Italy backtracks on luxury tax
AOPA Italy has won its battle to have the country's new 'luxury tax' modified to allow general aviation aircraft to continue to fly into the country at will without running the risk of incurring enormous tax bills. The Italian Parliament has approved major changes which mean business trips and tourist visits can continue as before. The law which subjected foreign aircraft to the luxury tax after only 48 hours on Italian soil has been changed so that the tax is only imposed after 45 days of continuous stay. Even then, it will be applied on a monthly basis at one twelfth of the previous rate, and aircraft visiting Italy for maintenance will be exempt.
Massimo Levy of AOPA Italy says: "We have won our battle, and AOPA wishes to thank every member in every country who wrote, sent emails and faxes to our diplomatic authorities to register their protest, and who helped us obtain this outstanding result."
The tax has been reduced by 50% for Italian private aircraft - "still a lot for us, but definitely more affordable than before," says Massimo. Ultralights and microlights, homebuilts, historic aircraft and orphans are exempt, and while helicopters remain liable to the tax, the rate has been reduced by half.
AOPA members all over Europe contacted their Italian embassies and consulates to point out that the new tax would kill general aviation tourism in Italy and would cost the country far more than it generated. Names of Ambassadors and addresses of Embassies were provided by AOPA Italy. Many who wrote received replies from diplomats who clearly understood the problem, were impressed by the volume of protest and who put pressure on Italian authorities to make changes.
The original proposal would have imposed a sliding scale of taxes on every private aircraft, while exempting all those owned by the government, operating on AOCs, or run by Italian flying clubs. Starting at €1.50 per kilogram for aircraft under 1,000 kg, it rose to €7.55 per kilogram for aircraft over 10,000 kg, which meant that a Lear 60 that stayed more than two days in Italy would pay €80,480 and a BBJ would be liable for €585,620. The imposition of the tax resulted in a significant decrease in movements at Florence and Venice, while the business aviation terminal at Olbia in Sardinia experienced a large number of cancellations. In Milan, Italian business aircraft began repositioning over the border in Switzerland.
Massimo Levy reports that if anyone has been forced to pay the tax, they will not be credited according to the new rates. They will, however, be able to net off what they have paid against any future taxes of this type.
50 years of IAOPA
The International Council of AOPA met for its 26th World Assembly in Stellenbosch, South Africa, in April and after three days of debate set out a list of resolutions which will direct the focus of IAOPA's work worldwide in the coming years. Delegates from ten European AOPAs joined representatives of AOPAs from every continent at a gathering which marked 50 years of International AOPA. One of IAOPA's founders, Hendrik Pistorius (pictured at right with his wife, Craig Fuller and Koos Marais - he founded AOPA South Africa in 1956 and is the grandfather of South Africa's 'blade runner' athlete Oscar Pistorius) attended the World Assembly as a guest of honour.
The success of the World Assembly represented a triumph of organisation for AOPA South Africa, led by its President Dr Koos Marais. The difficulties of making provision for debate between 90 representatives from 23 countries over three days cannot be overstated, and Dr Marais and his team were fulsomely thanked by IAOPA President Craig Fuller.
Special guests at the Assembly included Mitchell Fox, ICAO's Chief of Air Traffic Management, South Africa’s Director of Civil Aviation Zakhele Thwala, and Steven Brown, the National Business Aircraft Association Vice President, Operations and Administration. John and Martha King, of the internationally successful flight training company King Schools, kept up their record of not having missed an IAOPA World Assembly in two decades and gave a polished and well-received presentation on general aviation safety.
World Assembly sets the agenda
The value of the IAOPA World Assembly was demonstrated when Raymond Benjamin, Secretary General of ICAO, made a video presentation which showed that the Organisation had adopted many of the primary resolutions to come out of the last World Assembly in Tel Aviv in 2010. Much regulation, Benjamin said, is over-engineered for general aviation, and affordable and better-regulated light sport aircraft may be the salvation of the industry. He paid tribute to the work of IAOPA's representative at ICAO, Frank Hofmann, and assured delegates that he appreciated the contribution of GA to the advancement of civilisation around the world.
“I’m aware that regulation designed for airlines places undue burdens on smaller operators and private owners,” he said. “Through IAOPA’s engagement with ICAO we have been able to update Annex 2 (non-certificated aircraft) for the first time in almost 50 years, and we commend IAOPA for its constructive contribution.”
