direct your GAR to all the relevant agencies for your particular trip. Information on when a GAR needs to be submitted can be found on the AOPA UK website. AOPA UK offer the service free of charge to anyone, whether a member of AOPA UK or not. There is also a mobile application available for android devices which is available free from the Google Playstore - search for UK Border Force GA Report. Work is ongoing for an Apple compatible application.
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