Europe Eyes Mandatory TCAS For VLJs

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European authorities are squawking over what they term a loophole that allows very light jets to operate without traffic alert and collision avoidance systems (TCAS). TCAS is required on aircraft bigger than 12,500 pounds and VLJs are loosely defined as jets that weigh less than 10,000 pounds. Eurocontrol, which oversees air traffic control in Europe, is pushing to make the equipment required in VLJs. Alex Hendriks, the deputy director of air traffic management strategies at Eurocontrol, told the London Times "TCAS is mandatory for airlines because of safety considerations. Why should we exclude a certain category of aircraft just because they are small?"

There is resistance to the idea. Jet Bird has ordered 100 Embraer Phenom 100s and plans to start an air taxi operation next year, without TCAS in the airplanes. "First of all it's very costly and secondly it's not required," said CEO Stefan Vilner. "I don't think our customers would have a clue whether it was there or not. If you catch a Ryanair flight you don't think about its TCAS, you assume safety is a given." But Eurocontrol's Hendriks says that as more VLJs start flying the airways the chance for conflict naturally rises. "We don't want to wait for a crash before we come up with a regulation," he said. The earliest a regulation could be in place is likely 2012.