Echoing a second IAOPA concern he added: “Where will the people come from to serve commercial aviation in the future? We recognise that GA provides basic training for the next generation of aviation professionals, so it is in everyone’s interests to keep your sector healthy. Light sport aircraft and the new technology that goes with them offer an affordable introduction to aviation for future pilots and engineers, and the certification of such aircraft should be internationally accepted. ICAO will work with IAOPA to make sure new standards are developed.”
The issues surrounding light sport aircraft and the revisiting of Annex 2 regulations were resolutions from previous World Assemblies shepherded through ICAO by Frank Hofmann and John Sheehan, and their adoption by the ICAO Secretary General illustrates the effectiveness of World Assembly resolutions.
Dr Marais and the next 50 years
Welcoming South Africa’s Director of Civil Aviation Zakhele Thwala and IAOPA delegates from 23 countries, Dr Koos Marais contrasted today’s world with that of 50 years ago when IAOPA was formed with South Africa among its founding members.
“In 1962 we were still aspiring to reach the moon, if you wanted to phone abroad you had to book a trunk call through an operator, and international air travel was the domain only of the very rich," said Dr Marais, here with Commissiner Thwala. "Today technology had brought many things within our reach, and we fly internationally at the drop of a hat.
“But are we paying a dear price for the excesses of a previous age? There was a time when fuel was inexpensive – but are we paying for it now, in more ways than one? Is global warming the price of the cheap fuel of the past?”
Aviation was constrained to take responsibility for the whole world rather than sustaining its own narrow interests, he said. The conference was taking this into account in many ways large and small; the beads for delegates’ name tags had been bought from roadside vendors, and the conference had nominated a charity for the blind for delegates to support. The choice of the Spier Hotel in Stellenbosch for the conference was no accident because it was the most eco-friendly establishment in the country.
Turning to aviation itself, Dr Marais said a change of emphasis was needed there, too. “I was talking to the manufacturer of aircraft with a ballistic parachute, and they tell me their safety record is no better and no worse than aircraft without the system. We have to look at the pilot. The airlines recognised this long time ago. Commercial aviation is safe because of cockpit resource management, not because of technology. You don’t have to look far past the Air France A330 disaster for proof of that.
“But we have embarked on an exciting new journey, and we must show we care about the less privileged, about the environment… we may have become obsessed with our passion for aviation to the exclusion of concern for others, and we want to show the world that we can make a difference.”
Why ICAO is more important than ever
The International Civil Aviation Organisation in Montreal has taken on a sharper focus for general aviation in Europe, and influencing ICAO delegates is now of fundamental importance to AOPA. Europe has decided that ICAO recommendations, which each nation could hitherto choose whether it wished to adopt, are mandatory for all. This means that if ICAO does something that is not in GA's interests, it nonetheless automatically becomes law in Europe. ICAO itself has always accepted that one law cannot fit all, and specifically states that countries should look at its recommendations and decide whether they are right for them. Europe has thrown that option away.
Mitchell Fox, ICAO’s Chief of Flight Operations – who is doing temporary duty as Chief of Air Traffic Management – spent three days at the World Assembly and made several presentations on airspace and regulations. Mr Fox, pictured here at Stellenbosch Flying Club, was asked whether he felt an additional burden because Europe’s stance meant he was making hard law, rather than suggestions and recommendations. No, he said – in effect, the standards ICAO has written have always had the force of international law, but individually, states retained absolute sovereignty over their airspace under the Chicago Convention which established ICAO, and ICAO could not challenge that fact.
This raises a further confusion because individual European states, which can’t make their own regulations, have seats at ICAO, while Europe, which is not a signatory to the Chicago Convention, makes the rules. Europe bolted down this hole over its Emissions Trading Scheme, which was alleged to be in contravention of ICAO recommendations because it represented a constraint on international air traffic. The European Court ruled that Europe was not bound by the Chicago Convention, so it could do as it pleased. Yet Europe says it considers ICAO recommendations to be mandatory.
World Assembly resolutions
A total of 22 resolutions were set down following debates at the World Assembly, including initiatives to develop a universal airports use policy document, create methods for optimising the flight training experience to help grow the pilot population, develop standards to minimise hazards associated with remotely piloted aircraft systems, continue measures to ensure adequate airspace is available for general aviation operations, ensure that pilots' licences are accepted among all States, and reduce mandated equipment costs.
At the end of the Assembly President Craig Fuller said: "The enthusiasm and insights demonstrated by our delegates has yielded a very productive assembly. I am proud of the work we have accomplished and will ensure the measures developed here are actively pursued. The world of general aviation will benefit from the work accomplished here in Stellenbosch."
To see the full list of resolutions from the 26th IAOPA World Assembly, click here.
John Sheehan hands over to Craig Spence
IAOPA’s Secretary General John Sheehan retired on May 1st after 15 years in the job, and by way of appreciation IAOPA’s European Region made a token presentation to him at the World Assembly. The European Region has been the focus of most of John’s work because the regulatory excesses of the JAA and EASA have hit us during his watch, and trying to instill some good sense into European rulemaking has taken up the major part of his time. In recognition of this fact, IAOPA Senior Vice President Martin Robinson called all the representatives of European AOPAs onto the stage to participate in the presentation. A resolution proposed by Russia and the UK also commended John for his untiring efforts, his deft diplomatic skills and his sage advice during his tenure as Secretary General.
John, an ATPL with 7,700 hours, a Navy and civilian flight instructor and a charter and corporate pilot, has been succeeded by Craig Spence, who joined AOPA in 2008 as Vice President of Aviation Security from the American Department of Homeland Security. He became Vice President for Operational and International Affairs and has been closely involved in liaison with Europe as AOPA’s NexGen expert. Craig is a commercial pilot with some 2,500 hours.
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AOPA Spain wins ground on landing fees
Landing fees in Spain will be reduced to reasonable levels thanks to AOPA Spain and other Spanish associations who created the Pro Aviation Group last year after an increase of between 400% and 1600% in landing charges. In January 2011, the national airport and navigation provider AENA raised landing fees across their network of Spanish airports, over which is has a monopoly. The creation of a new ‘minimum fee’ put general aviation fees in the same level as those of business jets and precipitated a crisis at many flying clubs. Fees at airports such as Girona, Fuerteventura and Menorca rose by 1600% to €97. Smaller airports such as Reus, Almeria, Asturias and Jerez imposed a 600% increase to a minimum of €40. GA airports such a Sabadell (pictured) or Cuatro Vientos raised landing fees by 300% to €20.
AOPA Spain, together with AECTA, an organisation of Spanish aerial work companies, the Spanish Training Association AEFA, the operators at Sabadell airport, the Spanish ultralight aircraft association AEPAL, the gliding association AVE and the Royal Spanish Aero Club, created the Pro Aviation Group to present a united front to AENA and the government on landing fees. Finally, the government has agreed to introduce a new scheme of landing fees for all airports except Madrid Barajas and Barcelona El Prat. Under the new scheme, landing fees will go down from €90 to €36, from €40 to €20 and from €20 to €12, depending of the airport category.
Furthermore, all training flights will be exempted from these charges. Previously, only training flights carried out under the auspices of airlines qualified for exemption.
Also important to note, is that training flight definition will no be limited to airlines anymore, so GA will benefit with the exception to minimum fee that this flitghs The President of AOPA Spain, Carlos Martí, said: “This is good news, but it is still not enough. There is no rationale for minimum landing fees. Small airplanes below two tonnes cannot be compared, in terms of proportionality and cost, with a business jet. Our next goal is to remove this concept from the AENA system.”
Getting the lead out
Lars Hjelmberg of AOPA Sweden reports that Lycoming has submitted to EASA an application for approval of all their aircraft engines certified to run on avgas 80/87 and mogas, and some avgas 91/96 engines, to run on UL91 unleaded aviation gasoline. Once it has been granted, pilots of aircraft such as the Cessna 172 and Piper PA28 will be able to fly from the Mediterranean to the Arctic Circle on unleaded avgas which is available all the way. Approval is expected within a few months, and once it comes through about 50 percent of European piston-powered aircraft will be able to use unleaded fuel.
The entry of the French company Total into the unleaded avgas market has led to rapid growth of availability in Britain and France, and Switzerland, Germany and Belgium are following suit. Poland also makes an unleaded avgas, while Sweden has enjoyed top-quality unleaded avgas since 1991. Fuel produced by Lars's company Hjelmco Oil was certified by Lycoming 17 years ago not only for use in lower-powered engines, but for all their avgas 91/96, 80/87 and mogas rated engines. The Hjelmco product is unique in being approved for the higher-powered engines. EASA has already approved the use of unleaded avgas in Rotax engines.